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Memories of My Melancholy Whores (Vintage International)by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Reading Group Guide
1. The unnamed narrator of Memories of My Melancholy Whores says that he has “resolved to tell of my own free will just what Im like, if only to ease my conscience” [p. 5]. Why does he have a troubled conscience? Why would the act of telling his story ease it? Does he succeed in this goal?
2. The narrator wants to give himself a “night of wild love with an adolescent virgin” [p. 5] to celebrate his ninetieth birthday. What is it, both physically and spiritually, that he gets instead?
3. What is the significance of the narrator falling in love with Delgadina while she sleeps? Why is he so taken by the “improbable pleasure of contemplating the body of a sleeping woman without the urgencies of desire or the obstacles of modesty” [p. 29]?
4. The narrator says that thanks to Delgadina, he “confronted [his] inner self for the first time as [his] ninetieth year went by” [p. 65]. What does he discover about himself? How has his experience with Delgadina led him to this knowledge?
5. When Rosa Cabarcas is about to tell him the young girls name, the narrator cuts her off: “Dont tell me . . . for me shes Delgadina” [p. 68]. Why doesnt he want to know her real name?
6. The narrator says that he has never gone to bed with a woman he didnt pay and that by the time he was fifty he had been with over 500 women. Why does he choose to have sex only with prostitutes? How might his own first sexual experience-being “initiated by force into the arts of love” [p. 109] by a prostitute when he was not yet twelve-be related to this choice?
7. A North American novelist celebrating love between a ninety-year-old man and a fourteen-year-old girl would very likely be condemned for endorsing child sexual abuse. What cultural or literary factors allow García Márquez to write such a story without provoking a firestorm of criticism?
8. In what ways is Memories of My Melancholy Whores like a fable or fairy tale? How does it combine the elements of magic and realism that are trademarks of García Márquezs style?
9. What is the meaning of the sentence the narrator finds written in lipstick on the mirror: “The tiger does not eat far away” [p. 56]? Who left this message?
10. The narrator at times doubts the reality of Delgadina. “It troubles me,” he remarks, “that she was real enough to have birthdays” [p. 71]. Is his love for her simply a projection onto the blank screen of her sleeping body, or is he in fact responding to her on some primal, transformative level?
11. At the very end of the novel, the narrator says, “It was, at last, real life” [p. 115]. Why does he feel he is finally experiencing real life? In what ways has his life up to this point been unreal?
12. Love is a central theme in Gabriel García Márquezs fiction. If you have read any of his other work, in what ways is the experience of love treated differently in Memories of My Melancholy Whores than in his earlier writing? In what ways are such works as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Innocent Erendira, Love in the Time of Cholera, and Of Love and Other Demons similar to Memories of My Melancholy Whores in their treatment of love, sex, and sexual exploitation?
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