Memories of My Melancholy Whores – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

So yesterday I told you about how I was embarking on ‘Taking Little Novel(la) Risks’. I wasn’t sure which one to start my journey on and so I plumped for one that I thought was going to be the hardest work, ‘Memories of My Melancholy Whores’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, though I admit that is was a close toss up between this and the Ayn Rand. I have tried Garcia Marquez twice and failed with both ‘Love in a Time of Cholera’ and ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’.  I think I didn’t believe I was clever enough for them, or maybe I was just being a lazy reader at the time, and so I took a deep breath and started reading…

Penguin Books, paperback, 2005, fiction, 208 pages, translated by Edith Grossman, from the library

I couldn’t initially decide if I was going to find ‘Memories of My Melancholy Whores’ a mildly titillating read from its title (if I am being totally honest, especially after my failed attempts at Garcia Marquez before, I will admit that I thought that if it was it might help) and whilst there is some innuendo, bragging of the 514 women that he has slept with, a few very funny scenes of failed seduction and indeed of utter advantage taking, there is so much more going on in this novella.

As the novel opens we are introduced to our narrator on his ninetieth birthday where he has decided that he will give himself ‘the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin’. In fact no sooner have we met him than he is in contact with Rosa Cabarcas, the town’s most infamous madam, who after a struggle finds him Delgadina a young girl of about fourteen. I will admit that when I read the ‘fourteen’ I wasn’t sure if I should read on, I was enthralled by the prose thus far but did I really want to read about a ninety year old man and a girl so young? Well, in the end I decided I should (in part because it was translated by Edith Grossman and I thought it couldn’t be too horrific if a woman had translated it, I don’t mean that in a sexist way just, oh… you understand) and thank goodness I did because what develops as the tale goes on is a touching story not only about love but also about age and a man who has never really had love in his life.

It was really this nameless man who makes this book a really special read. Not only as he goes from being this quite cold man who is very aware that he is difficult, ‘I pass myself off as prudent because I am so evil minded’, to a man in the rather belated first flushes of youth. I also really liked him because of his humour, from tales of taking his maid Damiana by surprise (quite literally), which made me laugh out loud, to his sardonic wit in statements like ‘Movies are not my genre. The obscene cult of Shirley Temple was the final straw.’ I found myself starting to really like this grumpy old so-and-so and really hoping that love might not escape him this time.

Of course I cannot tell you what happens, there was a murderous twist somewhere along the line that gave the novel another dimension of trickery which I really liked, as I wouldn’t want to spoil the reading, and I do recommend you give ‘Memories of My Melancholy Whores’ a read. Don’t be put of by the title, it’s apt but the contents aren’t as salacious as you might think. I would definitely suggest this to anyone who, if you are like me, might think Garcia Marquez’s writing is impenetrable; you will be pleasantly surprised and probably quite moved. I can’t say I am rushing to read ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ or ‘Love in a Time of Cholera’ just yet, but I will be trying more of his work and then giving one of those epics a go, any recommendations?

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22 Comments

Filed under Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Penguin Books, Review, Taking Little Novel(la) Risks

22 responses to “Memories of My Melancholy Whores – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

  1. My, you are a really fast reader! 🙂 I am in the middle of “Of love and other demons” and I love it. Glad you enjoyed this one, in my case, the title helped a lot 🙂

    • Hahaha not as fast as you think Ally, I meant to put the novella post from yesterday up last week. Mind you this was a one sit read. I thought it was a really interesting read. Not read for one of his bigger novels, but might try some more of the shorter ones.

  2. Good review – this book has been my TBR pile for ages but not actually made it into my grubby little hands yet. You are the second person to have liked this, so I will move it up the list.

    Shame you haven’t enjoyed his other work (Love/Cholera or Hundred Years). I really really love the Cholera book, but he is not the easiest read in the world. You do have to prepared for some wierdness when you read him.

    Cholera is a very sweet book though – all about unrequited love over the years… But it does have some magical realism wierdness in it tho. (Just a warning.)

    liz in texas

    • Its not quite that I didn’t enjoy his other books, I just didn’t click with them or quite get them. Maybe this reader wasnt quite ready then? I think maybe I will try a couple of his shorter ones and then go for Cholera again… as it were.

  3. I have read each and every book of Marquez, I own ALL! I love his work. Magical Realism works for me, although I am no great fan of fantasy.

  4. You read his collections of short stories….!!

  5. I really loved this book, and like you, I wasn’t initially sure what to expect. It grew on me slowly, and the man’s solitude and desire for love touched me deeply. There were a lot of beautiful moments in that book, and I definitely need to read more Marquez.

  6. This is one of the Marquez books I haven’t read yet – I loved 100 years of Solitude and especially loved Love in a Time of Cholera. I hope the opportunity presents itself to read this soon

  7. So far I’ve read ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ and ‘Love and Other Demons’ out of his books, and to be honest I found them okay but not spectacular. To be honest, I’d recommend other Latin American writers like Laura Restrepo or Octavio Paz before Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But then I suppose it’s all a matter of taste.

  8. Great review. I’m going to snap this one up. I’ve always found Garcia-Marquez hard work and get irritated with myself – like you, thinking ‘am I not clever enough to read this!’….but I find you really have to be in the mood for Latin American fiction in general – particularly of the magical realist variety because sometimes it’s just too confusing for you to just settle into and enjoy don’t you think? However…this looks like a lovely snippet of his work.

    • I haven’t read enough Latin American fiction to call it, but I did feel like I was an idiot for not getting his bigger works. Now I feel like I might be on the right road to tackling him from a different angle.

  9. Blanca Monter Monroy

    I agree with Lucy, you need to be in the mood of “magical realism” to understand and really enjoy Garcia Marquez. I would definitely try to read “Love in a Time of Cholera” that is a really lovely book. “Memories… ” was a deception for me, I don’t think is the best example of what Garcia Marquez can do as a story teller.

    • I wouldnt say its the biggest story, maybe thats why. Its quite a simple piece of writing about a man, rather belatedly, finding love. Its that simplicity that made me think it was so good.

  10. Isabel Enomura

    I read several of Marquez’ books, I think the best is No One Writes To The Colonel, a short novella . I loved One Hundred Years of Solitude and a few of his other books, However this short novella certainly did have an impact on me… and it goes on being one of my favourite books. Politics and corruption and their influence on people’s lives and the feeling of being insignificant and yet resilient… this is what makes this a remarkable story. I strongly recommend this book.

    • Amazingly whilst I enjoyed this one I have not gone on to reading any others. I should. I have to admit that One Hundred Years of Solitude slightly scares me still, so maybe another novella at some point.

  11. Ian Perkins

    I hope you have now, if not rushed, ambled gingerly towards 100 Years of Solitude. It’s a phenomenal, strange, I fathomable story that lopes from one Jose Buendia to yet another Jose Buendia. It left me that confused at times I had to keep reading to see if it all made sense further on. It doesn’t. What it does do (and I’ve yet to find this in any other tome), is culminate in what can only be described as an orgasmic ending. It finished with such a crescendo I was left lying down with a heaving chest gently puffing on a post-coital cigarette. I have vowed to read it at least once a year until I die. Hopefully it will make sense before I expire.

    That said, it is beautifully written. A must read if ever there was such a thing.

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