Just finished Gabriel García Márquez's first novel in ten years, Memorias de Mis Putas Tristes (see sidebar), or, in the English version, Memories of My Melancholy Whores. GGM won the Nobel Prize for Literature in '82, largely due to his short stories and Cien Años de Soledad, a circular, confusing, but breathtaking novel about love, life, death, magic realism--in all their earthiness.
Memorias is not so profound a work as it is sadly quixotic--the main character, a 90-year old, retired columnist who's spent his life going from brothel to brothel for sexual encounters, decides to celebrate his 90th birthday by spending a night with an adolescent virgin. He spends that night, however, merely looking at the nude, sleeping girl, entranced by her pure beauty. The rest of the book details his repeated requests to spend night after night--an entire year--looking at the one he considers the only girl he's ever loved. Yet it's clear he merely loves the idea of her--at one point she briefly wakes and says something, and he decides immediately that he likes her better asleep--and is determined to remain ignorant even of her real name: his ideal woman--he calls her Delgadina for lack of an actual name--is really his Dulcinea. Sadder, pues, because, unlike Quijote, it is clear that our unnamed protagonist knowingly and overtly chooses to favor his idealism over that which is in front of him, yet still reminiscent of the Don, as his choosing to escape the imposition of his age (imposed by all around him, from co-workers to total strangers) through finding youthful feelings he'd never before experienced and tenaciously clinging to this surreal fantasy, states that one truly can be only as old as one feels.
Not his best work--the description is somewhat drier than Cien Años--but the earthy theme of falling for the young, virginal (and exploited) purity is faithfully visited yet again. An overall enjoyable read.