My second book was Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Memories of My Melancholy Whores. The protagonist, a newspaper columnist, turns ninety and decides to abandon all for a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin. To his surprise, he falls in love with the girl and names her Delgadina. He is revived by love and its sufferings. This is a short novel, but it is full of lovingly observed detail, which renders the texture of an old man's experience so utterly believable. It makes me want to write a book about my beautiful porn star who died of an overdose of prescription medicine.
No One Writes to the Colonel, also by Marquez, is a collection of short stories. The title story is quite long, however, and is the most substantial of the lot. The eponymous colonel and his wife live in the most penurious circumstances while waiting for his government pension. They share the little that they have with a fighting cock, whom everyone in town believes will win the coming cock fights. The animal very quickly becomes the symbol of hope for a hopeless community. The colonel's wife tries to persuade him to sell the cock so that they could get some food. He relents but repents in time to retrieve the bird. The conclusion is powerfully poignant. He is asked by his wife about what they would eat in the meantime.
It had taken the colonel seventy-five years--the seventy-five years of his life, minute by minute--to reach this moment. He felt pure, explicit, invincible at the moment when he replied:
The other stories are all set in the same town of Macondo. My favorites are the heartbreaking "Tuesday Siesta" and the heartwarming "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon." The first is about the death of a thief, the second about the gift of a beautiful bird cage. In both, human emotions are "pure, explicit, invincible" too.