Memories of My Melancholy Whores

Memories of My Melancholy Whores

3.9 31
by Gabriel García Márquez

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"On the eve of his ninetieth birthday, our unnamed protagonist - an undistinguished journalist and lifelong bachelor - decides to give himself "the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin."" The virgin, whom an old madam procures for him, is splendidly young, with the silent power of a sleeping beauty. The night of love blossoms into a transforming year…  See more details below


"On the eve of his ninetieth birthday, our unnamed protagonist - an undistinguished journalist and lifelong bachelor - decides to give himself "the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin."" The virgin, whom an old madam procures for him, is splendidly young, with the silent power of a sleeping beauty. The night of love blossoms into a transforming year. It is a year in which he relives, in a rush of memories, his lifetime of (paid-for) sexual adventures and experiences a revelation that brings him to the edge of dying - not of old age, but, at long last, of uncorrupted love.

Editorial Reviews

Terrence Rafferty
… perhaps it's natural, after 10 years of looking back, that [García Márquez] has now treated himself, and his readers, to this sprightly, perverse little fable about looking forward. Not many of the remarkable storytellers of Latin American literature's boom years are left: Borges and Cortázar are gone, and Puig and Donoso and Arenas; and earlier this year we lost the wily and passionate Guillermo Cabrera Infante, too. But Gabriel García Márquez is still around, turning on the grill, and gratefully. Although he has spent a bit less time in this world than the moonstruck narrator of his latest book, he is now old enough, at last, to feel that every new story arrives as a miracle, and to understand that as long as he writes he can keep being born again.
— The New York Times
Marie Arana
… García Márquez's new novel arrives with all the improbability of a miracle. A long decade has passed since his last novel. We thought we might never have another.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Garcia Murquez'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 GarcIa Murquez'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. (Nov. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The 1982 Nobel Prize winner's first novel in ten years begins in classic Garcia Marquez style: "The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin." Thus begin the memoirs of a nonagenarian journalist who has frequented brothels regularly throughout his life yet never married. This latest (and unconsummated) affair begins a lengthy involvement during which he realizes he's finally found true love. The novelette, set in the 1950s in a Colombian coastal town, is both a paean to old age and a confirmation of the redemptive power of love: "the invincible power that has moved the world is unrequited, not happy, love." Garc a M rquez connects to his earlier works with amorous epistles, prostitution as metaphor, the theme of regenerative love, and the first-person narrative. One also detects a situational resemblance to Yasunari Kawabata's House of the Sleeping Beauties. With its singular purpose and absence of magic realism, the low-key style of Memories is a far cry from the sweeping mythic world of Macondo. Garc a M rquez, in his late seventies and suffering from lymph cancer, has appropriately paired a fictional memoir to join the first volume of his true memoirs published in 2003 (Living To Tell the Tale). An excellent translation as always from Grossman; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/05.]-Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An erotic novella from Colombian Nobel laureate Garc'a Marquez (Living to Tell the Tale, 2003, etc.), his first fiction in ten years. The hero is a Colombian journalist who describes himself as second-rate. But Garc'a Marquez, perennially enraptured by the wonderful, can't quite make him lackluster and gives him a newspaper column that has run for 50 years and readers who follow his work with breathless interest. On his 90th birthday, the nameless journalist, who says he had paid to have sex with 514 women by the age of 50, asks a madam to procure a virgin. On the first of many occasions, he enters the room to discover the naked 14-year-old girl asleep. Throughout the year, he obsesses over her; writes columns about her that drive his readers into a frenzy; and kisses her everywhere and reads to her as she sleeps-but never consummates the relationship sexually or sees her awake. Once, when she murmurs something, dreaming, he thinks, "That was when the last shadow of doubt disappeared from my soul: I preferred her asleep." For anyone who regards the barest prerequisite for a relationship as both partners being conscious and of the age of consent, the scenario is disturbing. There is no indication-unless it is the word "melancholy" in the title-that Garc'a Marquez means his tale to be the parody of macho idiocy it appears to be. His hero ends revitalized and radiantly optimistic, while readers are left wondering, "Can he be serious?" What can't be dismissed, however, is Garc'a Marquez's gift for the casually adept insight. The narrator, for example, catches sight of himself in a store window: "I didn't look the way I felt but older, dressed in shabbier clothes."You'll want to know what the14-year-old, naked next to the 90-year-old man, sees when she looks at herself, but alas, it's never revealed.
From the Publisher
"Unforgettable. . . . Classic Márquez. " –The Washington Post“García Marquez has composed, with his usual sensual gravity and Olympian humor, a love letter to the dying light.” –John Updike, The New Yorker“Luminous. . . . The cunning of Memories lies in the utter–and utterly unexpected— reliability of its narrator” –The New York Times Book Review he cunning of Memories of My Melancholy Whores lies in the utter—and utterly unexpected—reliability of its narrator.“Masterful. Erotic. As hypnotizing as it is disturbing.” –Los Angeles Times“As accomplished a piece of storytelling as you are likely to find on the shelves today.”–Chicago Tribune“Profoundly haunting. . . . Fiction of the very highest order." The Times Literary Supplement

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Memories of My Melancholy Whores

By Gabriel García Márquez


Copyright © 2005 Gabriel García Márquez
All right reserved.

ISBN: 140004460X


The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin. I thought of Rosa Cabarcas, the owner of an illicit house who would inform her good clients when she had a new girl available. I never succumbed to that or to any of her many other lewd temptations, but she did not believe in the purity of my principles. Morality, too, is a question of time, she would say with a malevolent smile, you'll see. She was a little younger than I, and I hadn't heard anything about her for so many years that she very well might have died. But after the first ring I recognized the voice on the phone, and with no preambles I fired at her:

"Today's the day."

She sighed: Ah, my sad scholar, you disappear for twenty years and come back only to ask for the impossible. She regained mastery of her art at once and offered me half a dozen delectable options, but all of them, to be frank, were used. I said no, insisting the girl had to be a virgin and available that very night. She asked in alarm: What are you trying to prove? Nothing, I replied, wounded to the core, I know very well what I can and cannot do. Unmoved, she said that scholars may know it all, but they don't know everything: The only Virgos left in the world are people like you who were born in August. Why didn't you give me more time?Inspiration gives no warnings, I said. But perhaps it can wait, she said, always more knowledgeable than any man, and she asked for just two days to make a thorough investigation of the market. I replied in all seriousness that in an affair such as this, at my age, each hour is like a year. Then it can't be done, she said without the slightest doubt, but it doesn't matter, it's more exciting this way, what the hell, I'll call you in an hour.

I don't have to say it because people can see it from leagues away: I'm ugly, shy, and anachronistic. But by dint of not wanting to be those things I have pretended to be just the opposite. Until today, when I have resolved to tell of my own free will just what I'm like, if only to ease my conscience. I have begun with my unusual call to Rosa Cabarcas because, seen from the vantage point of today, that was the beginning of a new life at an age when most mortals have already died.

I live in a colonial house, on the sunny side of San Nicolás Park, where I have spent all the days of my life without wife or fortune, where my parents lived and died, and where I have proposed to die alone, in the same bed in which I was born and on a day that I hope will be distant and painless. My father bought the house at public auction at the end of the nineteenth century, rented the ground floor for luxury shops to a consortium of Italians, and reserved for himself the second floor, where he would live in happiness with one of their daughters, Florina de Dios Cargamantos, a notable interpreter of Mozart, a multilingual Garibaldian, and the most beautiful and talented woman who ever lived in the city: my mother.

The house is spacious and bright, with stucco arches and floors tiled in Florentine mosaics, and four glass doors leading to a wraparound balcony where my mother would sit on March nights to sing love arias with other girls, her cousins. From there you can see San Nicolás Park, the cathedral, and the statue of Christopher Columbus, and beyond that the warehouses on the river wharf and the vast horizon of the Great Magdalena River twenty leagues distant from its estuary. The only unpleasant aspect of the house is that the sun keeps changing windows in the course of the day, and all of them have to be closed when you try to take a siesta in the torrid half-light. When I was left on my own, at the age of thirty-two, I moved into what had been my parents' bedroom, opened a doorway between that room and the library, and began to auction off whatever I didn't need to live, which turned out to be almost everything but the books and the Pianola rolls.

For forty years I was the cable editor at El Diario de La Paz, which meant reconstructing and completing in indigenous prose the news of the world that we caught as it flew through sidereal space on shortwaves or in Morse code. Today I scrape by on my pension from that extinct profession, get by even less on the one I receive for having taught Spanish and Latin grammar, earn almost nothing from the Sunday column I've written without flagging for more than half a century, and nothing at all from the music and theater pieces published as a favor to me on the many occasions when notable performers come to town. I have never done anything except write, but I don't possess the vocation or talents of a narrator, have no knowledge at all of the laws of dramatic composition, and if I have embarked upon this enterprise it is because I trust in the light shed by how much I have read in my life. In plain language, I am the end of a line, without merit or brilliance, who would have nothing to leave his descendants if not for the events I am prepared to recount, to the best of my ability, in these memories of my great love.

On my ninetieth birthday I woke, as always, at five in the morning. Since it was Friday, my only obli- gation was to write the signed column published on Sundays in El Diario de La Paz. My symptoms at dawn were perfect for not feeling happy: my bones had been aching since the small hours, my asshole burned, and thunder threatened a storm after three months of drought. I bathed while the coffee was brewing, drank a large cup sweetened with honey, had two pieces of cassava bread, and put on the linen coverall I wear in the house.

The subject of that day's column, of course, was my ninetieth birthday. I never have thought about age as a leak in the roof indicating the quantity of life one has left to live. When I was very young I heard someone say that when people die the lice nesting in their hair escape in terror onto the pillows, to the shame of the family. That was so harsh a warning to me that I let my hair be shorn for school, and the few strands I have left I still wash with the soap you would use on a grateful fleabitten dog. This means, I tell myself now, that ever since I was little my sense of social decency has been more developed than my sense of death.

For months I had anticipated that my birthday column would not be the usual lament for the years that were gone, but just the opposite: a glorification of old age. I began by wondering when I had become aware of being old, and I believe it was only a short time before that day. At the age of forty-two I had gone to see the doctor about a pain in my back that interfered with my breathing. He attributed no importance to it: That kind of pain is natural at your age, he said.

"In that case," I said, "what isn't natural is my age."

The doctor gave me a pitying smile. I see that you're a philosopher, he said. It was the first time I thought about my age in terms of being old, but it didn't take me long to forget about it. I became accustomed to waking every day with a different pain that kept changing location and form as the years passed. At times it seemed to be the clawing of death, and the next day it would disappear. This was when I heard that the first symptom of old age is when you begin to resemble your father. I must be condemned to eternal youth, I thought, because my equine profile will never look like my father's raw Caribbean features or my mother's imperial Roman ones. The truth is that the first changes are so slow they pass almost unnoticed, and you go on seeing yourself as you always were, from the inside, but others observe you from the outside.

In my fifth decade I had begun to imagine what old age was like when I noticed the first lapses of memory. I would turn the house upside down looking for my glasses until I discovered that I had them on, or I'd wear them into the shower, or I'd put on my reading glasses over the ones I used for distance. One day I had breakfast twice because I forgot about the first time, and I learned to recognize the alarm in my friends when they didn't have the courage to tell me I was recounting the same story I had told them a week earlier. By then I had a mental list of faces I knew and another list of the names that went with each one, but at the moment of greeting I didn't always succeed in matching the faces to the names.

My sexual age never worried me because my powers did not depend so much on me as on women, and they know the how and the why when they want to. Today I laugh at the eighty-year-old youngsters who consult the doctor, alarmed by these sudden shocks, not knowing that in your nineties they're worse but don't matter anymore: they are the risks of being alive. On the other hand, it is a triumph of life that old people lose their memories of inessential things, though memory does not often fail with regard to things that are of real interest to us. Cicero illustrated this with the stroke of a pen: No old man forgets where he has hidden his treasure.

With these reflections, and several others, I had finished a first draft of my column when the August sun exploded among the almond trees in the park, and the riverboat that carried the mail, a week late because of the drought, came bellowing into the port canal. I thought: My ninetieth birthday is arriving. I'll never know why, and don't pretend to, but it was under the magical effect of that devastating evocation that I decided to call Rosa Cabarcas for help in celebrating my birthday with a libertine night. I'd spent years at holy peace with my body, devoting my time to the erratic rereading of my classics and to my private programs of concert music, but my desire that day was so urgent it seemed like a message from God. After the call I couldn't go on writing. I hung the hammock in a corner of the library where the sun doesn't shine in the morning, and I lay down in it, my chest heavy with the anxiety of waiting.


Excerpted from Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel García Márquez Copyright © 2005 by Gabriel García Márquez. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Memories of My Melancholy Whores 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
An-Eastern-Amigo More than 1 year ago
My intension to use this headline is not to mislead readers. Off course this book is erotic like some other Garcia classics, but it's shocking too, at least to me. It's shocking because I couldn't imagine such a new, brilliant concept. That's why the author is Garcia and it's me, writing this review.
I am not going to tell the story line here, because it's a definite surprise. But, I will suggest to all the Garcia-lovers and other readers, that this is a must read, because this is a short novel filled with emotion, drama and it's erotic.
To me it's a 4 star, because, I got little confused at the climax, may be I was expecting a different ending.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
Memories of my Melancholy Whores is the tenth novel by Colombian author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The narrator is a second-rate journalist who decides to treat himself to a virgin on the eve of his ninetieth birthday. As he is a very frequent customer of his local brothels, the madam duly arranges a fourteen-year-old virgin for him. But he finds himself and, in fact, his whole attitude to life changed by the sight of the young, naked, sleeping girl. He is apparently in love for the first time in his life, but whilst he leaves her virginity intact, his descriptions of her do bring to mind the word paedophile. And the discussion he has with one of his previous whores about the relationship with the young virgin is no less disturbing. Into the story at various times come art and music, a bicycle, an angora cat, a housekeeper and a birthday party. Marquez’s lack of punctuation for dialogue requires careful reading to ascertain just who is speaking. While fans of this lauded author may enjoy this compact offering, many other readers may well wonder what the fuss is about.  
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book- a short read though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A 90 year-old man decides to celebrate his old age by treating himself to a night with a 14 year-old virgin. I have to admit that it's not the kind of subject I wanted to read about, especially since I am the father of a little girl. However, Marquez has written a (very short) character-based story about an old man who has never been in love, who finds something meaningful with a young girl (with whom he never even speaks). The fact that the relationship is apparently never consummated did little to ease my concerns, but the story is really more about the reaction of the old man, in the twilight of his life, learning to love for the first time. I recommend this based mostly on the author's obvious talent for writing and characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of Marquez and I have to say I was taken back by the idea that this 90 year old man wants to sleep with a 14 year old. You must dig deeper than the literal text when reading this novel. This man has never fallen in love and now at the age of 90 he realizes his life is worthless because he never loved. His love for this youth is disturbing, but his whole mission is to regain youth by being with a youth. In real life I would call this man a pervert, but I began to feel pity for this character. You have to remember that this is a book and everything to Marquez is symbolic, nothing is literal. You have to look at the bigger picture.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even though I am not a savvy book critic, or even much of a reader most of the time, I would like to say that I really enjoyed this book. I was in the library when I caught a glance at the title, and was then forced to pick it up and read at least the first few pages. It was the first book in a long time that really engaged me right from the start...What attracted me to Garcia Marquez's book so much was his style of writing. His understatement, subtlety, and highly descriptive writing draw me right into the setting, and right into the mindset of his protagonist. I'm also attracted to the extremely peculiar plot of the story. A ninety-year-old man asks for an adolescent virgin to be his birthday present. A year follows and he has yet to do anything but kiss her. Even though some doubt the protagonist's optimism at finding true love for the first time by the end of the book, I was totally hooked. It's beautiful to me to think that a life of casual sex can be redeemed before passing, even if it's at the age of ninety. Great book, I'm recommending it to my friends (bonus: it's also short!).
Guest More than 1 year ago
Prose like honey that just drip off the page and into the mind stirring thoughts of love, obsession and a renewing. Truely a great book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's a strange topic but it's not an erotic, perverse story. Instead, it's about a man who has lived 90 years existing, but not living. He finds salvation in love. Look past the uneasiness of the plot and you'll find a great story about finding the passion in loving someone other than yourself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
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