Sam Leith

Sex and Senility

Memories of My Melancholy Whores


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As opening lines go, it’s undoubtedly an eyecatcher: ‘The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.’ Lord alone knows what they put in the water in South America, but I want some. Consider, though, aside from the goatish premise and the gentle self-mockery of ‘wild love’, how that sentence sets out Márquez’s stall. That phrase: ‘give myself the gift’. It implies, first, that there’s nobody else to give the narrator a present; and it hints too at his extraordinary self-absorption. Also, there’s the suggestion of a transaction – the adolescent virgin’s participation in the festivities is, as it were, in the narrator’s gift. She’s a sure thing. She’s a whore. 

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