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…
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?