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I recently read the author's acclaimed work "Love in the Time of Cholera" and enjoyed it very much. It spurred me to seek out more work by Marquez, hence this and several others that I recently purchased. My second foray into Marquez was "One Hundred Years of Solitude". I was very disappointed in that novel and concerned that I'd perhaps already seen the best he had to offer. Luckily, I followed up with "Love and Other Demons", finding it to be well worth the effort.

This very short work (it has the page length of a novella, but is in reality little more than a short story, easily read in under two hours) has as its subject, a 90 year old journalist, who has decided to reward himself with a fourteen year old virgin. Upon encountering the young girl asleep, he is so overcome with her innocence that the remainder of his life is consumed with a love that is never consummated. The book is full of recollections and remembrances of his life and many of the women he has encountered.

Marquez's writing is certainly unique in its earthiness. He deals with such subjects as sex, bodily functions and graphic illness as if they are parts of everyday life ... because they are. It is refreshing.

Marquez is also known as one of the leading practitioners of the literary device of "magical realism" in which events are introduced into the story which are quite fantastic. This was a major device used in One Hundred Years of Solitude and perhaps contributed to my dissatisfaction with that work. The device is happily absent in this work.

The author's writing is indisputably beautiful and at times mesmerizing. Much like LitToC, this is a haunting and compelling story, filled with sadness and regret. It is very short, however, and not up to the standards of much of the author's previous work.
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on August 20, 2011
Despite the title, this isn't a book about a man's reflections over the women he's paid for through the course of his life. What it is, a story of hope. A 90 year old not too talented writer, having lived a solitary and loveless life, contacts an old madam to procure a young virgin for his 90th birthday, believing it's his last fling before death. But upon arrival at the brothel, the girl who's been procured for him is asleep and he finds himself oddly touched by her innocence.

He develops a fantasy life for himself and this girl, feeling her presence in everything that he does, even though she's not physically there. What is central the book is not the girl herself for we are not given any indication of her personality, her thoughts and indeed her feelings, but how the man reacts and changes with his continued fascination for her. There's something about her that manages to touch his core and awakens emotions he's not experienced before. Just when he was planning on checking out of life, he now finds himself with a new lease in life, instead of resigning from his job as a columnist, he continues writing but with a different honesty, he adopts an elderly cat and

It's a story of hope, love, self-acceptance and passion. What I wish was different though, was the author's choice of the girl. It smacked a little too much of pedophilia for my liking. But there's no denying Marquez's genius in soulful writing.
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on May 13, 2014
Gabriel García Márquez died last month so I looked for a book I hadn't read. "Memories" proved an excellent choice. His language is rich, voluptuous and humid as the Colombian jungle. His 90 year old narrator is fully alive and describes a world where teenage girls are facilitated into prostitution and an omnipresent government censor peers over the narrator's work at the newspaper—and makes it all appear totally natural.

The physical book looks and feels like it came from a different era, a slim volume with a textured cover, off-white pages and archaic Janson typeface.

And we English speakers should offer special thanks to Edith Grossman, García Márquez's superstar translator.
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on October 21, 2017
What an unusual story. It's difficult to describe this book without spoiling the experience for those who have not yet read it. Still I can say that any lover of books and great narratives will find this novel an incredibly fascinating account. The way he Marquez circulates around a social taboo and keeps the reader in suspense is just marvellous and very elegantly done. Enjoy but have an open mind.
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on September 30, 2017
Really loved this novella. It was a deep dive into the mind of an old man who regardless of all that he did and was still had love and still wanted to be loved. It's a quick and enjoyable read that'll make you ruminate on mortality and maybe some other off color topics.
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on October 16, 2011
The story told in Memories of My Melancholy Whores is rather sordid on the surface, the type of tale that many of us would not otherwise read were it not for the fact it was written by the much beloved author Gabriel García Márquez.

As celebration of his 90th birthday a journalist of little accomplishment solicits, through his favorite madam, an adolescent virgin for his delights. The gentleman, who is never named, is more than familiar with sex, once named a brothels client of the year, but he has never known love. Never really cared to know love. That is the story on the surface. What lies beneath is a tale which at the heart is about first love with all its longing, jealousy and madness. What makes the story remarkable is that it is a 90 year old who is experiencing this and the literary mastery of Marquez keeps us engaged and makes us all believers.

Not one of Marquez' best books, but when you are talking about one of the modern day masters of fiction, even a lesser accomplishment is a treasure.
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on May 18, 2007
Márquez is a member of the upper echelon of serious writers; have you read many books better than 100 Years of Solitude? Nonetheless, sometimes you may not be up for a 200 character, 10 generation epic. No? This 115 page gem is like the Splenda version of Márquez, all the flavor, easier to handle.

On the eve of his 90th birthday, a lifelong bachelor, utterly alone in the decaying house of his long dead parents, connected to the world only by the Sunday column he is still allowed to write for the local newspaper, feels the strong need for one more adventure; a wild night with a young virgin. After some trouble, it is arranged but presented with the peaceful sleep of the girl that has been carefully selected for him, he merely watches her and thus begins to grow the love that in his 90 years he has never known. Though his meager finances can barely afford it, the need to see her grows, as does his love for her, exponentially. Like a teenager in love for the first time, he can't sleep, loses weight, can only think of their next meeting when he'll be able so see her sleep, her body providing answers to the questions he thinks but doesn't vocalize. This impossible, but vital love affair sustains him for another year and through it the twists and turns of love makes him see what he never did; at the age of 90 he becomes a new man, love opening his eyes before they close forever.

Some quotes:

"I have never gone to bed with a woman I didn't pay, and the few who weren't in the profession I persuaded, by argument or by force, to take money even if they threw it in the trash. When I was twenty I began to keep a record listing name, age, place and a brief notation on the circumstances and style of lovemaking. By the time I was fifty there were 514 women with whom I had been at least once. I stopped making the list when my body no longer allowed me to have so many and I could keep track of them without paper. I had my own ethics. I never took part in orgies or in public encounters, and I did not share secrets or recount an adventure of the body or the soul, because from the time I was young I realized that none goes unpunished."

"The secretaries presented me with three pairs of silk undershorts printed with kisses, and a card in which they offered to remove them for me. It occurred to me that among the charms of old age are the provocations our young female friends permit themselves because they think we are out of commission."

"For a week I did not take off my mechanic's coverall, day or night, I did not bathe or shave or brush my teeth, because love taught me too late that you groom yourself for someone, and I'd never had anyone to do that for."

"The truth is I'm getting old, I said. We already are old, she said with a sigh. What happens is that you don't feel it on the inside, but from the outside everybody can see it."
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on November 2, 2006
In the US, we understand sexy but we struggle with the erotic. We read the body like we read the newspaper, by habit; with a glance. Our real failure in love is our failure to take our time. It's not in our nature to wait, to sample, to savor. We rush into love as if we were late to an appointment. Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his MEMORIES OF MY MELANCHOLY WHORES doesn't rush. The book is a seduction and moves at that quiet lazy confident pace. The protagonist turns 90 and, mindful of his mortality, wants what he's never had: "A night of wild love with an adolescent virgin." Of course, desire is a dream and dreams are an attempt to remember. And, what do we want to remember, everything, everyone we've ever loved. Memory, though, is an admission of loss. Desire is our straegy to reclaim what was lost. Of course, memory is a trickster...and that's part of the joy of this book, as the "Professor," defies death less through contact with flesh, than though memory and desire. In this book as in life, it is the approach, it is anticipation, that sets us on fire.
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The old master still writes with all of the power of his magical realism in MEMORIES OF MY MELANCHOLY WHORES, a brief but exceptionally well-composed elegy on aging. Few writers other than Gabriel García Márquez would dare to reflect on life at the age of ninety the way his gentle narrator does, finding himself on his ninetieth birthday alone in his departed parents' home, longing for a celebration of one last night with a woman.

He contacts his old friend Rosa Cabarcas who, though advanced in years herself, still is the most successful Madame in the finest brothel in the city. The old man has spent his life as a journalist and writer depending on the prostitutes to satisfy his physical needs, have forsworn love and accepting 'love for sale' as his lifestyle. But now on his ninetieth birthday he asks Rosa for a young virgin and Rosa complies with a fourteen year old nubile lass he names Delgadina. But for his night of bliss Rosa has given Delgadina a potion of valerian and when our narrator goes to her bed she is asleep. Still, he is satisfied to just gaze at her and touch her lightly then sleep at her beautiful side.

This experience opens a door that has never been unlocked and the old man slowly falls in love with the still chaste virgin. He repeatedly sleeps at her side while she sleeps, gifts her, enjoys the awakening of love. When an incident in the brothel results in its closing, Delgadina flees and the old man is forced to come to grips with his changed life and spends his year searching and finding Delgadina with Rosa's help, otherwise lost in the agony of love.

It isn't a complex story, but in García Márquez's hands it is intoxicating. His words swirl around the bedroom of his passion like exotic flowers and his extended soliloquies about aging and death are the poetry of informed illumination. At age 78 García Márquez proves he still weaves magic and as always he manages to touch the heart. The translation from the Spanish by Edith Grossman is superb. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, November 05
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Gabriel Garcia Marquez's short novel, "Memories of my Melancholy Whores" is a deeply moving yet ironic parable about how emotional transformation and a newly-found ability to love are possible, even at an advanced age.

The main character in the story is an unnamed narrator who, to celebrate his ninetieth birthday, contacts a madam of his longstanding acquaintance, Rosa, to procure a young virgin with whom to spend the night and to demonstrate his continued virility. The narrator tells us that in his long life he never had sex for which he had not paid and that he had engaged the services of over 500 women before he stopped counting. He had planned to use his experiences as the basis for writing memoirs with the title of this novel.

Rosa procures for the narrator a 14 year old girl from a poor family who works during the day sewing buttons at a garment factory. She drugs the girl and takes the narrator to the sleeping girl's bed. There is no sexual consummation; instead the narrator gazes at the body of the young girl and departs at early morning. At the madam's instigation, he continues to see the girl, chastely, reads to her, tries modestly to teach her, but largely watches her while she peacefully sleeps. His attractions are strongest when the girl is asleep. Gradually he finds himself in love with the girl and his life is transformed. He brings her presents and candy, thinks of her obsessively, becomes protective, and jealous. He writes of love in a column he has prepared for 50 years for a local newspaper and becomes famed for his eloquence. He adopts an aged cat, learns to take care of it, and steps in to prevent the cat from being put to sleep. He comes to believe, with some reason, that he has learned of love for the first time at the age of 90, without the thought of payment for sex and, indeed, without sex. The narrator's life takes on a meaning and a purpose it hadn't had before.

The narrator exhibits what is commonly known as the "Madonna - Whore" complex in that throughout his life his extensive sexual activity has been limited to the latter component of the dichotomy. With his partial transformation at age 90, he doesn't get a great deal beyond the complex as his love for the young girl remains, as far as we are told, physically restrained and nonsexual throughout. In addition, Marquez tells his story with a great deal of irony and distancing. While the narrator shows some growth in character and in understanding a love that had been closed to him, it is at the expense of a poor, exploited, and underage (only the madam's connections keep her from prosecution for procuring a minor)girl. The girl is far more apppealing, the story suggests, asleep than awake, both physically and in terms of her disposition and character. The narrator gives her a pet name, Delgadina, and never learns her true name. The madam, an unreliable source, plays a key role at many points in the story in whetting the narrator's interest in the girl, and we frequently see the course of events through her highly interested eyes. All of this and more suggests that our aged protagonist remains more in love with an ideal than with an actual woman.

For all its ambiguities, the story seems to me inspiring, if bittersweet. I was left with the feeling that wisdom and love can come to people, even if they come late and come imperfectly.

The story spoke to me of the transforming power of love, when it combines with and illuminates human sexuality.

Admirers of Marquez and of this book might enjoy J.M. Coetzee's recent and learned review in the February 23, 2006, New York Review of Books.

Robin Friedman
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