An erotic novella from Colombian Nobel laureate García Márquez (Living to Tell the Tale, 2003, etc.), his first fiction in ten years.
The hero is a Colombian journalist who describes himself as second-rate. But García Márquez, perennially enraptured by the wonderful, can’t quite make him lackluster and gives him a newspaper column that has run for 50 years and readers who follow his work with breathless interest. On his 90th birthday, the nameless journalist, who says he had paid to have sex with 514 women by the age of 50, asks a madam to procure a virgin. On the first of many occasions, he enters the room to discover the naked 14-year-old girl asleep. Throughout the year, he obsesses over her; writes columns about her that drive his readers into a frenzy; and kisses her everywhere and reads to her as she sleeps—but never consummates the relationship sexually or sees her awake. Once, when she murmurs something, dreaming, he thinks, “That was when the last shadow of doubt disappeared from my soul: I preferred her asleep.” For anyone who regards the barest prerequisite for a relationship as both partners being conscious and of the age of consent, the scenario is disturbing. There is no indication—unless it is the word “melancholy” in the title—that García Márquez means his tale to be the parody of macho idiocy it appears to be. His hero ends revitalized and radiantly optimistic, while readers are left wondering, “Can he be serious?” What can’t be dismissed, however, is García Márquez’s gift for the casually adept insight. The narrator, for example, catches sight of himself in a store window: “I didn’t look the way I felt but older, dressed in shabbier clothes.”
You’ll want to know what the 14-year-old, naked next to the 90-year-old man, sees when she looks at herself, but alas, it’s never revealed.