Saturday, February 02, 2008

book review - Memories of my Melancholy Whores

If there is a take away from this short book from Gabriel Garcia Marquez it is around the ideas of love and age. Ultimately you are never to old to fall in love but more importantly you can never be too cynical.

The cynical nature of the 90-year-old central character comes from his history of frequenting with incredible regularity the brothels in the South American town he inhabits. A man who has literally had hundreds of sexual encounters has almost trained himself to turn off any thoughts of love. He remembers the only occasion he came close to having any normal sort of relationship he ran away on the day of the wedding.

To celebrate his 90yj birthday he decides to visit the brothel but this time specifies that he must have a virgin waiting for him. Thus begins an off, non-conversational, relationship with a 14 year-old girl that is not given a sexual element until the very end. She sleeps, after working in a factory, and he talks to her and starts to plough all of his money into paying to see her.

At the same time the main character, who writes a weekly column for the main newspaper, decides he is going to stop writing. But he has gone through various stages of being criticised for being old-fashioned to a stage where he is in vogue. So the editor urges him to carry on and because of the costs of visiting the brothel he continues. As his columns start to cover the topics of love he becomes a must read in the town dividing readers but always sparking a debate.

He is advised finally to marry the girl to not only save money but to ensure that she is somewhere close by so his jealously, which is the other side of the love coin, does not eat up his last years.

The ending sees him vowing to live on in comfort with his young virgin discovering after believing that it was not possible what love is like and starting to understand why living for someone else is such a powerful life force.

Version read – Penguin paperback

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