Memories of My Melancholy Whores

Memories of My Melancholy Whores


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400095940
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/14/2006
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 408,672
Product dimensions: 5.16(w) x 7.93(h) x 0.33(d)

About the Author

Gabriel García Márquez was born in 1927 near Aracataca, Colombia. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. He is the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera, Living to Tell the Tale, among other works of fiction and nonfiction. This book is translated by Edith Grossman, widely recognized as the preeminent Spanish to English translator of our time.


Mexico City, Mexico

Date of Birth:

March 6, 1928

Place of Birth:

Aracataca, Colombia


Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 1947-48, and Universidad de Cartagena, 1948-49

Read an Excerpt

1 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.

Reading Group Guide

“García Márquez has composed, with his usual sensual gravity and Olympian humor, a love letter to the dying light.” –John Updike, The New Yorker

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Memories of My Melancholy Whores, the first work of fiction in ten years from Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez.

1. The unnamed narrator of Memories of My Melancholy Whores says that he has “resolved to tell of my own free will just what I’m like, if only to ease my conscience” [p. 5]. Why does he have a troubled conscience? Why would the act of telling his story ease it? Does he succeed in this goal?

2. The narrator wants to give himself a “night of wild love with an adolescent virgin” [p. 5] to celebrate his ninetieth birthday. What is it, both physically and spiritually, that he gets instead?

3. What is the significance of the narrator falling in love with Delgadina while she sleeps? Why is he so taken by the “improbable pleasure of contemplating the body of a sleeping woman without the urgencies of desire or the obstacles of modesty” [p. 29]?

4. The narrator says that thanks to Delgadina, he “confronted [his] inner self for the first time as [his] ninetieth year went by” [p. 65]. What does he discover about himself? How has his experience with Delgadina led him to this knowledge?

5. When Rosa Cabarcas is about to tell him the young girl’s name, the narrator cuts her off: “Don’t tell me . . . for me she’s Delgadina” [p. 68]. Why doesn’t he want to know her real name?

6. The narrator says that he has never gone to bed with a woman he didn’t pay and that by the time he was fifty he had been with over 500 women. Why does he choose to have sex only with prostitutes? How might his own first sexual experience–being “initiated by force into the arts of love” [p. 109] by a prostitute when he was not yet twelve–be related to this choice?

7. A North American novelist celebrating love between a ninety-year-old man and a fourteen-year-old girl would very likely be condemned for endorsing child sexual abuse. What cultural or literary factors allow García Márquez to write such a story without provoking a firestorm of criticism?

8. In what ways is Memories of My Melancholy Whores like a fable or fairy tale? How does it combine the elements of magic and realism that are trademarks of García Márquez’s style?

9. What is the meaning of the sentence the narrator finds written in lipstick on the mirror: “The tiger does not eat far away” [p. 56]? Who left this message?

10. The narrator at times doubts the reality of Delgadina. “It troubles me,” he remarks, “that she was real enough to have birthdays” [p. 71]. Is his love for her simply a projection onto the blank screen of her sleeping body, or is he in fact responding to her on some primal, transformative level?

11. At the very end of the novel, the narrator says, “It was, at last, real life” [p. 115]. Why does he feel he is finally experiencing real life? In what ways has his life up to this point been unreal?

12. Love is a central theme in Gabriel García Márquez’s fiction. If you have read any of his other work, in what ways is the experience of love treated differently in Memories of My Melancholy Whores than in his earlier writing? In what ways are such works as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Innocent Erendira, Love in the Time of Cholera, and Of Love and Other Demons similar to Memories of My Melancholy Whores in their treatment of love, sex, and sexual exploitation?

Customer Reviews

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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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