Garcia Marquez: 'Memories of My Melancholy Whores'
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a new novel. It's called "Memories of My Melancholy Whores." Alan Cheuse has a review.
ALAN CHEUSE reporting:
The unnamed, near-nonagenarian narrator of this splendid short novel has plans for his 90th birthday, a lifelong self-educated and not very attractive bachelor who lives frugally and writes a weekly column for the local newspaper in his provincial Colombian town. He calls the madam of his favorite local brothel and asks her to procure for him an adolescent virgin with whom he will spend one night. Thus begins a story that, upon hearing it summarized as I've done so far, you might think would be rudely realistic and, depending on your sensibilities, something that would produce varying degrees of revulsion. But we're in the hands of El Maestro, who's written about "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Love in the Time of Cholera." What he gives us this time around is a memorable love story in a minor, minor key.
When the old man sets out that night for the brothel, there's a full moon and, as he tells us, `The world looked as if it were submerged in green water.' When he enters the room in the bordello where his assignation is to take place, he discovers the 14-year-old beauty is sleeping, drugged by the madam. Though he arranges to see her time and time again, Sleeping Beauty never awakes,, but he awakes. After a lifetime of paying for sex because, as he says, `It's the consolation you have when you can't have love,' he falls madly for the girl and finds a new life at an age, as he himself puts it, `when most mortals have already died.'
And the young girl--you'll have to read this short novel; you can do it in one sitting--to find out what happens to her. You'll be quite aware of what's happening to you, alive and well and growing old and young in a world that looks as if it's submerged in green water.
SIEGEL: The book is "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It's translated by Edith Grossman. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
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