Ashok writes in with this question about a pair of “magical realists:”
I heard that Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Memories of My Melancholy Whores can be read as a continuation of a Yasunari Kawabata novel. Can you tell me which is that novel?
Kawabata was the first Japanese Nobel Laureate in literature (1968), and while not considered a “magical realist” like Garcia Marquez, Kawabata was known for the surreal quality of his writing. A brief bio is available here. For several critics, Garcia Marquez’s latest novel echoes Kawabata’s 1961 book House of the Sleeping Beauties, though nobody that I saw described Garcia Marquez’s book as a “continuation” of Kawabata’s. The pre-pub review in Library Journal describes a “situational resemblance” between the two books, while a review in the Washington Times calls Whores “something less” than Beauties. In a chat with Michael Dirda of the Washington Post (scroll way down), an anonymous reader even went so far as to suggest that Garcia Marquez plagiarized Kawabata, an idea that Dirda dismisses:
Anonymous: I have read all the praise for Garca Marquez’s “Memoires of my sad whores” in the Books Section of the Post, in particular the review by Marie Arana. Nowhere I have seen the reference to Yasunari Kawabata’s “The House of the Sleeping Beauties.” Garca Marquez himself said that that would be a novel he would like to have written.
Question: Being the two stories so close to each other, Kawabata’s obviously preceding Garca Marquez’s, when a homage turns into plagiarism? Thanks
Michael Dirda: Writers always borrow or steal from each other. G-M acknowledges Kawabata’s work, just as Zadie Smith in On Beauty acknowledges E.M. Forster’s Howards End. But the books are still their own. I suspect that Kawabata’s book will outlast G-M’s.
So, clearly there is some relationship between the two books, and hopefully some Garcia Marquez fans have been introduced to Kawabata as a result.