Thursday, June 23, 2011

Love in the time of Cholera

Most people recommend "100 years of solitude" as reading material for Gabriel García Márquez, except the utterly romantic, who will probably recommend "Love in the time of Cholera". A while back, wandering through the stacks of ignored books in the university library (and battling with annoying thoughts of my own), I remembered the novel, particularly because I tried so many times to watch the movie, but failed greatly each time. It was waiting for me to read it. I searched for it online and went to its placement according to the dewy decimal system. There were many posh copies, but I opted for an old, hard-cover one, that had nothing special about it except that it smelled of books. I love the old smell of books, and I always think that the colors of the covers of new books distract, instead of assist the imagination, as they limit it.

Simply put, the novel is about a dreadful love triangle between Fermina, Dr. Urbino and the tortured Florentino. Florentino and Fermina meet as children, and instantly Florentino falls in love with the fair, and pure Fermina, who at first seems to love him back. Things complicate and they drift, mostly because of Fermina's rejection, and then she meets Dr.Ubrino, who pursues her and is encouraged by her father, seeing that he comes from a good family, and is a successful doctor. She marries Ubrino, and remains married to him until he dies at an old age, and she becomes a widow. Meanwhile, Florentino watches from afar, while drowning his agony in lustful pursuits of many women. Most of the novel revolves around the agony of Florentino and his unrequited love, until he is reunited with Fermina at old age after becoming a widow, and she accepts his love and reciprocates it.

Florentino spends 50 years of his life loving someone out of his reach.

Most people find it romantic, but I find it very frightening. It is not romantic to spend your life pining for someone who is not yours. However, it is inherent evidence of some psychological damage to commit your brain to someone who is unavailable. If Florentino was a real person, we would find him pathetic and unrealistic, and we would urge him to forget about Fermina and move on. It is clear that Marquez is suggesting that people do not have power over their hearts. In addition, Marquez revels in the pain of love, evident through Florentino's mother's reaction when she found out that her son was in love: "take advantage of it now, while you are young, and suffer all you can". I can not imagine suffering for that long of a time, and being persistent in believing that this person is the one for you, even though they chose to forget you.

I find this concept scarier than any horror movie; it is the ultimate imprisonment of the soul.

I can not write about this novel without mentioning how wonderfully accurate Marquez's description of the aged relationship between Fermina and Urbino; the subdued affection, the unexpressed spite and the great dependance that comes with old age. It also hints at Fermina's less than sincere feelings, which might have been generated due to Urbino's pursuit rather than real affection. I have to say for someone who is afraid of old age and commitment, this book is for me a very frightening experience. However, overall, it is very interesting, and you might get bored in the middle, but it is worth exploring.


For some reason I always think of Fayrouz's "La Inta Habibi" when I think of this book:

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