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.

15 comments:

Wild Reeds said...

Sort of like the Zinedine Zidane head-butt to end an illustrious career... but who knows, maybe he will write more.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I have two of his book. I started reading each one and never finished them. I did not get pulled in by the writing. I know, there must be something wrong with me.

Invincible said...

I've never read any of his literature. Would you recommend any?

Id it is said...

invincible,
Good to see you back!
"Love in the Time of Cholera' is probably the one you want to read first. A gripping tale of a love triangle.
The other one is a political write "The Autumn of the Patriarch"; though not an easy read, it vividly and realistically delineates the character of a brutal dictator to tell a riveting alas gruesome tale.This book may be hard to find.

starry nights said...

I have never read any of his writings. I should look it up. thanks.

karmic_jay said...

I haven't read him, but what is with this fascination with teens?
Maybe he is using it as a metaphor for something larger n different as you said, but I don't get it.

Id it is said...

karmicjay,
You're right "what is with this fascination with teens?" I guess the literary world is still dabbling/grappling with themes that Nabokov introduced through his nymphet, 'Lolita'.

eshuneutics said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Id it is said...

eshuneutics,
Haven't read that one, but should I?

D said...

Nice book review....I read his - "Love in the time of Cholera"...it was worth it...may be I'll pick this one now. But doesn't it sounds somewhat on the lines of Lolita?

eshuneutics said...

eshuneutics said...
We seem to have the same problem...are "unlucky in books!" I guess what Marquez is describing is the Primavera effect: Winter's inner desire for Spring and rejuvenation. A counter to his work (from a female point-of-view) would be Stevie Davies' Primavera (Women's Press).

eshuneutics said...

Primavera...it is partly set in the USA. I'd say, "Try it if you come across it". I am waiting for the new novel, "The Eyrie". Primavera is based around Botticelli's mysterious painting: the plot is the painting brought to life. Her anti-war novel "The Element of Water" is chilling.

Vijayeta said...

What a lovely review! It also reminds me that this book was on my "Books to Buy" list a couple months back. Then life went berserk and I dont know where that list went!
Hmpfh! Time to draw up another one :)

nandi23 said...

thanks for the review Id!:D

ME said...

gabo certainly is an experience. Right now going thru One hundred years of solitude. by the way thanx for the nice lines:)