Photo is from Amazon.com.
“The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.”
That’s the first line Mr. Márquez got it rolling for readers to enter his world, or in this case, the character’s world. So there is it, clear and indicative of a purposeful pursuit for an old man of his age. It is disturbing for a 90-year-old man to declare of such sinful desire, and it was not any virgin he wanted, but a young adolescent girl as the object of his desire. That is absurd and so suggestive of a pedophile!
But as the story unfolded and as this 90-year-old man walked the readers through the past memories of his life as a bachelor, it got more interesting. At 90, he didn’t have anything to loose. He retraced his memories with honesty, unconstrained from what other people would think of him. For one thing I found intriguing was his uninhibited nature to display the frivolous adventures of paid services, picking women base on the price rather than their charms to fulfill his physical needs. “Sex is the consolation you have when you can’t have love.” He admitted his weakness, frustrated at his failure to find the kind of connection that is so natural for others but not for him. For 90 years of his life, never once he found a woman to fulfill that emotional void reserved for love.
Well, at last, at 90 love found him, in a very bittersweet way.
This is the first translated Spanish novel I read, wishing that I had learned Spanish to read the original version. Nonetheless, I found this book quite intriguing. To explore the topic of sex isn’t easy, but to provocatively embed sexual fantasies into the plot, especially from a 90-year-old man’s perspective having sexual relationship with a young adolescent girl is outrageous. Sex is saturated throughout the plot, it’s provocative but not pornographically vested. Sex is enlightened to illuminate the role that sex played in his life, to voice his constant search for love. However, the intimate scenes between the man and the young girl were very celestial and delicate. He never once forced her to engage in sexually explicit acts and yet found such moments sleeping next to her, reading and singing while she was asleep was sufficient enough to inscribe the notion of love in his heart and mind.
The plot is narrated in a slow motion, like a 90-year-old man counting his remaining days on earth. At his age, each passing day is measured in immense structure of time, that he could be gone the next hour when death wanted to take him away from earth. Each day is as precious to him as his memories, he took things slowly in rhythms, interjected with the images of his deteriorating physical conditions. But when it comes to the girl that he paid for on his 90th birthday, the man suddenly revived his inner strength like a man of early 20s.
Another thing I keep thinking about the plot is the passive presence of the young girl. Her real name was never revealed, she never spoke, there was no dialogue that contained her side of perspective. She was there, and yet, the author obscured her presence by taking away her voice. I think it’s a clever way to leave readers, like me, to speak for the girl. Her character is very delicately constructed, just like her descriptions given in the novel, and the role she played as the “young adolescent virgin.” Perhaps it was thought out this way to protect her innocence, to illuminate that what the man found in this girl was not an act of pedophilia but just pure affection.
It’s never too late to find love and to love. 😀
Note: I read this book for free by spending my entire Sunday at Barnes and Noble. Well, I paid $5 for a cup of tea and a bar of Godiva chocolate.