October 24, 2004 in Nation/World

Nobel author’s new novel causes scramble

John Rice Associated Press
 

MEXICO CITY – The first novel in a decade by Nobel Prize author Gabriel Garcia Marquez went on sale across the Spanish-speaking world Wednesday, a launch pushed forward because counterfeiters were already selling copies of “Memories of My Melancholy Whores.”

The long-awaited novella, called “Memoria de Mis Putas Tristes” in Spanish, explores love, sex and life by telling the story of a male journalist who decides to celebrate his 90th birthday by having sex with a young virgin.

At a news conference in Mexico City, where the Colombian-born Garcia Marquez lives, editors said demand for the book has been so strong that they are already in the process of publishing a second edition of 50,000 to add to the initial launch of 100,000 in softcover and 30,000 in hardcover.

Street vendors began selling pirated copies of the book last week in Colombia, forcing publisher Alfred A. Knopf to push up the original Oct. 27 release date.

Braulio Peralta, an editor at Random House Mondadori, said publishers were releasing a first run of 1 million copies for Latin America and Spain.

He said the book will go on sale in Spanish in the United States “very soon,” although publishers hadn’t set a date.

It wasn’t clear when the book would be released in English or how the title would be translated.

Garcia Marquez – who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 – is perhaps best known for his novels “100 Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

His last work of fiction, “Of Love and Other Demons,” appeared in 1994. Two years ago, he released a memoir of his life through 1955, “Living to Tell the Tale,” in which he talks about visiting bordellos in Colombia’s coastal city of Barranquilla as a young journalist.

The 109-page paperback of “Memoria de Mis Putas Tristas,” which sells for $13 in Mexico and about $10 in Colombia, was still making its way to bookshops in Mexico City on Wednesday.

“The demand has been growing since last week,” said Dora Maria Romero, a salesperson at a central Mexico City bookshop who was awaiting the book’s arrival.

In Colombia, Bogota police said Wednesday they arrested three street vendors selling pirated versions of the book.

The book’s Colombian editor, Moises Melo, said this is the first time illegal copies hit the streets before the official version came out.

Peralta said the early counterfeits differed from the legal version of the book because Garcia Marquez made last-minute changes to the final chapter that were not in the material stolen by the counterfeiters.

“Contrary to what the title suggests, the novel celebrates … the complete happiness of someone who over the years has learned that there’s more pleasure in choosing to say no than there is in satisfying all of one’s carnal desires,” R.H. Moreno-Duran, a Colombian writer, told the Colombian weekly Cambio, whose editorial board is headed by Garcia Marquez.

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