“There is a story told about Gabriel García Márquez by another Latin-American novelist, who was once his neighbour. Every night, after slaving over their respective sentences, the writers would meet for a drink. García Márquez would tell his friend about what he had written during the day and the friend would eagerly await the next installment.

 

This went on night after night until the book was finished. Then, one day, García Márquez’s friend walked into a bookshop, only to find there was not a single aspect of One Hundred Years of Solitude he recognised – not a character, not a plot twist, nothing. He realised that García Márquez had, in effect, produced two novels: one written and one oral. He didn’t know which was worse – the fact that he’d been strung along or that there was no record of the fabrication; it had evaporated with all their hard-earned drinks. “

 

Such is the man. So when you expected a sequel to “Living to Tell a Tale” comes knocking at your door, what is undoubtedly a coda to his distinguished literary career, “Memories of my Melancholy Whores”. A book that is more lovable for its atmosphere and style than content and plot.

 

The content might as well raise a few eyebrows. When the novella begins with “The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.” – you can almost hear a few chortles and a lot of disgruntled sighs. And to add to chagrin of the latter, the next paragraph rather boldly declares, “Morality is a matter of time”. All for a lover who sleeps in a dilapidated brothel, as the protagonist narrates her stories from Arabian Nights. Quite a tale.And deceptive too, punctuated with tricks Marquez loves to play on his readers.

The story set in an antediluvian colonial setting of Latin America, meanders in the bye-lanes of love, lust, erotica, unbridled innocence and a certain surreptitious humour. His atypical aphorisms: “Sex is the consolation when you cant have love”, “Among the charms of old age are the provocations our young female friends permit themselves because they think we are out of commission “, “the invincible power that has shaped the world is unrequited, not happy, love”. And his inimitable style wrought with a life that people like me can identify with, makes for a refreshingly dreamy afternoon.

The 76 year old Marquez who has been seriously ill for the past few years, has produced another of his gems, maybe not of as grand as Solitude or Cholera, but definitely opalescent by its own rights. One definitely worth reading!

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