RSS

Memories of My Melancholy Whores – Gabriel García Márquez

08 Jan

HoeOn the eve of his ninetieth birthday a newspaper columnist in Colombia decides to give himself ‘a night of mad love with a virgin adolescent’. But on seeing this beautiful girl he falls deeply under her spell. His love for his ‘Delgadina’ causes him to recall all the women he has paid to perform acts of love. And so the columnist realises he must chronicle the life of his heart, to offer it freely to the world. . .

There is a certain unpalatable nature to the subject matter of this book but that being said there is little in the way of vulgarity here as Márquez presents his unnamed writer as a lonely man who manages to retain the sensual in his sometimes disturbing obsessional pursuits.

One of the hallmarks of the author is his ability to mix beauty and baseness together to create something believable, yet also dramatic.  The passions of those who find themselves alone in the world, either nearing the end or just surviving are altogether more haunting than most authors usually give credit for.

The Scholar as our central character is known, shares a fascinating – and for the most part silent – language that is more about the body and its fancied properties than actual reality.   The relationship with ‘Delgadina’ is ultimately using only the inventive imagination of captivation that the unfortunate man possesses and chooses to cling to.

It is refreshing to see a character who is full of the vibrance of life and at the whim of fervour even at 90.  One who after all his experiences still finds himself as flawed as the rest of us despite years of experiencing life and learning its accumulated wisdom.  These sorts of characters have always been the forté of G.G.M making them at once sympathetic – up to a point in this case – and believable, whilst retaining a pitiful air.

The tone of the narrative is both light and heavy at the same time, the weight of years and the fear of growing old is juxtaposed with feelings of unrequited love and appreciation in the power of beauty.  There is a certain crassness in the supporting cast, one that had me first sympathising and loathing them in equal measure.  The earthy nature of the offhanded indecency of which people speak and act is balanced out by the welcome lyrical descriptions which Márquez resorts to now and again, reminding readers of the power he has to conjure the most beautiful images and word placement.

I found myself underwhelmed by the story, there seems to be little depth beyond The Scholar’s relationship with the virgin, he loves her in an abstracted form, to the point where sex is almost the cynical counterpoint to love.  The objectification of the girl gives way to something with more depth, more complex than lust, but short of love in its shortsightedness and the need to possess.  Balancing that there is some wisdom here in matters of a growing old, learning and ultimately choosing what is needed to fulfil one’s desires.

At little over 100 pages the book is most certainly worthy of a read, however perhaps it isn’t the best starting place for the reader new to Márquez’s works, This one did lack a certain magic in the vocabulary, perhaps it was the sparseness of the usual flowery language or the translator’s choice of words, either way I didn’t find it half as quotable as usual.  The book is both a mix of the uncomfortable, the pensive nature of aging and the need to love, I would be more inclined to recommend Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice as a more palatable (if that is the (right word) book on the subject.  Below are some of the other books by the author I have so far reviewed all of which I prefer:

 Chronicle of a Death Foretold

 Leaf Storm and other stories

Love in the Time of Cholera

 One Hundred Years of Solitude

 The Autumn of the Patriarch

Advertisements
 
34 Comments

Posted by on 08/01/2016 in Fiction

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

34 responses to “Memories of My Melancholy Whores – Gabriel García Márquez

  1. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    08/01/2016 at 21:00

    “One of the hallmarks of the author is his ability to mix beauty and baseness together to create something believable, yet also dramatic”- I agree to this statement fully. I’ve read the two most famous of his works, Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. Autumn of the Patriarch, I want to read this one too. Maybe, after that, I’ll go for Memories of my Melancholy Whores… 🙂

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      08/01/2016 at 21:09

      Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude are magnificent works, Autumn of the Patriarch feels more like a strange dream and there are only about three paragraphs in it and five sentences. It’s good but like his other books, not on a par with his two most famous works. Still you never get a bad book with Márquez, at worst you just get a good book but that in itself speaks volumes for his quality of writing.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  2. gargoylebruce

    08/01/2016 at 22:30

    Memories of a decrepit, narcissistic, old pervert would be the not-quite-so-literary title, I suspect.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      10/01/2016 at 13:50

      Perhaps it would have helped shift a few more copies as well.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  3. clarepooley33

    08/01/2016 at 23:40

    I have never read anything by Márquez and probably (from reading your post and comments) won’t start with this one! Thanks for the review Ste.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      10/01/2016 at 13:53

      I’ve read pretty much all of Márquez’s fiction and this is my least favourite, Love in the Time of Cholera is always a good choice though, a full length novel of fiery passion and drama.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • clarepooley33

        10/01/2016 at 18:13

        Thank-you for the suggestion. It’s often a gamble trying to decide which book to start with when trying out a new author.

        Like

         
  4. Jill Weatherholt

    09/01/2016 at 02:04

    I loved, Love in the Time of Cholera. Thanks for your review, Ste. J.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      10/01/2016 at 13:48

      That was fine book indeed, such a wonderful and emotionally draining journey, it makes me wonder how anybody can attain those heights of writing in one lifetime.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  5. Alastair Savage

    09/01/2016 at 10:03

    There’s always this unpleasant facet to Marquez’s writing, isn’t there? Colonel Aureliano Buendia also has a taste for exploitation of women in 100 Years of Solitude. It’s quite appalling.
    Have you ever read his short story “Seventeen poisoned Englishmen”? That’s one that always stuck in my mind where we are the victims, for once!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      10/01/2016 at 14:05

      Florentino in Love in the Time of Cholera also had his distasteful attributes as well, I wonder how much has been inspired by something that occurred to someone during his life…

      I haven’t read Seventeen Poisoned Englishmen, it makes a change from us laying the bad guys, thanks for that Hollywood!

      Like

       
  6. Andrea Stephenson

    10/01/2016 at 00:06

    Thanks for the review Ste, I haven’t read any of his work, so I’ll take on your advice to try one of the others first.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      10/01/2016 at 13:55

      It doesn’t show either his flair for language or complex character building, luckily I have reviewed a bunch of others over the years, if you do fancy taking a punt on one of his works.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  7. Sarah

    10/01/2016 at 17:38

    I, too, read and loved GGM’s two big hitters but on reading your review will probably pass on this one. Having just barely tolerated Proust’s casual objectification of women at the end of Vol 2 of In Search of Lost Time, I’ve had to take a step back and try to remember to see it as a product of its time. It doesn’t make reading mysogyny any more comfortable to read though, although I’m sure all that steam coming out of my ears has at least helped to clear my sinuses!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      11/01/2016 at 20:14

      A lot of head shaking was done this end, this being Márquez, I was prepared to give him more leeway than other authors on account of his back catalogue but I don’t think it will come up on my reread list anytime soon despite its shortness.

      Like

       
  8. Resa

    10/01/2016 at 22:10

    Ahh, the old man is a pedophile & a criminal. However, the message could still be poignant. Nonetheless, your review leaves me with a feeling that this man’s aging is more on the desperate side, as love seems lost to lust.
    I won’t get to read this, as there is a more worthwhile line up of books ahead of it.
    Still, I enjoyed 100 Years of Solitude, although every time I remember it, I think the title is 1000 Years of Solitude. Perhaps Pietro Crespi is turning in his grave at the thought of Memories of My Melancholy Whores.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      11/01/2016 at 19:58

      I could happily have read another 900 years of that book, it really was masterful, this book isn’t a patch on that one but then again not many are…

      Like

       
  9. shadowoperator

    11/01/2016 at 11:44

    Hi, Ste J! The title of this book is partially at least misleading, as it sounds almost as if the whores’ memories are what’s in question. I was looking forward to a sort of combination fictional memoir of both the writer and the women, but I see by your review that that isn’t so. It doesn’t sounds like the first Marquez I would pick up, either. I’ve read “Leaf Storm,” but a friend of mine borrowed it and didn’t bring it back, so I can’t look at it again and see what my impression was, and I read it a very long time ago (when I still had that friend). There were other issues of course, but when someone messes with my library, they are looking for the easy way to get on my bad side!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      11/01/2016 at 19:41

      Nobody should mess with the sacrosanct nature of the library, I feel your pain. I enjoyed Leaf Storm and the mention of Macondo always makes me reminisce over 100 Years of Solitude. I think this is the year for reintroducing yourself to Márquez again. I know what you mean about the title, I didn’t bother reading the back before starting so went it somewhat cold but was like you I was expecting something different on that evidence.

      Like

       
  10. Aquileana

    12/01/2016 at 08:17

    I read this one and didn’t like it too much … It made me think of a sort of Lolita chased by a pederast grandfather… ha… anyhow, Márquez will be always have his spark… but I read many books by him and this one… hmm… well I have my objections.
    Hugs dear Ste. Aquileana ✨☺

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      12/01/2016 at 18:57

      I haven’t read Lolita, it has never been something I have wished to but I am hoping to read some Nabakov this year. I prefer all of his other books but this one probably won;t get a reread unless I am determined to complete them all back to back as part of some mad Marquez binge which would be epic. Hugs to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  11. Liz

    12/01/2016 at 10:39

    Once again, you have provided great customer service, Ste J! Selflessly reading a book that turns out not to be much worth it, so that we don’t have to – heroic, I’d say. Your review is beautifully and eloquently written, thank you.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      12/01/2016 at 18:46

      It does the blog good for variation if not all reviews are books I love and it does me good to be reminded about how lucky I am to have come across such good literature when I get a book I’m not so enamoured with. There are always positives when the critical faculties come out but I enjoy it and if I help steer you to better books, then I feel rather proud of myself.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Liz

        12/01/2016 at 19:01

        You make such a good point. When I started LeapingTracks, I remember that I used to write about music that I came across in my collection that I found I did not like after all and so would be deleting. I realise that I have steered away from this over time in favour only of the stuff that I like – perhaps I should have another think about that approach in the interests of balance!

        Like

         
        • Ste J

          12/01/2016 at 19:06

          I do think by articulating on blogs why we dislike something it helps us define to ourselves and other people what precisely it is we don’t like. I suspect it will be radically different for music compared to books but it is a good exercise in writing and appreciating nonetheless.

          Like

           
          • Liz

            12/01/2016 at 20:25

            Yes – completely agree. It is also good to push oneself and one’s boundaries, rather than simply staying within safe and known areas.

            Like

             
            • Ste J

              12/01/2016 at 20:31

              To push oneself is to better oneself and I am all for that, seeking out new thoughts and challenges.

              Like

               
              • Liz

                12/01/2016 at 20:31

                Well said, my friend!

                Like

                 
  12. Letizia

    12/01/2016 at 20:09

    I agree that one should be familiar with his other works before reading this one. This isn’t a good book to introduce oneself to the author. But I liked it a lot, despite, or perhaps because of, the change in style which, for whatever reason (I read it a while back so can’t remember why I liked it exactly!). Death in Venice- yes, good recommendation and good comparison!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      12/01/2016 at 20:29

      Perhaps being the last novel Márquez wrote for the long time reader, it is easier to adjust to it as a sort of epilogue to his writing but I think my heart is still in Macondo and I am not ready to leave there just yet.

      Like

       
  13. macjam47

    19/01/2016 at 16:12

    It’s a great review, but I think this one is not for me.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      21/01/2016 at 18:09

      I think it is one of those books that splits opinion and is best read between his (in my opinion) better works.

      Liked by 1 person

       

Tell me stuff...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: