Love in the Time of Cholera
Love in the Time of Cholera, a novel by Gabriel García Márquez published in 1985, as its title suggests, is a novel devoted to love. But it begins with two deaths: that of Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, a crippled Antillean war refugee, and doctor Juvenal Urbino, who unwittingly commits suicide in an attempt to retrieve an escaped parrot from the top of a tree, slipping from that height to his death. “Only God knows how much I’ve loved you” says the doctor to his wife just before his death.
A little bit later, Florentino Ariza, our main protagonist, and one of those attending the wake, tells the recent widow: “Fermina, I’ve waited for this moment for more than half a century… I once again give you my oath of eternal loyalty, my love is forever yours”.
The story takes place in the early 1930s, in a Colombian city on the coast of the Caribbean. And for the better part of three hundred pages of this book we are witness the sentimental education of Florentino Ariza, likely one of the most romantic figures in all of literature. We discover him in love, while still a teenager, with his beloved Fermina daza, who barely aknwoledges his existence, but with whom he soon enough starts a very passionate epistolary relationship. Returning from a journey through the rural part of the country recommended by her father (who wants to keep the young lovers apart), she realizes suddenly that Florentino Ariza is not the man who can make her happy and she rejects him, promptly marrying doctor Urbino, whom she had also refused at first. Although relatively happy, Fermina Daza soon realizes her mistake, she rejected the man she really wanted, and now she is destined to lead a life with some stranger she realizes she’ll never really get to know, or love.
While this is happening, cholera and the wars between liberals and conservatives are raging throughout, wiping out the population. Florentino Ariza, despite his longing for Fermina, adapts and begins to have relationships with different women, one adventure after another, while working at a waterway company, which he ends up becoming the President of.
With Urbino dead, and again rejected by Fermina, Florentino Ariza will again, as in his adolescence, set out to conquer his love a little at a time, with his passionate verse, and infinite patience. She first accepts his friendship and agrees to travel the Magdalena River on one his ships, not knowing until the last moment, that Florentino is planning to accompany her.
It will be in the Magdalena River where these septuagenarians who spent their lives wanting to be in each other’s arms, can finally enjoy their passionate love. Love in the Time of Cholera is a true testament to the notion that true love can last a lifetime.
Although it is much more linear than other novels by the same author, and not so full of those magical elements Gabriel García Márquez has accustomed us to, the strength of the topic alone, and the craft involved in the construction of this beautiful novel will have you struggling to put it down.