Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


About the book –

“Colera” in Spanish has two meanings – 1) an infectious disease, and 2) a state of rage or intense emotion.  “El amor en los tiempos del colera” is a novel by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  It was published in 1985, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in 1982, and the English translation by Edith Grossman was released in 1988.  Set in a Latin American country and spanning a half century (around 1880-1930), it follows a young man’s feverish obsession over a woman, despite seemingly insurmountable odds.  Woven between and beyond the lines is an illuminated commentary on social norms, and a convincing treatise on things that can be love and things that love can be.

Inspiration for the story was culled from the author’s own experiences with riverboats, and his own parent’s love story.  More about this in his New York Times interview from 1988.



Some thoughts –

Garcia Marquez left me breathless.  His words read like poetry, swirling freely in the language of another century that expressed (or hid?) even the most banal things in fragrant euphemisms.  I was thoroughly seduced by phrases like “they fell into devastating love” and “the charitable deceptions of nostalgia” and “the ethical management of forgetfulness” — I took about twice as long reading it because I felt compelled to read certain paragraphs over and over again.  For me, it put today’s excessively vocal society in stark contrast against the more controlled conditions dictated by yesterday’s standards.  Did they feel more because they had no release?  Did they love more intensely because they could not freely express it?  How little is too little, and how much is too much?  Had Florentino Ariza been on twitter, I think their relationship would have been nipped in the bud.

Favorite passages –

“Each man is master of his own death, and all that we can do when the time comes is to help him die without fear of pain.”

“Take advantage of it now, while you are young, and suffer all you can…” – Transito Ariza, on her son’s delirious infatuation

“… not rich,… a poor man with money, which is not the same thing.”

“… the honorable way to live was at the body’s bidding, … loving without lies…”

“Death has no sense of the ridiculous…”

“It is incredible how one can be happy for so many years in the midst of so many squabbles… and not really know if it was love or not.”

“… love was always love, anytime and anyplace…”

Other stuff –

The carving near the cemetery, “lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’ entrate” is from The Inferno by Dante Alighieri.  It means “all hope abandon, ye who enter in”, and is the phrase written on the gates of hell.

The epigraph is taken from “La Diosa Coronada” (the crowned goddess), a vallenato or Colombian folk song composed by Leandro Diaz.

In one conversation, Florentino says he likes Gardel — Carlos Gardel, an Argentine musician famous for his tango pieces.  Compared to Juvenal Urbino’s classical leanings, this was probably the equivalent of today’s popular music.  One of his most celebrated recordings, “Por una cabeza”, is a personal favorite 🙂

In 2007, Mike Newell directed an English film version.  For me, it is a good enough chronology of the events in the story, but a poor shadow of how magnificent the book is.  The only thing that kept my attention was Giovanna Mezzogiorno’s faithful rendering of the “innate haughtiness” of Fermina Daza.  I did love the music, especially this track which I though was perfect for both of them –

*translation – Everyday, I think of you/ I think of you a little more/ I take apart my reason and something in me is destroyed./ Everyday, I think of you/ I think of you a little more/ Every time the sun comes out, I search somewhere for the courage to continue this way/ And I see you without touching you/ I pray for you each night/ Dawn breaks and I think of you/ And the ticking of the clock beats in my ears/ And I keep on thinking of you/ And I keep on thinking…


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