Book Review: Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

August 14, 2007
Dr Krishnan

"The year I turned ninety,I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin." Thus starts this audacious novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

An acknowledged master on risky territory does justice.Starting from "One hundred years of solitude", ranging over Bolivar's life and down to this latino nugget, he is enthralling. In this novel he is at his spicy best.Descriptive passages of life in South America (ostensibly Bolivia) - the wine, the language, the food, and finally the "putanas" are richly evoked.

More than description, however, it is his philosophical engagement with all the elements that we call life that is winning. Extraordinary characters strut about.There is Damiana, his faithful domestic long suffering but loyal;Delgadina his main love interest, so named after a folk ditty with a touch of incest; and finally Rosa Cabarca the aging procuress who like the author is a mistress of sexual intigue. A magical web indeed woven by a great storyteller. Add to this great erudition and deep philosophical nuances - the eternal unresolved conundrum about aging and death is dealt with humour and no self pity.

In one comical scene the procuress suggests a homeopathic salve for his rear end which the protagonist haughtily rejects.The recurring motif is an old man's passion for an alluring adolescent. His passion is guilt-free unlike Nabokov. It is finally consummated after several encounters.His imagination is rampant - one has never read of perspiration as being phosphorescent!

An added bonus is the author's love of classical art. He talks about Bach, Schumann, Chopin,and drops in a mention of Manet's 'Olympia' . These are done with a subtle appreciation. His point is that gritty, perilous lives in small brutal cultures can also find solace in fine art.

In conclusion, a great treat for those who love 'Magical Realism' and a mighty poke in the eye of political correctness.

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Book Review: Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Author: Dr Krishnan


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August 14, 2007
01:43 PM

Dear Krishnan,
Thanks for writing an excellent cameo piece on Marquez with erudition and taste.

Through his other works of fiction, namely, Cien anos de soledad (One hundred years of Solitude), El amor en los tiempos del colera (Love in the time of Cholera), and El otono del patriarca (Autumn of the Patriarch) he established his credentials as a master story teller. As critics have pointed out that his style of narration is unique as he is a master of magic realism where Marquez weaves the banal with the extraordinary and dullness with fantasy.

The lines quoted from Marquez’s book Memories of My Melancholy, ‘"The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin" are beautiful and sad as they signify humankind’s eternal battle with ageing and death by love- a theme which Marquez evocatively captures in his earlier novel Love in the Time of Cholera. Towards the end of the novel the lovers Florentino and Fermina go on a cruise along the river and as the voyage comes to an end, the lovers promise each other that the voyage would never end and that their love would go on forever.

Perhaps the special place that Marquez has in the art of story telling lies in the fact that he teases out eternal themes of love, despair and terrible loneliness that afflict the human soul and blends them in an allegorical narrative.

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