Book of the Month: Memory of My Melancholy Whores

The Act of Writing follows the Act of Loving

What happens when love escapes our life? Do we wither in self pity? Do we harden with bitterness? Do we take the last desperate attempt at catching it? Or, do we delude our hearts into exchanging our lust for love?

And, in deluding ourselves, are we not becoming writers? The act of loving, of finding an elusive spark within someone else and meshing with it to experience a new world of two, begins to resemble the struggling writer finding his voice as he creates something completely new, or better yet, writing his best work of art.

The nonagenarian narrator in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, is a mediocre journalist -a writer without much notice- falling into the last years of life without ever falling in love. From the beginning, we are warned of his venture into the world of literature as he begins writing a memoir of his sick love life. He defends himself by admitting he is not a writer; he proposes journalism as its antithesis:

I have never done anything except write, but I don’t posses the vocation or talents of a narrator, have no knowledge at all of the laws of dramatic composition […] I am the end of a line, without merit or intelligence.

And what are his reasons for writing this story?

After all, keep in mind the narrator is not writing his life story, but a specific instance that sparked something new in his life. Following an ancient Greek trope, we have the young,  unattainable, but much desired muse breathing new life into the writer’s pen. Marquez novel moves beyond the May-December plot, and finds its power in the story of an old mediocre writer grasping to find inspiration in a world that is pushing him out of life. Always writing to make barely a living, the narrator worked for a newspaper that never needed him or gained him much acclaim. The language is seductive because powerful writing demands an intimate relationship between the subject, reader, and writer just as the narrator lives off the secret moments between the 14 year old girl and himself. The girl, Delgadina, serves more as an ideal and then a character, her absence or semi-absence wafting through the narrator’s memories, fueling an old heart with passion and inspiration. She feeds off his imagination, as she prominently rises from the secluded nights into the outside world amid stories of their love.

At times her silence seems problematic; however, Delgadina as muse more than a lover fills us with hope. Rather than physically connecting, the narrator finds wild passion and satisfaction in the liberation of his imagination. His thoughts caress the girl with his ideas and words (he whispers to her while she sleeps), and thus creating for himself a new world that his desires sustained. Reality comes cheap to the narrator. He slept with many women, yet it is with a young girl, a street muse, that provokes an aging mind into creating world for himself.

You can buy Marquez’ book here, a translation by Edith Grossman.

It is a short read of about a hundred pages.

Tell us what you think! Is this the story of a writer? Do you find Marquez’s portrayal of women problematic? How does his language captivate you, or perhaps not? (You’d probably prefer Hundred Years of Solitude!)


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