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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Have you ever broken up with someone--a high school sweetheart perhaps--and they swore they would never stop loving you? There would be no one for them but you? They would never ever ever get over the pain of your breaking their heart? High drama, right?

Meet Florentino Ariza.

His young dreams of love and happiness dashed by Fermina Daza, he devotes himself not to getting over her and enjoying his independence but to loving her from afar and scheming to one day get her back. He finds time for other pleasures in life--a career, other women--but he never gets over Fermina.

Initially, I found him kind of disgusting, and I had a bit of a crush on the man Fermina does marry--Dr. Juvenal Urbino. But Florentino Ariza's story got under my skin, and he began to interest me, and, once I was interested, I began to see some of his admirable qualities. The question was...would the same thing happen for Fermina Daza?

I'm certainly not going to tell you the answer, but it's worth reading to find out.

Love in the Time of Cholera was written in 1985, but it seems older. It's set around the turn of the century, and Marquez's writing style reminded me a bit of Fitzgerald and others from that time, making the story seem authentic, even charmingly vintage. His descriptions are fantastic, and his observations about love and marriage are poignant.

I was actually skeptical when I started reading this book because I had read 100 Years of Solitude several years ago and just didn't like it at all. If you have the same hesitation, ignore it, and give Marquez another shot! You might never ever ever get over it if you don't.

Favorite quotes...

Only a person without principles could be so complaisant toward grief.

Throughout the house one could detect the good sense and care of a woman whose feet were planted firmly on the ground.

Life would have been quite another matter for them both if they had learned in time that it was easier to avoid great matrimonial catastrophes than trivial everyday miseries.

I will marry you if you promise not to make me eat eggplant.

The person who ran it for him was a lean, one-eyed little man with a polished head and a heart so kind that no one understood how he could be such a good manager.

He made no distinctions: he read whatever came his way, as if it had been ordained by fate.

He was still too young to know that the heart's memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.

Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.

He drank black coffee at any hour, anywhere, under any circumstances, as many as 30 little cups a day: a brew like crude oil which he preferred to prepare himself and which he always kept near at hand in a thermos.

Nothing in this world was more difficult than love.

Men blossomed in a kind of autumnal youth, they seemed more dignified with their first gray hairs, they became witty and seductive, above all in the eyes of young women, while their withered wives had to clutch at their arms so as not to trip over their own shadows. A few years later, however, the husbands fell without warning down the precipice of a humiliating aging in body and soul, and then it was their wives who recovered and had to lead them by the arm as if they were blind men on charity, whispering in their ear, in order not to wound their masculine pride.

She wanted to be herself again, to recover all that she had been obliged to give up in half a century of servitude that had doubtless made her happy but which, once her husband was dead, did not leave her even the vestiges of her identity.

She could not conceive of a husband better than hers had been, and yet when she recalled their life she found more difficulties than pleasures, too many mutual misunderstandings, useless arguments, unresolved angers.


  1. I really loved this book. I think the writing is just gorgeous. I was so disappointed with 100 Years of Solitude but I have read a few other Marquez books and they are all wonderful. I'm glad this one didn't disappoint you!

  2. Man, I really did NOT like this book AT ALL! It really bothered me that Florentino "loved" Fermina so much, when he didn't know her at all. His life was devoted to loving her, yet he slept with SO many other women. He was so moony and weepy too, and that really annoyed me. I also had a really difficult time with the writing style. But, this is what makes books so fun! I know there are lots of people out there who really love this book! I'm glad you enjoyed the writing and the story, and I really like the quote about eating eggplant :)

  3. Ive been meaning to read this one - thanks for the push!

  4. Iliana--yes, I'd definitely be willing to give some of his other work a shot after this one!

    Laura--I'm sorry you didn't like it! But, yeah, different readers, different styles. ;P I completely understand about Florentino. He was revolting through most of the book! And maybe even at the end. Hmm....
    I did like the writing style, though. :)

    Diane--yes, read it!

  5. "Life would have been quite another matter for them both if they had learned in time that it was easier to avoid great matrimonial catastrophes than trivial everyday miseries."

    What do you take that quote to mean? I know I am probably being dense, but I don't see how awareness of this fact would have changed their lives.

    They do avoid matrimonial catastrophes and are plagued by trivial everyday miseries.

    Do you think it is saying that if they knew this they would confront the everyday miseries? Or perhaps not even get married at all, as though there is a relationship between the catastrophe and the miseries?

  6. It's been so long since I've read it, but I could see it going a couple of ways: that the "big" decisions in life (such as marriage or a matrimonial catastrophe) can inform the smaller bits of life (i.e. trivial everyday miseries).

    Or, perhaps, as you said--they could have avoided the marriage in the first place.

    Thanks for your comment! Makes me think I need to re-read this one!


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