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Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel García Márquez

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Memories of My Melancholy Whores

Original Title:
Memoria de Mis Putas Tristes

Gabriel García Márquez
Published in 2006 by Vintage International

Read in Dec, 2009.
My rating:

                                                              [spoiler alert]

Note: With some minor changes, what I wrote in the response paper of one of my MA courses.

“The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.”

In the novella Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Gabriel García Márquez gives us a bit of an odd love affair by a 90 yrs. old man and a 14 yrs. old virgin. Now, it really sounds odd because all our lives, we are after those fairy-tales where a beautiful young princess falls in love with a handsome prince-charming. I myself have grown up knowing about these tales but this story, served for me, as an eye-opener. Well, sort of that is. A relationship like ‘love’, not the father-daughter way of course, can be formed by an older man and a young woman. Not that we never heard of this kinds of stories in real life but most of the times we really don’t know if there was ‘love’ involved anywhere. TBH, the story at first felt quite creepy to me but as I read on through the pages, I found more than just another weird or erotic story. It was nothing like that as the narrator’s humors (the cat!) and sojourns are described, coming to an almost peaceful ending with his ‘Delgadina’.

The name ‘Delgadina’ was a given one by the unknown journalist, who is also the narrator of the story. He looks back at his long life (now that he has turned 90) and talks about the women he knew, loved, at the least had sex with. He is quite normal in his ways; unmarried, famous for his columns in his area, still is flirtatious, has had numerous affairs, all sexual. Sounds like a person ever-loving his bachelorhood! Nevertheless, once in his prime, he was engaged to be married (seduced by the girl), who later on escapes it breaking the marriage. He talks about his mother and bits of his younger times too. Then we get to know about his affairs with various women, including his long time female caretaker Damiana. We get the glimpse of his not-so-special life and come to the occasion when he is going to celebrate his 90th birthday soon. He goes to this brothel, arranges for his wish with the Madame of that brothel Rosa Cabarcas. He sees Delgadina, likes her from the first moment. Each night, exhausted by her factory work, Delgadina sleeps peacefully whilst he watches her quietly. During these solitary early hours, his love for her deepens and he finds himself reflecting on his newly found passion and the loveless life he has led. He loves to see her asleep and the details of her body and the tiny bits of expressions (like when the first time she smiled in her sleep!) she makes. He gives her gifts. He loves her simplicity, her innocence and her ignorance as well. He reads to her, converses with her but mostly, he loves to see her asleep (it has been repeated on and on and on so he must love that!). We never get to know Delgadina’s real name, we just know about this world he has created where there is only him and her. He imagines her and she becomes more real in his imagination. The word ‘love’ has eluded him so far but this young girl has surpassed everything and everyone, warmed the 90 yrs. old heart filling with love and passion. He is drenched in passion for Delgadina. All these are revealed in the narrative after the incident of murder in the brothel and Delgadina went missing along with Rosa. Then he knew he had fallen in love with her as he narrates with Leopardi:
“Ah, me, if this is love, then how it torments.”

Then, when Delgadina comes back and he suspects at some point she might have been corrupted, he smashes everything in the room in a violent rage. Then Rosa comes in but being more impressed than upset, exclaiming “What I wouldn't have given for a love like this!” Of course we know that our ‘old man’ is living in a romantic dream and the quality he sought for in Delgadina (of her being a virgin) is something that is a part of that romantic notion. Which is why in the end when she turns 15, he realizes that she is as real as it can be, that she actually has a birthday and he seems baffled by that idea!

To summarize, as our old man finally got the taste of love at a very very late period of his life, I feel glad to find him and her (supposedly?) happy too. In my mind, this story stands out with its oddness, the beautiful writing but overall, its incredible strength to evolve into one’s mind. It’s now upto you. I don’t want to go to the arguments of his vices and virtues, what should’ve been or not; just that this story is about love and the celebration of life, which is how I prefer to look at it.

4 stars.


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