Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores

Memories of My Melancholy Whores. How can you not respond to this complicated series of words? Whores -- such disrespect! The ownership we imagine in My, the melodrama implied in Melancholy: yes, yes, I know the Spanish title is Memorias de mi putas tristes, so the publisher (or Edith Grossman) is playing up the musicality more than is necessary, but it's a word I'd expect GGM to use.

More than that, Melancholy is a great word choice, especially for its melodramatic associations and the shadow those associations cast over the narrator.

Rather like the title character in Autumn of the Patriarch, our unnamed and ancient narrator inhabits a world whose existence depends on the collaboration of others. He writes for a newspaper, yes, and earns money and has a public reputation, but without his knowledge, his mother paid to have his first columns appear in the newspaper. He is said by others to be quite seriously well-endowed, and claims to have had sex with 514 women before he gave up keeping track at age 50, but he has never had sex without paying for it. (For me the precision of the number 514 also evokes Florentino Ariza in Love in the Time of Cholera, who was with so many women while waiting for his beloved Fermina Daza.)

Echoes. Memories of My Melancholy Whores is vintage GGM, but shorter. It doesn't have the touches that make people call some of his other novels "magic realist," but you won't confuse its author with anyone else: Jorge Amado's and Mario Vargas Llosa's fiction is related to GGM's, but in Edith Grossman's translation, there's no mistaking that prose. Haven't we met this character before?, we ask, haven't we slept in this hammock already?

In that sense, GGM and the narrator are one and the same. Both men tell stories about themselves, GGM in his wonderful autobiography Living to Tell the Tale and this unnamed man in Memories, a title he came up with for "a narration of the miseries of my misguided life" (13). Throughout this novella, our narrator sees himself first of all as someone seen, someone whose life occurs publicly and therefore needs to be told carefully, floridly, echoing the romantic tones we falsely associate with times long-past. The theatricality of the novella's speaker, and his situation, mark this as just another book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

In my eyes, that's cause for happiness, in spite of the creepiness and not-infrequent outbreaks of misogyny. If you weren't persuaded by Love and Other Demons or Innocent Erendira etc, this won't sell you either, but it's an accessible place to start reading GGM's work.


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