August 14, 2006
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Memories of my Melancholy Whores"
This really has been the summer of my discontent as far as reading is concerned; first Updike’s ‘Terrorist’ and now Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘Memories of my Melancholy Whores’.
After being wordless for over a decade, Marquez, a Nobel Laureate in Literature, decides to write a 115 page memoir with an eye-catching title, Memories of my Melancholy Whores’ and an equally luring opening to match it:
“The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin”.
The writer, the title, and the opening held tremendous promise. Perhaps it was this heightened expectation that made the work a let-down.
The nameless protagonist in the story could as well have been a self portrait of Marquez, an aging writer ready to take the curtain call. In which case this novel could have been the swan song of a literary giant, but it lacked the pitch, the depth, and the crescendo.
The nameless protagonist finds a 14 year old virgin for his night of ‘wild love’ which turns into an endless voyeur session with the overworked 14 year old, Delgadina, perpetually in repose. The protagonist embarks on a silent one-way platonic affair with Degadina during which he finds himself in love for the very first time in his life. There are various instances in the story where Marquez could have brought depth and meaning into his wayward prose; by delving deeper into his characters (Damiana, Rosa Cabarcas), or by exploring one of the numerous themes (perfect love, aging as "a tool that carves away our excess") that now sit so superfluously on the novel. But he didn't and I've yet to figure out the reason.
Like all his other novels, this one is also a translation by none other than the renowned Edith Grossman. So to say that Marquez’s novel lost some of its meaning in translation isn’t going to work. His dexeterous use of language and his wit were perhaps the only reason I finished the novel because the placidity of the plot really drowned my interest. What was it that Marquez was trying to convey through this work: a septuagenarian grappling with his dying virility, an apology for pedophilia, or then a writer’s outpouring in melancholia. Needless to say Marquez is one of the greatest writers of our time. and will always be; thanks to all the other innumerable wonderful literary experiences that Gabo's left us readers with.