BOOK REVIEW: Memories of my Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia – Marquez
By: Maan “Maggie” Villar, The World According to Maggie V
I just finished reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Memories of my Melancholy Whores (English translation by Edith Grossman) and typical Marquez depressed the hell out of me again just like he did with Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. By far, I would say that this is his best word so far, compared to the dragging descriptions and narratives of his previous great works this is short with succinct descriptions and erotic scences which is a good representation of how these things transpire in reality. It also gives us a glimpse of life as seen by a 90 year old bachelor, a 13 year old virgin prostitute and other accessory characters like the brothel owner. I was initially disgusted I expected lewdness, the commodification of sex, prostitution and pedophilia as is divulged by the title. The synopsis tells of a 90 year old man about to spend a night of making love with a 13 year old virgin prostitute – irksome and disturbing pictures ran through my head upon reading that but I could assure you that it was tastefully written and it would defy all initial deceptions you might have as the story unfolds.
It was made to make you want for more and while reading, it would make you ask if it were based on Marquez’s real-life encounters as the characterization of the 90 year old man is very close to that of the author itself. Gabriel Garcia Marquez with his romantic tongue and flare for heady descriptions and narration of even the minutest details was writing in a different light with this one. Honestly, with his two previous works, I could not wait to put the book down because it was as if the narrative was going nowhere, just pages and pages about how Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza went about their forsaken love. Even the most discriminating bibliophiles and most respected literary critics have mixed reviews regarding the works of Marquez but this one is a good segue from his usual writing style – i.e. a segue that afforded the book a Nobel prize.
The title is apt for its bottom line, the end message, the romantic Marquez has spoken although it is not outright: we would glean that at the end of it all, we all need a love to go home to, that it would be the biggest despair in life to not have someone by your side at your death bed. Why is it called Memories of my Melancholy Whores? The protagonist invites us to his life as a journalist and as a lover of many women, how he views copulation as something that should not be for free and that it should have an equivalent monetary amount even if by coercion if his lover of the night declines (i.e. has sex with him for free) and throws the money away in a gutter. At the age of 50, after recording his affairs with these women, how it came to be and some details of how it went, he was already at number 541. He lost count after that and wrote his memoir at the age of 90 calling his lovers “melancholy whores” as they only bring temporary contentment and the rest of the time is just destitution and loneliness for the old bachelor. After a life of having no serious relationship he finally learns to love and be loved by another. Pair it with how the author places impassioned words and espanol to tell the tale and you have your Nobel Prize winning book.