My first introduction to Gabriel García Márquez was after university, when a Latino friend handed me a book and said read. Using my rudimentary Spanish and struggling like crazy, the beauty of the words in the original language was evident: even with my lack of skills. Obtaining a translation of that title, The Autumn of the Patriarch and I was hooked. It was less the story, but the perspective: the fascination with the human condition and explaining his viewpoint in particularly lush and poetic language had me haunting the bookshops looking for translations. (No, my Spanish has NOT improved since then, to my embarrassment.)
Memories of My Melancholy Whores is another short volume, yet no less beautiful in the impact of the story and the unique perspective given the protagonist. While I was thinking it would have a strong essence of Nabokov’s Lolita, what emerges is a wholly theoretical yet beautiful tale of aging and beauty, and the hopefulness that thrives within all souls.
Our protagonist decides to splurge on a treat for his 90th birthday: procure a 14 year old virgin from a madam of his acquaintance, and enjoy one night where his relationship with the purity and freshness of all that innocence will be renewed. Yet the young girl, anxious to help her family with the money she can earn, was drugged by the madam to cure her nerves: and sleeps through the encounter.
There is no overt sexuality in this story between the two: in fact all of his musings of this young girl are imagined: variances for eye color and approach as he creates a world in which his feelings for her are returned. Aging her in a sort of strange homage to the women he has known over the years, yet keeping that sense of remove: he doesn’t know her name, has only stroked her sleeping form. The renewal of his thoughts, his approach and the hope so obviously fueled by this young child have brought an awakening to him: given him an object and person to expend his not unsubstantial thoughts and knowledge upon, even if only in his thoughts.
Narration for this story is provided by Thom Rivera, and his respect for the words and small pacing changes illustrate a particularly evocative or memorable line is genius. I should also mention the translation from Edith Grossman show (I am told – refer to my Lack of Spanish note above) are exemplary.
This was not my favorite of his titles, but there were moments and lines that I will not soon forget: with imagery and a keening sense of grasping for love and acceptance from the protagonist that is unmatched in any other reads I have encountered.
Stars: Overall: 5 Narration: 5 Story: 5
Title: Review: Memories of My Melancholy Whores
Author: Gabriel García Márquez
Genre: Literary Fiction
Narrator: Thom Rovera
Source: AudioBook Jukebox
Audio Length: 3 Hours: 5 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo
"The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin." So begins Memories of My Melancholy Whores, and it becomes even more unlikely as the novel unfolds. This slim volume contains the story of the sad life of an unnamed, only slightly talented Colombian journalist and teacher, never married, never in love, living in the crumbling family manse. He calls Rosa Cabarcas, madame of the city's most successful brothel, to seek her assistance. Rosa tells him his wish is impossible--and then calls right back to say that she has found the perfect girl.
The protagonist says of himself: "I have never gone to bed with a woman I didn't pay ... by the time I was fifty there were 514 women with whom I had been at least once ... My public life, on the other hand, was lacking in interest: both parents dead, a bachelor without a future, a mediocre journalist ... and a favorite of caricaturists because of my exemplary ugliness."
The girl is 14 and works all day in a factory attaching buttons in order to provide for her family. Rosa gives her a combination of bromide and valerian to drink to calm her nerves, and when the prospective lover arrives, she is sound asleep. Now the story really begins. The nonagenarian is not a sex-starved adventurer; he is a tender voyeur. Throughout his 90th year, he continues to meet the girl and watch her sleep. He says, "This was something new for me. I was ignorant of the arts of seduction and had always chosen my brides for a night at random, more for their price than their charms, and we had made love without love, half-dressed most of the time and always in the dark, so we could imagine ourselves as better than we were ... That night I discovered the improbably pleasure of contemplating the body of a sleeping woman without the urgencies of desire or the obstacles of modesty."
A copy of this title was provided via AudioBook Jukebox for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.