Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Memories of My Melancholy Whores

For a 115-page novella, Gabriel García Márquez’s Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004, trans. Edith Grossman 2005) took a long time to finish. I had to make myself get through it. I’m not the kind of person who thinks a writer needs to keep rehashing the same kind of thing throughout his career, so I am at least happy to see Márquez doing something besides the magic realism for which he is most popular in the U.S. Nonetheless, I’m not sure anyone anywhere at this point needs another novel about a man’s relationship to prostitutes.

Sure, Márquez ironizes his narrator: the 90-year-old comes off as having lived a fairly repulsive life, not just frequenting prostitutes and raping his servants but insisting on paying even women who sleep with him of their own accord. The novel, as I take it, is meant to reject this past life in his new-found love for a teenage virgin who he sleeps with, but doesn’t have sex with, every night at a brothel he used to frequent for more expected purposes. This new chaste love, apparently, is the real thing. Except it isn’t really: the young girl is every bit a product of his fantasy as any other relationship. She has no voice in the novel, and the novel doesn’t really draw attention to the way she is silenced.

You could take that description, at least up to the last sentence, and say, well, the novel really is suggesting the narrator is just as bad to the end as he ever was, that his is a false change of heart. I don’t really buy this reading, but even if I did, I’m not sure that it makes the book much better. At this point even a novel fully critiquing this kind of narrator just comes across as self-indulgent masturbatory fantasy.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review. I think it'll same me the trouble of reading the book. I wish writers would ask themselves the same questions you did: I’m not sure anyone anywhere at this point needs another novel about a man’s relationship to prostitutes.

    ReplyDelete