On 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.