Friday, November 11, 2005

Marquezian Melancholia

Please read the new Márquez. Review from Complete Review:

The unnamed narrator of Memories of My Melancholy Whores begins his tale with a gift he gives himself for his ninetieth birthday: a night with a virgin. Longevity is one of his few really impressive attributes: he was never married (chickening out of the one real opportunity he had), and though he still has a weekly newspaper column, his professional career has been less than stellar too (and even he doesn't think of himself as anything more than a "mediocre journalist").

Among the things he prides himself in (though others are presumably less impressed): he's never slept with a woman (and there have been over 500) whom he hasn't compensated monetarily for the pleasure. And, at ninety, he wants to have another go -- with a young virgin. The one procured for him is practically still a child, and the planned night does not go quite as expected -- she, and then he, sleep through it. But the experience, and the girl, transform him. He never learns her real name, and his relationship with her -- shared nights, but little more -- remains precarious and odd, but it's enough to make an almost new man out of him (and a more celebrated columnist, too).

Memories of My Melancholy Whores is part recollection of time past (and the life that, if not exactly wasted, was spent doing little more than gliding along) and an account of his new-found zest for life that comes with what he feels for this young girl. She awakens feelings and memories in him, not as a lover in any sense of the word, but as a spark for his imagination (and memory): "I preferred her asleep", he admits.

His life is appealingly sketched out here. The narrator knows he doesn't have much to be proud of: any account would be "a narration of the miseries of my misguided life", but with the girl in it his life no longer appears entirely so misguided, and though the reflections (and much of the present) remain melancholy, there is a bright side to it now, to go with the twinkle one can imagine in his eyes.

García Márquez gives a nice sense of the changing times over those nine decades, and the slow decline of his protagonist across them -- his being such an anachronism also one of the things that make him of some value: he is kept on at the newspaper because he is the only one able to deal with some of the old technology, for example, and eventually his ancient perspective also makes him something of a star. His leaky house and an old cat he gets for his birthday also serve as reminders of his inescapable condition, as he tries to protect his few remaining possessions and to have some sort of relationship with another creature (in both cases not meeting with great success).

The girl is his salvation, but even there there are complications, as the madame who arranges his trysts has to close her establishment for a while, leaving him unable to find the girl, about whom he knows (and wants to know) almost nothing. But hunting for her also drives him on -- foolishly but also invigoratingly.

The narrator may be physically ugly and a weak and unremarkable man, but García Márquez's charm shines through and makes this an appealing story. Short, meandering, sketchy, it feels like it could have been a fuller narrative, but there's a lot here, and it's actually quite well presented, adding up to quite a full portrait. Memories of My Melancholy Whores isn't some dirty or dying old man's last sordid fling, but rather a coming to terms with a life, as well as a revelling in the present, in what's still in an old man -- not just memories but also possibilities, and some happiness.



Blogger bloggrez said...

Veteran's Day and Freddy Gonzalez
Today is Veteran's Day in the United States. Every country has a similar day - a time when we remember the young men and women who served their country, whether in war or peace.
Just like so many Americans my friend loves the clubs and club music lyrics so he went ahead and built an awesome website about club music lyrics. When he's in high spirit he goes to the site and start reciting all his favorite club music lyrics. Says it's good for the heart. Guess what? I gave it a shot and it works great!

Fri Nov 11, 10:22:00 am GMT+5:30  

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