In remembering recently deceased author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, we reflect on his most openly sexual novel, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, erotic fiction at its most poignant. ADAM FRONTIER recalls the one book Marquez wrote with a male audience in mind …
Gabriel Garcia Marquez lived a grand life through his novels which captured the imagination of the world – and I have to confess he had a profound effect upon my own life in a way I could never have imagined.
It all began when I studied creative writing and film at uni, where I met the love of my life. We were doing the same course and became inseparable. Our nights were intertwinings among essay writing, scriptwriting, and passionate couplings. As I blissed in the heaven of youth, I thought my paradise-on-earth would never end.
Then one afternoon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez arrived to interrupt my daydreams.
We were to study magic realism, announced our tutor, Penny Brown.
She held up a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, by the literarily-monikered Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
My divine dancer girlfriend, always keen to over-achieve at her studies (which benefited me greatly as I coasted in the wake of her discipline) stirred in her chair, as though a fatalistic wind had just blown through the classroom window. She was instantly captivated by the chime of the title. We both toddled dutifully off to the uni bookstore to purchase a copy – one each.
That night we continued to plough into each other, but she also ploughed into that book. Admittedly I did too, it was a wonderful read.
But where I read with admiration and delight, my darling read with fixation and heat. She was mesmerised, her eyes dripping from paragraph to paragraph like molten glass, her breath imperceptible, shallow in awe. She could not be extricated for our usual late night cup of rooibos tea.
My true love released herself from the few journalism units she was doing like a tree shaking itself from the ground. Imaginative fiction was now her thing, the more preposterous yet earthily Latino the better. Love In The Time Of Cholera was next – I quickly followed, not yet stalking her readership but from my own not-quite-equal enthusiasm for the mind-tripping narratives Mr Marquez excelled at. I was yet to fully understand there was now a third person in our relationship.
My literary love side-stepped suddenly into a new maze of magic realism, that of Isabel Allende, and I danced with her yet again, but Marquez was as far into my feminine side as I wanted to go. I finished Eva Luna, and mildly enjoyed it, but it was not the same – for me Marquez was the authentic divining of magic realism. My darling, however, cried out every night from her reading desk in our bedroom “Evvvvaaaa Llllluuuuuuunnnnnnaaaaaaaaa!!!”.
Rapidly my love infected her female classmates with a juicy gushing over magic realism – and, as newly crowned princess of this pack, there was one more thing she sought to do to ensure immortality as the alpha female of magic realism. She flew the coop from my suburban Australian home and found herself a handsome Brazilian man, a guitar-playing poetic fellow upon whose shoulders and thighs she could dream of Amazonian lands.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez had truly influenced my life.
My love chased the magic while I was left with the realism. It’s fair to say I never read another Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel again … until the fateful day I wandered into a bookshop and saw a slimline volume with a most intriguing title, “Memories of My Melancholy Whores”. And his name emblazoned beneath.
It appealed to me, the thought that instead of One Hundred Year’s of Solitude’s challenge to literally surmount a century of familial odysseys, this was a neat, anorexic book I could properly devour in an afternoon. Marquez, you made it easy for a man both short on time and patience, to pick up your product.
And this was truly a tale for men. A tale for failed men, men who had come to know not enough love. The 90-year-old protagonist of the tale had never, indeed never, known love, and yet suddenly, in indulging that aged itch still needing a scratch, he found an obscenely young prostitute upon whose bosom his heart settled.
An absurd story, magic realism for dirty old men. But as my own bones creaked just slightly, I found comfort in the sentiments, in the perfectly-written language, in a story which was beyond belief, even shamelessly immoral. A story pretty much no-one could write and get away with – except this Nobel prize winner.
After a lifetime worshipped as a grandfatherly word-god by every sweet-smelling flower of the fairer sex who so much as sniffed one of his novels, Marquez squirted out one for the boys.
What other novel could ever have, as its opening sentence, this, and carry it off so well: “The year I turned 90, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.”
“I have never gone to bed with a woman I didn’t pay,” the narrator continues, and in deadpan exposition adds he was “twice crowned client of the year” in the city’s brothels district.
My long-lost love, treasure of my university nights, who sallied into marriage with three South Americans, the third seems to finally have stuck, might have squirmed in her bed struggling with the moral ambiguities of this wretched novel … wondering where she had led her gaggle of literary geese, and whether Marquez’s homely tale of a detached yet pervy old geezer finding puppy love with an abstracted Lolita, could truly be the final novelistic resting place of such a grand and magical master.
Memories of My Melancholy Whores was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s final novel.