Set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story of the love triangle between Fermina Daza, Florentino Ariza and Juvenal Urbino which endures for fifty years, revealed through a flashback from childhood to old age.
As children, Fermina and Florentino have a brief romance after which Fermina ditches Florentino when she realizes that she is “loving an illusion”. She leaves Florentino obsessed with Fermina and lovesick. In his unsuccessful attempts to alleviate his all-consuming longing for Fermina, Florentino engages in 622 affairs.
Fermina goes on to marry Dr.Juvenal Urbino a high-flying doctor and on the face of it, they make the perfect couple.
Fifty-one years, nine months and four days after Fermina’s wedding Dr. Juvenal Urbino dies leaving Florentino free to make his declaration of love to Fermina again. Will she accept second-time around?
My thoughts on this book:
I think I share a love/hate relationship with this one. The book starts off describing the daily routine of an elderly Dr. Urbino and Fermina on the day leading to his death. I can’t describe how slow this section of the book was. The first 80-100 pages rambled on endlessly until I was bored to tears.
Once Dr. Urbino passes away and the flashback starts, things get a bit more interesting. The teenage love story between Fermina and Florentino is insipid, but I loved the chronicle of their lives after they move on from the relationship.
Florentino is an eternal romantic in love with the ideal love (Fermina). In order to forget Fermina he has numerous affairs with women and seems to love all of them without committing himself solely to any one of them. He makes an unusual but rather endearing Casanova until I came to a rather unsavory love affair towards the end of the novel where he seduces a 13-year old girl who is his ward.
Consider the following description of the seduction:
She was still a child…with braces on her teeth and the scrapes of elementary school on her knees…, and he cultivated her with a slow year of Saturdays at the circus, sundays in the park with ice cream, childish late afternoons, and he won her confidence, he won her affection, he led her by the hand, with the gentle astuteness of a grandfather, toward his secret slaughterhouse.
Stomach-churning? no? how about the fact that at this point in the story Florentino is about 60 odd years old!
Even more harsh is his abandonment of her, and her eventual suicide.
This section was really difficult and disturbing reading for me. I just could not get past the fact that no matter what the cultural background, romantic nature, the historical time period, fear of aging, etc., Florentino is a child molester. Even more disturbing was the fact that he pays absolutely no price for his heartless behavior.
Apart from this incident, I did not have any issues with the book. I think I did not have the best translation because I did not really see any signs of magical realism that Marquez is famous for. But, then this could have been lost in translation, I suppose? Some aspects of this book do not look like they lend well to translation.
However, I have to grant that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a master writer. I mean anyone who is able to craft a story in which the protagonist beds 622 different women over the course of his life and make it seem like something so much more than simply sex really can write!
Btw, there is a movie out based on the book starring Javier Bardem as Florentino.
I think I could watch a couple of hours of him seducing women on screen 🙂 . What about you guys? Anyone seen this movie? How is it in comparison with the book?