Amanda's Reviews > Memories of My Melancholy Whores

Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
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Mar 20, 08

bookshelves: fiction, as-i-lay-dying
Read in March, 2008

On a certain level, I truly enjoyed "Memories of My Melancholy Whores". I am always ready to be swept up in the simple whimsy of G.G.M's language, and the sweeping romance and dramatic emotion of his work always appeals to me. But on another very real level I found this book disturbing and sexist.
The book's theme is strikingly reminiscent of "Talk to Her", a recent Almodovar film. Both deal with men who build flowery romantic/erotic relationships in their minds with a completely passive sleeping woman. In the film, the man in question is a nurse in a hospital caring for an accomplished ballerina who is in a coma. In "Melancholy Whores", the "lover" is a man who has just turned ninety and falls in love with a 14 year old prostitute who he visits every night while she sleeps deeply (possibly drugged).
If you choose to put aside the creepy elements and focus on the romantic sentiment and poetic pedestal that Delgadina (the name the old man invents for his nameless "whore") is placed atop, the book is a very beautiful reflection on the need for love and the degradations of aging. If you can't put is aside, this is a story of a strange pedophilic attachment that certainly should not be romanticized.
Both the Almodovar film and this book romanticize and rhapsodize about the perfectly passive woman-- a woman as little more than an object-- and construct fantasy relationships with someone who never speaks, or even opens her eyes. I once saw an issue of Hustler that had this photo of "The Ideal Woman". She had Jack Daniels coming out of one nipple, and milk out of the other. Guacamole issued from her nether regions and stuffed in her mouth was a tampon. The caption explained that since this woman menstruated from her mouth she was completely silent for about a week every month. This is, of course, disgustingly crude, but take away the frills of magical realism and I feel like "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" is not that different.
There are definite high points. The protagonist's reflections on aging were sharp and funny. The epic nature of the love described in the text whips you away on a Sleeping Beauty/Beauty and the Beast fairy-tale romance that evokes true punch-in-the-stomach emotion.
But in the end, this "princess" is a pre-pubescent prostitute who slaves away sewing on buttons all day to take care of her family and spends her nights fondled and admired by an aged delusional "beast", who will never take her away from reality in princely fashion. In the end, for me anyway, the ick factor breaks the spell.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Sara I felt so similarly about this book! And yet inexplicably ended happy and warm.

♥ Ibrahim ♥ Excellent review, and it wouldn't have occurred to me to draw an analogy between the movie "Talk to Her" and this book. You know what? this theme of the passive woman who is a little more than an object comes frequently with Spanish writers and poets. If you read Pablo Neruda you will see the same objectified image of the female, and yet some people drool over this and think it is "romance". To me it is disgusting.

message 3: by Nagrom (new) - added it

Nagrom I think this review, more than any of the others, made me curious to read this book. Already a GGM fan, I'd have probably gotten around to this eventually, but I am now quite compelled.
Don't get me wrong, my attraction to women is as active, dynamic, components of my life and environment, but anything that has so rancored its readers by challenging their notions of romance and pretty, pretty, has got to be worth reading on some level.

I'll note that 14 years of age is not pre-pubescent, nor is an attraction to one of that age "pedophilic".
Pedophilia is specific to a sexual attraction to those who've yet to reach puberty, normally pre-teens (12 and younger).
Ephebophilia is an attraction to teenagers who, while younger than the legal age of consent (or at least majority), are post-pubescent. As I recall from being 14, and having a 14 year old girl friend, this was most assuredly post-pubescent.
Anthropologically and biologically speaking, this attraction to sexually mature youth is perfectly normal (unlike pedophilia). It may be culturally, societally, taboo but in a truly human sense, it is normal.
Real life, and real love, sex and attraction are rarely romantic and pretty pretty. They are ugly, unseemly, creepy and disgusting - They involve fluids, and noises, and smells, and touches, and uncomforts that are never recognized by "romantic" writers. And yet they are still beautiful, magical, lovely, things.
I'm going to make this a priority to read, as if what I know of GGM from other works holds to this one, that will be what he has captured - Rather than a romantic, idealism, or a disgusting perversion, I expect he will have captured a reality so well that is makes the reader uncomfortable.

Amanda What you say about pedophilia, cultural taboos, puberty, etc. is certainly true. However, if memory serves me correctly (I read this over a year ago), Delgadina has not gone through puberty, and the protagonist specifically is attracted to that immature body-- when she begins to "flower" into womanhood he is taken aback by her bodily changes and less attached to her. There is also something disturbing in her absolute powerlessness that has an emotional resemblance to the power dynamic in pedophilia. Still-- you should read the book and see what you think. I think any book that stimulates discussion is worth reading.

Nagrom wrote: "I think this review, more than any of the others, made me curious to read this book. Already a GGM fan, I'd have probably gotten around to this eventually, but I am now quite compelled.
Don't get m..."

Emily Iliani a good review (i couldnt have written truer words) followed by a good discussion!

message 6: by Larry (new)

Larry Bassett You write some good reviews but it looks like you are doing something else these days. Maybe being a Mom reading board books. Lucky you.

Holly Ah, you put into eloquent words what I tried to convey in my review.

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