TITLE: MEMORIES OF MY MELANCHOLY WHORES
AUTHOR: GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ
Details: Read for discussion with
The Loft Bookshop Book Club
This novel tells the story of an unnamed, old and not very successful reporter who, on the eve of his 90th birthday decides that he wants to spend the night making love to an adolescent and virgin whore.
When he enters the room where the 14 year old girl is waiting for him she is fast asleep and he doesn’t disturb her. He spends the night looking at her and sleeping beside her, and when he leaves the next morning he is deeply in love, for the first time in his life.
All his experiences with women in the past have been with women he had to pay and his encounters with this young girl bring memories of those occasions back to mind.
Filled with love for the girl, who he names Delgadina, he continues to visit her regularly, getting ever more attached to and obsessive about her, although the intimacy he thought he wanted never comes to pass and he and the girl never talk to each other or learn anything about the other’s life. Just sleeping in the same bed is enough because “sex is the consolation you have when you can’t have love”.
Feeling the need to share this new emotion he has discovered so late in life he writes about his love in his weekly columns and suddenly finds his career taking off.
As the first year of his 10th decade passes the narrator finds himself subject to emotions he has never felt before and never expected to feel, culminating in the wish to completely change his life and living arrangements.
This is a remarkable book. The whole idea of an adult man wanting to spend the night with a teenager is totally abhorrent to me. However, the fact that, although they do spend nights together, they never actually have sex makes this story readable.
The story of this old man falling in love for the very first time, witnessing him reacting as you would expect the average teenager to do, was charming, sad and uplifting. The thought that it is never too late to experience love, either for the first time or again, is wonderful.
This book is both a love story and a swansong and as such works very well. On the other hand I do find the premise of the very old man and the very young girl quite disturbing. In fact, I had issues with the way women in general were viewed by the narrator in this book. Having said that, it could easily been seen as a weakness in the main character since the two women who play a bigger part in this story, his mother and the lady providing him with Delgadina, can both be viewed as strong and self-sufficient.
All in all this was an interesting read and beautifully written book that should provide lots of material for a very good discussion and gave me quite a few interesting quotes to hold on to.
(on aging) "The truth is that the first changes are so slow they pass almost unnoticed, and you go on seeing yourself as you always were, from the inside, but others observe you from the outside."
"By then I had a mental list of faces I knew and another list of the names that went with each one, but at the moment of greeting I didn't always succeed in matching the faces to the names."
"By now I felt so accustomed to this kind of domestic life that I no longer slept naked but wore the Chinese silk pajamas I had stopped using because I hadn't had anyone to take them off for."
"I began to read her The Little Prince by Saint-Exupery, a French author whom the entire world admires more than the French do."
"(...)and once again I confirmed with horror that one ages more and with more intensity in pictures than in reality."