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Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel…

Love in the Time of Cholera (1985)

by Gabriel García Márquez

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
23,13633998 (3.96)1 / 718
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 does so again.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 294 (next | show all)
"The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love."

Firstly I feel that I should admit that having read the author's 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' and 'Leaf Storm' and not being very impressed with either of them I approached this book with very low expectations and some trepidation.

The story takes place between about 1880 and 1930, in an unnamed Caribbean seaport city, but almost certainly in Columbia and centres around a love triangle of sorts.

Florentino Ariza, a young apprentice telegrapher falls madly in love with Fermina Daza, when they are teenagers and become childhood sweethearts despite never sharing a proper conversation but fan the flames of young love with a succession of love letters. However, Fermina's father disapproves of the affair and does everything he can to break it up taking her away on an extended "journey for forgetting, finally succeeding when on her return home Fermina realises that what exists between her and Florentino is not love but rather an adolescent illusion and she rejects him leaving him broken-hearted.

Fermina eventually meets and marries Dr. Juvenal Urbino, a wealthy doctor, who is well born and gives Fermina the status and respectability that her father craves. However, Florentino is determined that one day he and Fermina will be together again and spends his entire life carrying a torch, staying devout in his singular love and devotion for her despite numerous sexual partners.

Fifty-one years, nine months and four days, upon the death of Dr. Urbino, Florentino once again professes his everlasting love to Fermina, once again starting a secretive correspondence with her. I don't want to give the ending away and say whether or not Florentino finally wins Fermina's heart preferring you to find out for yourself so I am deliberately avoiding commenting on the ending.

The main theme of this novel is love-sickness. Garcia Marquez portrays it as a literal illness, comparable to cholera and Florentino suffers from it physically just as he might any malady. At the top of this review I stated that I had very low expectations before starting this novel and almost didn't start it at all but that really would have been a shame. This is a complex story which at times is a little overblown but IMHO Marquez successfully delivers a touching and at times amusing story that portrays not only the everlasting strength of 'first' love but also shines a light on the sometimes touchy topic of love in the older years particularly after a bereavement, as such this book deserves to be on the 1001 list even though I found the paedophilia element towards the end uncomfortable reading and unnecessary.

"wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good" ( )
  PilgrimJess | May 22, 2020 |
we might be going to Cartagena on vacation so i thought i would read something appropriate. read 1000 yrs of solitude a long time ago and enjoyed that one a lot.
( )
  aabtzu | May 18, 2020 |
Read 2016. ( )
  sasameyuki | May 7, 2020 |
too slow for me ( )
  kakadoo202 | May 7, 2020 |
"… could not bear the pestilential stink of its glories, the arrogance of its bulwarks…" (pg. 346)

I knew a guy once – I am reluctant to call him a 'man' – who proved himself one of the most contemptible people I've ever met. Venal, cowardly and physically repellent, he would often act like everyone's best friend and stroll around with a loud voice and a huge grin, providing you no opening to challenge him on his behaviour. He would brag about fucking women and then kicking them out of bed, and about his great ambition to 'try' different races. The natural conclusion to make, you would think, would be that this was crude, baseless braggadocio. However, events soon transpired which proved it was not only true but undersold. It turned out he liked to get wasted on drink and drugs and use it as an excuse to smack women around, the younger the better. When it finally seemed like he would face some consequences, he developed a penchant for crocodile tears and facile squirming, bemoaning his 'addictions' and claiming he only needed to find the right woman to love him. I regret to report that it worked – not only did his latest female punching-bag (all of 18 years old, and of the race that he'd expressed a particular keenness on 'trying') fall for the line that she was the right woman, but the vast majority of the people around him also began to feel sorry for him and his 'trials'. He emerged from the whole scenario not only intact but raised up, and pretty soon he was back to the loud voice and the huge grin, with the drugs he'd ostentatiously thrown away quietly returned to pride of place. The fists too, presumably. It was a lesson in dissembling and self-pity that I hope never to forget.

I mention this unpleasant story only because I did not expect to find a similar lesson when picking up Gabriel García Márquez's lauded novel Love in the Time of Cholera, which was his first after winning the Nobel Prize. Márquez was a writer I respected, even if I struggled to develop a real love for his writing when I read One Hundred Years of Solitude and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. I found some worth in those books, and had heard that Cholera was a good book for those who did not like Solitude (and vice versa). Instead it proved to be one of the very, very few books I wanted to throw at the wall, an uncritical and self-pitying indulgence of the same behaviours I mentioned above, all argued shamelessly in the name of la pasión. I could only finish it because of my firm rule to finish every book I start.

The book starts off with the melodramatic simping of the young Florentino Ariza, mooning monomaniacally over Fermina Daza, who herself responds with haughty self-regard. I hope those two characters sound appealing, because if you want to finish Love in the Time of Cholera you will have to follow them through the next 50+ years of their lives as they behave like spoilt children, having everything given to them but with so little self-awareness that Fermina, after a long and prosperous life with another man (a rich doctor husband), a mansion and social prestige and maids to wait on her hand and foot, can sigh and say with a straight face that her life had had "more difficulties than pleasures" (pg. 329). The two end up living happily ever after, and I shall come onto Florentino Ariza presently, but the vanity is not confined to just them (as it might be if Márquez was competently framing them in a literary juxtaposition). Fermina's husband Juvenal, at one point, commends his own "heroic resolve" for overcoming the "private catastrophe" of being unable to continue a fetishized affair with a black woman (pg. 248). "Just think what it mean for poor black woman like me to have such a famous man notice her," she had told him just a few pages earlier (pg. 243).

Before turning to Florentino Ariza, it is worth mentioning that the litany of appalling and narcissistic behaviour chronicled throughout Love in the Time of Cholera is told in a sympathetic, indulgent monologue that is almost entirely plotless. The prose, which can at first be charitably described as 'ornate', quickly becomes overbearing as we lose faith in the fetid characters. I was crying out for some dialogue, of which there is little in the book and even less that is good. The bulk of the prose is tedious melodrama, with women being described as the "lionlady of my soul" (pg. 187) and men weeping by moonlight and describing the opportunity to talk to the woman they are infatuated with as "the greatest moment of my life" (pg. 61). When the afore-mentioned rich doctor husband with the beautiful wife can't go to his 'poor black woman', "the world became a hell for him" (pg. 245). The conceit is palpable on every page.

This brings us, finally, to Florentino Ariza. "My heart has more rooms than a whorehouse," he cries on page 270, and unfortunately it has the same smell too. His love for Fermina, which is meant to drive the novel, is baseless, and he then spends the bulk of the novel wallowing in self-pity and notching up 'conquests'. Women see him on public transport and follow him home because they are desperate to sleep with him (pg. 183), but if you think that pathetic fantasy is the nadir, you haven't seen anything yet. An egocentric empty vessel, Ariza sounds like those grubby, clichéd guys out there who talk about how much they love their wife but simply need other women too. "Deprived of one, he wanted to be with them all at the same time," even those from his past who now "slept in the cemeteries" (pg. 269); a callous, narcissistic remark even before you remember that one of his affairs ends with the woman's throat being slit by her husband, after Ariza's casual disregard for keeping it quiet (pg. 217). Again, this is not the nadir – a word that soon ceases to have any meaning when assessing this particular book.

An anecdote is told of a "very young" black girl being violently raped by a stranger who leaps out at her on a jetty. She "wanted that man to stay forever so that she could die of love in his arms" and puts the word out in town that she wants to find this "big, strong fellow" again in the hope of re-experiencing his "way of making love" (pg. 258). Ariza is not this man, but he seems to take the story to heart, for later on he casually rapes a maid and marries her off to some patsy when she gets pregnant (pg. 316). He must be very virile, Márquez's romantic champion, for he later sees it as a point of honour, when he grooms a 14-year-old schoolgirl, that "she was the only one with whom he took drastic precautions against accidental pregnancy" (pp272-3). If you think Hollywood films are all the same nowadays, start reading novels; there's enough out there to turn your shit black.

If I can use the word one last time, this might very well be the nadir in a book that was already plummeting because of its rape indulgence and racial fetishization. The attention Márquez gives to América Vicuña, a secondary-school student still wearing her uniform and needing Ariza to tie the laces on her school shoes (pg. 275), is irredeemably repulsive. Ariza loves her "diaper smell" (pg. 335) – he's 70 years old at this point – and though she "was still a child in every sense of the word, with braces on her teeth and the scrapes of elementary school on her knees… he saw right away the kind of woman she was soon going to be, and he cultivated her during a slow year" (pg. 272). She, of course, loves him unconditionally and likes nothing more than to plant "a little kiss on her papa's precious dicky-bird" (pg. 295). She also, of course, ends up killing herself (pg. 336); one more for Ariza's cemeteries.

At this point, if you've endured 300+ pages of the novel, you might start to appreciate that there's something more going on in Márquez's writing; that perhaps our dangerous, self-indulgent, life-wrecking protagonists are not meant to be viewed uncritically. I usually cotton on to this sort of stuff quite easily, and I count Lolita and The Merchant of Venice among my favourite books, both of which use such a mischievous, dexterous indulgence of depravity to great satirical effect (I've written reviews of both on this website). If this is the case in Cholera, well, Márquez is not fit to kiss Nabokov's precious dicky-bird. Even if Márquez is on record as encouraging such an interpretation, he's also on record as saying the Ariza and Fermina relationship is based on his own loving parents, the only difference being that his parents got married. There's scarce little in the prose itself to encourage such an ironical interpretation, and if the author has to explain the piece, it's a sign that the piece hasn't prompted us to it on its own – in the way art should. In contrast to Lolita, where Humbert's verbose first-person viewpoint emphasises his contemptibility, and The Merchant of Venice, where the farcical trial of Shylock is deconstructed by the nature of the play itself, Cholera's purported irony and subversion of love might well be nothing more than a vain hope on the reader's part. I remember thinking it cruelly ironic that the Nazis commissioned performances of The Merchant of Venice, as though it supported their views when it did anything but; I see a possible analogue in the fact that the people who praise Love in the Time of Cholera seem to praise its romance above all. It is entirely in keeping with our societal substitution of love with self-esteem. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, Oprah called it "one of the greatest love stories".) If there is irony, I can't enjoy it, because Márquez as author hasn't done enough to facilitate it.

In the end, I could read Love in the Time of Cholera only with great and justified hostility. There's enough vanity and malicious behaviour indulged in the real world, as I outlined in my opening story, and though I don't want art to shy away from bad things, it's one thing to address them and another to indulge them. Life's too short to listen to such tedious wank. There's enough pseudo-philosophical justification of misandry, misogyny and "getting yours" at others' expense, without bringing that indoors and giving it a prize. There's something to engage with in the book, the equation of 'love' with choleric disease, but the entire book is so dense and smitten with its deplorable characters that even committed readers will lose the desire to extract literary worth from the swamp of indulgence, melodrama and self-congratulatory rape. Forget Márquez's bastardization of love; I found myself rooting for the cholera. ( )
1 vote Mike_F | May 5, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 294 (next | show all)
Ik hou van mannen als Márquez. Wijze, erudiete mannen. Ze vertellen mij dat het niet verkeerd is om gematigd en rustig te zijn, of zelfs af en toe te twijfelen. In deze tijd van mediacratie, waar de makkelijk pratende mensen het voor het zeggen hebben, de vorm dus voor de inhoud gaat (en ik iedere keer merk dat ik, tot mijn grote ergernis, ook de neiging heb om aan die trend mee te doen) ervaar ik hen als een oase van rust. Een geruststellende hand op de schouder die zegt dat ik niet altijd op scherp hoef te staan en dat het misschien wel een goed idee is om even een pauze te nemen.
added by Jozefus | editNRC Handelsblad, Robin Booiman (pay site) (Apr 24, 2014)
Suppose, then, it were possible, not only to swear love ''forever,'' but actually to follow through on it - to live a long, full and authentic life based on such a vow, to put one's alloted stake of precious time where one's heart is? This is the extraordinary premise of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's new novel ''Love in the Time of Cholera,'' one on which he delivers, and triumphantly.

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
García Márquez, Gabrielprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grossman, EdithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Richardson, MatthewCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sabarte Belacortu, MarioleinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toelke, CathleenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valentinetti, Claudio M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Синянская, ЛюдмилаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The words I am about to express:
They now have their own crowned goddess.

     Leandro Diaz
In dieser Gegend geht’s voran:

die bekränzte Göttin zeigt es an.

Leandro Díaz
For Mercedes, of course
Natürlich für Mercedes
First words
It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.
They were together in silence like an old married couple wary of life, beyond the pitfalls of passion, beyond the brutal mockery of hope and the phantoms of disillusion: beyond love. For they had lived together long enough to know that love was always love, anytime and anyplace, but it was more solid the closer it came to death.
She would not waste the rest of her years simmering in the maggot broth of memory
From the time she awoke at six in the morning until she turned out the light in the bedroom, Fermina Daza devoted herself to killing time. Life was imposed on her from outside.
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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141189207, 0141032421, 0141037458

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