three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
20-Jan-Feb-2006
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A-MemoriesMelancholy"The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin," announces the unnamed protagonist of García Márquez’s first novel in a decade. To celebrate, the lifelong bachelor orders a 14-year-old virgin from his favorite madam. But lechery gradually turns to love for his sleeping beauty, a factory worker whom he calls Delgadina. The first night, he chastely watches Delgadina sleep. Over the course of a year, with each night resembling the last, he contemplates his idle life (and sometimes fondles her), while falling silently in love. For a man who paid to sleep with hundreds of women over his life, the affair becomes a miraculous awakening of the heart.
Knopf. 115 pages. $20. ISBN: 140004460X

Hartford Courant 4 of 5 Stars
"[Some readers] may not see that García ultimately celebrates love, which can conquer solitude, instead of sex, which cannot." Jeanne A. Leblanc

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"This work’s charm lies in Márquez’s ability to transform the sordid lust of this old man into an aching meditation on love and its eruption into unexpected places. … Like any relationship, what is memorable about this affair is not the narrative trajectory of its story, but the exquisite details that make this particular love meaningful and unique." Geoffrey Bateman

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Some might even manage to persuade themselves that this monologue is, like Humbert Humbert’s, an ironic apologia, a literary game whose object is to catch the speaker out in his evasions and self-deceptions. But that’s not at all what García Márquez is up to here. The cunning of Memories of My Melancholy Whores lies in the utter—and utterly unexpected—reliability of its narrator." Terrence Rafferty

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Like every García Márquez novel, this is a tale of obsession. But it is one so pruned, so pared, so truncated to bare essentials, that a reader will find herself turning to read every page again and again, parsing its pronunciamentos." Marie Arana

Houston Chronicle 3 of 5 Stars
"It’s hard to imagine a man more willfully removed from his humanity than García Márquez’s narrator. … Memories of My Melancholy Whores is not a story about a man who finds eros in the nick of time, but about how much sway the idea of it has over us, even at the end of our days." John Freeman

Minneapolis Star Tribune 1 of 5 Stars
"There are flashes of García Márquez’s old slippery magic for description and observation, but Memories of My Melancholy Whores would be a much more compelling book if the man in question had been given a good deal more merit or brilliance. … If this book were any longer, García Márquez’s shabby protagonist would be truly insufferable; as it is, he is merely pathetic and a bit of a bore." Brad Zellar

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 0.5 of 5 Stars
"In today’s climate, only a writer of Gabriel García Márquez’s stature could get away with this plot . … The author of the masterpiece A Hundred Years of Solitude isn’t offering us anything as entertaining or challenging this time, only a bauble, a sliver of his genius." Bob Hoover

Critical Summary

García Márquez (Living to Tell the Tale, 3.5 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2004; he was profiled in our Jan/Feb 2003 issue), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 for his classic One Hundred Years of Solitude, can, at this point, "publish anything he wants" (Houston Chronicle). That about sums up the critical reception of Memories, a tale of love, aging, and revelation. Most reviewers described the short novel as sparkling and exquisitely bare, "requiring near biblical contemplation" (Washington Post). But as the narrator—loathsome, obsessive—recalls his journalism career, his prostitutes, and his near marriage, a few critics found scant purpose in this nonagenarian’s musings and claimed the novel fell far short of the author’s abilities. Ultimately, Memories celebrates the power of love in the looming face of death. In that respect, it’s a far cry from Lolita.