Love in the Time of the Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
In this coming-of-age novel, Gabriel Garcia Marquez transports us into the lives of Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza, showing us their love stories in the South America of the late 19th century-early 20th century.
While the writing is absolutely beautiful, Garcia Marquez can describe places and changes with mastery; the story made me quite conflicted. To give you an idea of the writing quality, here are two quotes from the novel:
“Worldly goods: security, order, happiness, contiguous numbers that, once they were added together, might resemble love, almost be love. But they were not love, and these doubts increased her confusion, because she was also not convinced that love was really what she most needed to live.”
“All that was needed was shrewd questioning, first of the patient and then of his mother to conclude once again that the symptoms of love were the same as those of Cholera. The doctor prescribed infusion of linden blossoms to calm the nerves and suggested a change of air so he could find consolation in distance but the man longed for just the opposite, to enjoy his martyrdom.”
While there are many examples of Garcia Marquez’s talent throughout the novel –he didn’t win a Nobel Prize in literature for nothing. Yet, the actions described as “loving” are particularly problematic when they’re read with today’s perceptions. As a matter of fact, the best example of this is the whole character of Florentino Ariza.
Straight from the beginning, Florentino Ariza’s “love story” with Fermina Daza starts with him stalking her, waiting for her, and observing her outside her house. The stalking of Fermina Daza never ceases throughout the length of the book. Then, as soon as Fermina Daza’s husband, Dr. Juvenal Urbino, dies, Florentino Ariza goes to her house to renew his vow of eternal love. Later in the book, he told her he had remained a virgin for her.
Yet, while she was living a happy married life, he definitely didn’t stay a virgin. First, he lost his virginity when he was raped by a woman. After the rape, he developed feelings of love for that woman, even though he never learned for sure who she was. A similar situation happens with a woman falling in love with her rapist later in the book.
To continue on the topic of rape in the book, we can also read a moment when Florentino Ariza raped on his housekeeper and then sent her away as she fell pregnant from the rape. While his niece of fifteen years old was in his care, he committed statutory rape; he was already in his sixties or seventies. He literally made her “fall for him” by letting her indulge in whatever she desired so he could “make love to her.”
While I understand that, when the book was written, the topics of rape were not discussed like they are nowadays, it still feels like Garcia Marquez is romanticizing rape in this novel. So, while I was enjoying the author’s writing skills, I was also disturbed by how rapes and stalking women were glorified.
If you’ve read the book, what was your opinion?