“The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin...”, thus begins the story of the unnamed protagonist in Memories of My Melancholy Whores.
In the first few chapters, the unnamed character who introduces himself as “ugly, shy and anachronistic” provides an explanation about his life, how he enjoys visiting brothels in his youth and claims “I have never gone to bed with a woman I didn’t pay”. By the age of 50 he boasts of a list of 514 women whom he’d slept with at least once. To meet his birthday request, he calls an old acquaintance who owns the city’s most successful brothel and she manages to arrange for a 14 year old virgin to meet him on the night of his ninetieth birthday.
I was very disturbed with the first few chapters of the book mainly because of the paedophilic nature of the main character’s request but this book is not about sex. It is about love, death and ageing. Upon meeting the 14 year old girl he falls in love with her and thus renews his outlook and perspective in life in which he feels excitedly “condemned to die of happy love in the joyful agony of any day after my hundredth birthday”.
Unlike Love in the Time of Cholera which I enjoyed reading tremendously; Memories of My Melancholy Whores tipped on the opposite side of the scale for me. Though the story of finding love and life at an age when “most mortals have already died” appealed to me, the character however did not.