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Emamemi

Emamemi

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Thomas Mann, John E. Woods
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Memories of My Melancholy Whores - Gabriel García Márquez I began reading this book in English, but something didn't feel right. The musicality of Márquez' writing was not there. I couldn't believe the old man changed his style over the years. I looked for the Romanian translation and felt relieved: everything sounded the way it should with Márquez. The poetry was still there. That was the first time I looked admiringly to my native language - it has its positive attributes after all, mainly the kinship with Latin. Now I may only imagine how the original sounds like, another reason to feel sorry for knowing Spanish only at a basic-medium level.

I could venture to say that this novel appeals mostly to men, while women might find it vulgar and deprecating at times. As for the reason why, it is obvious from the opening lines: The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin. It is not exactly appealing to picture an old man deflowering an innocent girl (who happens to be fourteen). Why not a mature virgin? Apparently, this is a hard, if not impossible, task: The only Virgos left in the world are people like you who were born in August.

Being a woman, I tried not to be overcome with disgust for the main character and I did manage to eventually enjoy the novel, because of its attributes that cannot be denied: beautiful prose, humor and a captivating story.

The nameless protagonist is ugly, shy, and anachronistic. But by dint of not wanting to be those things, he has pretended to be just the opposite. Until turning 90, he has hardly felt the burden of growing old, as the notion of youth seemed always flexible to him: I began wondering when I had become aware of being old, and I believe it was only a short time of being old, and I believe it was only a short time before that day (It sounds better in Romanian, trust me!). It seems a little far-fetched to me, but not impossible: The truth is that the first changes are slow, they pass almost unnoticed, and you go on seeing yourself as you always were, from the inside, but others observe you from the outside.

He hasn't been married a single day in his life, although he came very close (as he says, whores left him no time to be married). Being a bachelor, his sex life has been anything but boring: I have never gone to bed with a woman I didn't pay, and the few who weren't in the profession I persuaded, by argument or by force, to take money even if they threw it in the trash. Despite of his wild sex life, he never crossed the boundaries of decency, but morality, too, is a question of time, she would say with a malevolent smile, you’ll see. When he turned 90, that time had come, because that was the beginning of a new life at an age when most mortals have already died.

I've never made a review with so many quotes, but Márquez speaks way better than I could ever do.

Some parts of the novel were inspired by Yasunari Kawabata's House of the Sleeping Beauties and I was quite glad that I've read the Japanese story first, as the idea behind it was quite original and haunting. You should read this, if you haven't already done it.

I went into the room, my heart in confusion, and saw the girl sleeping in the enormous bed for hire, as naked and helpless as the day she was born. She lay on her side, facing the door, illuminated from the ceiling by an intense light that spared no detail. I sat down to contemplate her from the edge of the bed, my five senses under a spell. [...] I was ignorant of the arts of seduction and had always chosen my brides for a night at random, more for their price than their charms, and we had made love without love, half-dressed most of the time and always in the dark, so we could imagine ourselves as better than we were. That night I discovered the improbable pleasure of contemplating the body of a sleeping woman without the urgencies of desire or the obstacles of modesty.


I was glad that this experience was not spoiled by vulgarity, but instead developed into a beautiful story. The protagonist finds himself at the foot of a new chapter in his life, at an age when most men are long dead, but for him it is, ironically, the first chance to discover love, yearning and generosity.

In the end, a true fact about the publishing of Memories of My Melancholy Whores: a week before the official launch, a preliminary edition was stolen, despite the high security, and in only 16 hours the pirated books were sold on the streets of Bogota, which forced the publishers to hurry the official launch - an unprecedented case of "literary mafia".