Saturday, November 19, 2005

Memories of My Melancholy Whores

It is always good to read a Garcia Marquez book - be it the earlier works like One Hundred Years of Solitude, or his two great books of non-fiction that I have read - Clandestine in Chile and News of Kidnapping. There is something magical in the way he weaves his text and puts everything in such a lyrical language. It was a treat to read the first part of his memoirs - Living to Tell the Tale.

I believe Garcia Marquez made a very significant departure from the type of themes he was picking up with his novel Love in the Time of Cholera. Till then it was the journalist Marquez in the background dictating the theme while story writer put the necessary elements of fiction. We could see the political reality in the background. We could see the subtleness with which he brought these out, setting it in different times and settings giving it the necessary "distance". I guess with Love in the Time of Cholera he moved "inside".

The latest book (which apparently has been written before the second installment of his memoirs can come out) is a good interlude. I would think it
is the extension of Love in the Time of Cholera, except that one of the protogonists is not as prominently visible. The protogonist a ninety year old "practicing" journalist is on a journey of memories, experiences and is about to encounter the greatest twist in the tale as he realises that "sex is the consolation one has for not finding enough love.."

There is something about how Garcia Marquez can capture the travails of old age. His protogonist does not wet the toilet seat, he does not lift it before relieving himself - "I urinated in the chain-flush toilet, sitting down as Florina de Dios had taught me to do from the time I was a boy so I would not wet the rim of the bowl, and still modesty aside, with the immediate, steady stream of an untamed colt", quite unlike the man in Love in the Time of Cholera who does so because as he gets older he believes that it is more a fountain and he is not able to hold the direction!!

Discovering that he is smitten with a fourteen year old girl who is offered to him on his birthday ("I don't mind changing diapers, I said as a joke") he says, but the night gives a complete twist to the way he has lived his life. It changes the way he writes his column, brings him back from the retirement he was contemplating and finding a purpose to live at the age of 90 is unique indeed. None other than Marquez could have created this magic. A piece of art is too difficult to describe. One can only illustrate it and here are some quotes from the book that weave a magic with words..

On my ninetieth birthday I woke, as always, at five in the morning. Since it was Friday, my only obligation was to write the signed column published on Sundays in El Diario de La Paz. My symptoms at dawn were perfect for feeling not happy: my bones had been aching since the small hours, my asshole burned, and thunder threatened a storm after three months of drought..."

I remember I was reading La lozana adaluza - The Haughty Andalusian Girl - in the hammock in the hallway, when I happened to see her bending over in the laundry room wearing a skirt so short it bared her succulent curves. Overcome by irresistible excitement, I pulled her skirt up in the back, pulled her underwear down to her knees, and charged her from behind. Oh, Senor, she said, with a mournful lament, that wasn't made for coming in but for going out...

At the age of forty two I had gone to see the doctor about a pain in my back that interfered with my breathing. He attributed no importance to it: That kind of pain is natural at your age, he said. "In that case," I said, "what isn't natural is my age."

Today I laugh at eighty-year-old youngsters who consult the doctor, alarmed by these sudden shocks, not knowing that in your nineties they're worse but dont matter anymore: they are the risks of being alive.

Whenever someone asks I always answer with the truth: whores left me no time to be married..

It was, at last, real life, with my heart safe and condemned to die of happy love in the joyful agony of any day after my hundredth birthday...

Need one say more? Before I end, the usually unsung person of getting this great literature - particularly from Latin America been Edith Grossman. In a great piece she had talked about the role of a translator who has to sublimely remain in the background, take the flak for not being loyal, but at the same time have a language as elegant as the original and make a trans-cultural transition. For a great piece on her own take on her job visit here.


bottled-imp said...

nice review!! am putting this book on my to-read list.

Anonymous said...

ಕುವೆಂಪುರವರ ಮಲೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮದುಮಗಳು ಕೃತಿ ಗಾರ್ಸಿಯಾರವರ 'one hundred years of solitude'ಗೆ ಎಷ್ಟೊಂದು ಹತ್ತಿರವಾಗಿದೆಯೆಂದು ತೇಜಸ್ವಿ ಬರೆದಿರುವುದನ್ನ ಓಗ ತಾನೆ ಓದ್ತಾ ಇದ್ದೆ, ಅವರ 'ಅಣ್ಣನ ನೆನಪು' ಪುಸ್ತಕದಲ್ಲಿ :)

Anonymous said...

wow ...nice review ...well written