This unconventional story ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ is set between the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century in a fictional Latin American port city close to the Caribbean Sea. Gabo’s (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) artistry and magic with words and his eye for detail paints such a vivid image that the reader is instantly transported to that period.
Fermina Daza an adolescent girl moves to the city with her aunt and father Lorenzo Daza who has liquidated all his assets elsewhere to finally settle here. Lorenzo is a heavy drinker and known to resort to violence. Despite Lorenzo’s strict and watchful eyes Fermina allows herself to fall in love with a frail, near impoverished, Florentino Ariza.
Once the secret love affair is exposed the enraged father sends Fermina on an arduous near life threatening journey of over two weeks to her dead mother’s brother’s family with the intention of making her forget Florentino. Despite two years of separation Fermina maintains constant communication with Florentino, and their love blossoms to the extent that they start dreaming and planning of their marriage.
Fermina matured into a lovely woman in those two years and finally on her return to the city when she first time sees the thin and unattractive Florentino she is shocked, and realizes how her love had been nothing but a childhood infatuation and dismisses Florentino forever. Fermina then goes on to marry the National Hero, most eligible bachelor, Europe educated, the only heir to the famous Urbino family, Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Florentino remains unmarried and waits for fifty one years, nine months, and four days, and on the day Dr. Juvenal Urbino dies he once again professes his eternal love to the Widow Urbino, Fermina Daza.
This unusual love story can be interpreted in many different ways. The true meaning and intent of what unfolds in the fifty one intervening years is left for the reader to decide. Whether Florentino’s six hundred and twenty two conquests of different women are part of his method to remain youthful and capable of loving Fermina when destiny presents such a chance or they are mere manifestations of a man’s exaggerated carnal desires; or, whether Dr. Juvenal’s complete submission to Fermina’s whims to maintain marital stability and happiness and still loving her immensely is true love gifted to her, or Fermina is – like several other women – trapped in a marriage that to others appear perfect whereas in reality it is totally loveless and she is still searching for love at her life’s twilight years – these are all personal choices a reader can make.
Gabo has weaved a beautiful enigma beyond a doubt. The story will evoke strong emotions, it will make you feel in love and in sadness, in pleasure and in disgust – all in the same breathe. Forcing the readers to make their own judgements, even letting them decide the fate of the story in the end – there is never a dull moment in this intensely rich narrative that captivates the mind till the very end.
García Márquez at his house in Mexico City, November 2010.
Photograph: Miguel Tovar/AP
Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia, in 1928. He has written a great number of books, including the masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
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