To get the obvious out-of-the-way, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writing is stunningly gorgeous. That goes without saying. After having read ‘100 Years of Solitude’ and ‘Love in the time of Cholera’ I knew I was in for a treat when my Facebook Book Club decided to select ‘Memories of My Melancholy Whores.’ Unlike his other books though there isn’t much grandeur here. It’s a simple story that could be read in one sitting over some re-fills at Starbucks and that is exactly how I read most of this novella.
I’m not going to divulge the plot details here for the obvious reasons but here’s what I felt about this story. The hero, narrator, and putative author once belonged to the cultivated bourgeoisie but nearly a century later he lives in his decaying parental home as a stark reflection of his former self. He used to make a living as a journalist and teacher of Spanish and Latin; now he gets by on his pension and the weekly column he writes for a newspaper. The parallels between his past and his present are striking and leave one to consider on what how these many changes could have affected the man.
The rest of the book is the chronicle of the old man’s passion for a young girl, a passion that leads him, predictably, to recall the many other women in his life and, less predictably, to turn his paper column into a series of love letters that “all people could make their own” and here’s where the story gets in interesting (albeit briefly) but such stuff, in the hands of a great writer, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez makes for splendid literature. The fourth and fifth sections of the novella are littered with deep and philosophical musings that save the story from being a simple confession of his colorful youth and transform it into a canon of wisdom for readers to mull over.
Garcia is able to masterfully take the theme of an old man’s longing for the idealized youth and turn it into a powerful fable on human frailty. There are definite high points. The protagonist’s reflections on aging were sharp and funny. The epic nature of the love is grand and romantic and if you choose to put aside the creepy elements and focus on the romantic sentiment, this story can provide deep insight into one of mankind’s greatest fears – the fear of growing old.
I feel guilty to like a book just because of the name of its author and to be honest the first few sections of the book are provocative and disturbing and I really couldn’t believe I was reading a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. There were times I was even reminded of my traumatic ’50 Shades…’ experiences. However, I soon realized that if you are able to get beyond the incorrectness and depravity of what’s being suggested on the surface, you will find a masterfully written story about life, loving, living, and aging. Morally challenged or not the characters are perfect because of their many imperfections. That’s how we all are, aren’t we? That’s what makes us interesting. And human.
We live in a society where we’re inundated with stories about either traditional, fairy tale romances or casual flings. Marquez uses those same motifs but turns those notions on their heads, and that’s precisely the reason people adore him and his writing style. His words still defy the norm and reflect (quite honestly and brutally) the wide gamut of our human experiences.
If you forget everything that Memories of My Melancholy Whores has to offer I guarantee you won’t forget this. Beneath it all, the book will leave you with the idea that it is never too late to fall in love – the epic, grand and wholesome kind of love that we all long for and that’s a good reminder to be left with. Don’t you think?