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Memories of My Melancholy Whores Hardcover – October 25, 2005

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Editorial Reviews Review

"The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin." So begins Memories of My Melancholy Whores, and it becomes even more unlikely as the novel unfolds. This slim volume contains the story of the sad life of an unnamed, only slightly talented Colombian journalist and teacher, never married, never in love, living in the crumbling family manse. He calls Rosa Cabarcas, madame of the city's most successful brothel, to seek her assistance. Rosa tells him his wish is impossible--and then calls right back to say that she has found the perfect girl.

The protagonist says of himself: "I have never gone to bed with a woman I didn't pay ... by the time I was fifty there were 514 women with whom I had been at least once ... My public life, on the other hand, was lacking in interest: both parents dead, a bachelor without a future, a mediocre journalist ... and a favorite of caricaturists because of my exemplary ugliness."

The girl is 14 and works all day in a factory attaching buttons in order to provide for her family. Rosa gives her a combination of bromide and valerian to drink to calm her nerves, and when the prospective lover arrives, she is sound asleep. Now the story really begins. The nonagenarian is not a sex-starved adventurer; he is a tender voyeur. Throughout his 90th year, he continues to meet the girl and watch her sleep. He says, "This was something new for me. I was ignorant of the arts of seduction and had always chosen my brides for a night at random, more for their price than their charms, and we had made love without love, half-dressed most of the time and always in the dark, so we could imagine ourselves as better than we were ... That night I discovered the improbably pleasure of contemplating the body of a sleeping woman without the urgencies of desire or the obstacles of modesty."

Márquez's style never falters throughout this recounting of his life and his exploration of love, found at an unexpected time and place. The erstwhile lover is still capable of being surprised--and fulfilled. After an absence of ten years, it is a treat to have another parable from the master. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

García Márquez's slim, reflective contribution to the romance of the brothel, his first book-length fiction in a decade, is narrated by perhaps the greatest connoisseur ever of girls for hire. After a lifetime spent in the arms of prostitutes (514 when he loses count at age 50), the unnamed journalist protagonist decides that his gift to himself on his 90th birthday will be a night with an adolescent virgin. But age, followed by the unexpected blossoming of love, disrupts his plans, and he finds himself wooing the allotted 14-year-old in silence for a year, sitting beside her as she sleeps and contemplating a life idly spent. Flashes of García Márquez's brilliant imagery—the sleeping girl is "drenched in phosphorescent perspiration"—illuminate the novella, and there are striking insights into the euphoria that is the flip side of the fear of death. The narrator's wit and charm, however, are not enough to counterbalance the monotony of his aimlessness. Though enough grace notes are struck to produce echoes of eloquence, this flatness keeps the memories as melancholy as the women themselves. 250,000 first printing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 115 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140004460X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400044603
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.7 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gabriel García Márquez (1927 - 2014) was born in Colombia and was a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist. His many works include The Autumn of the Patriarch; No One Writes to the Colonel; Love in the Time of Cholera and Memories of My Melancholy Whores; and a memoir, Living to Tell the Tale. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

190 of 198 people found the following review helpful By KH1 VINE VOICE on October 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"It is a triumph of life that old people lose their memories of inessential things," Garcia Marquez writes in his first novel in ten years, "Though memory does not often fail with regard to things that are of real interest to us."

_Memories of my Melancholy Whores_ begins on the eve of the 90th birthday of the narrator, a journalist and columnist for a local newspaper. Feeling close to death, his birthday present to himself, which will (initially) cost him one month's wages, is a night in the arms of a virgin prostitute, in this case a fourteen-year-old girl he christens Delgadina.

He arrives at the brothel, where the girl has been drugged to calm her nerves. The narrator climbs into bed with her, and falls asleep. From here, he begins a year-long affair with a young woman that he has never spoken to, whose eyes he has never seen. He looks for her in the streets during the day, and then realizes that he would never recognize her awake or dressed. Yet, a change has come over him. Though his trists and the lavish gifts he has bestowed upon his Sleeping Beauty have made him destitute, and he is forgetting the names of his friends, for the first time in his life, he is in love, and happier than he has ever been.

This beautiful, perfectly-wrought novel tells the story of an old man who has never loved anyone, never had a true friend, who has never made love to a woman that he hasn't paid. It is at once a novel about finding love at old age, after a long life ill-spent, and about coming to terms with the ghosts of one's past. What seperates this novel from others that cover these well-worn themes is that it is also about the state of being old itself.
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on December 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Many of the reviewers here and elsewhere are repulsed by what they see as Gabo's endorsement in this novella of pedophiliac prostitution. But saying that "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" is about sex is as absurd as saying that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is about architecture.

Love, death, and aging are the (characteristically Marquezian) themes of this book. The 90-year-old protagonist, looking back at his long life, discovers that he's never really quite lived, and that a wasted life is much more fearsome than death. He falls in love for the first time in all his years, and with a young girl who seems to be a symbol for lost youth and innocence in general. In cherishing her, the protagonist lives the bittersweet melancholy of aging, the memory of past joys, sadnesses, and lost opportunities, and the sheer ambiguity of existence.

Gabo's book isn't about sex, although it's intensely erotic. It's about what it means to live, and age, and remember, and to bring those memories into the present as living companions. It took Proust thousands of pages to explore "remembrances of things past." It takes Gabo just a bit more than one hundred pages in this haunting reflection on the human condition. Strongly recommended, especially to anyone over 50.
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60 of 68 people found the following review helpful By T. Bundrick on November 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In a NYT magazine article several years back Marquez spoke of a lifelong fascination and devotion to two areas: prostitution and Fidel Castro. I admire Marquez the author: when I first read ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE in 1979 at the age of 20, the transformation was instant and complete: I would never again be able to accept the face or literal meaning of words and images.

This slim, yet satisfying book, is Marquez's elegy to a lifelong romantic attachment of an ideal form. However, as in most cases, the ideal has very little to do with reality. In today's sex trade children are often bought, sold and indentured to pimps. Violence becomes a normative experience while alcoholism, drug-addiction and illiteracy are common. Perhaps most sadly, children born to prostitutes will most likely end up as prostitutes themselves.

Marquez is not concerned with the reality. He wants us to identify with this profession, with the whole arena, as he believes it should be viewed: prostitutes act as surrogates, confidantes, friends, and lovers. The prostitutes are provided and cared for. Love is conditional on a price, but for a price, and always for a price That is as close to unconditional love as exists in Marquez's world.

Granted this work is slim, yet there is an essential life force at work that will not be denied. Now in his eighties, Marquez is simply running out of steam. However, the man is simply incapable of writing a poorly-constructed sentence. One note: Edith Grossman has been providing english-speaking readers with translations of latin american authors for as many years as I've been alive. This translatation is pure poetry. Without her artful channeling of an author's voice we would be denied the florid prose of Marquez, Amado, and many others. She is a true poet. Brava......
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50 of 61 people found the following review helpful By MICHAEL ACUNA on November 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
On the surface Gabo's "Memoria de mis putas tristes" (loosely translated as Memories of My Sad Whores) is a story about an old man who upon turning 90 decides to bed (or attempt to would be a better description) a 14-year-old prostitute who, upon entering the old man's room for the first time, promptly falls asleep. And it is at this time that the old man (unnamed) begins a reverie of his life and in particular of the many women he has bedded and for whose affections he has paid.

In barely over 100 pages, Gabo manages to squeeze in a chronicle of some 500 women: not finding Love with any of them. He says:"Sex is the consolation for not finding enough love."

Many will look at this novella as Gabo's attempt to write a piece that would be placed out of reach to anyone under 18 in the Public Library, alongside "The Tropic Of Cancer" or "Lady Chatterley's Lover." And Gabo would probably think that this would be the ultimate in Coolness. But, "Memoria" is much more than this. What it is is a tribute to all women and the mysteries of all things feminine. The Old Man pays for companionship yes, but he adores these women: they are his respite from Life, all that he craves and they fulfill something much more inside of him, than can the mere act of sex.

The Old man calls the 14-year-old virgin Delgadilla (or the little skinny one) and he lavishes her with gifts. Delgadilla becomes the Old Man's savior and avenging angel, for it is through her innocence and love that he is reborn as a writer and as a human being.

"Memoria de mis putas tristes" is Gabo at his most sensual. That these encounters he details are sometimes graphic and often times brutal does not deflect the sheer beauty and majesty of the writing or of this novella in general.
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