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Old 06-01-2012, 12:57 AM   #1
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Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

What are your thoughts on it?

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Old 06-01-2012, 03:50 AM   #2
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I'm still reading it - a couple of days should finish it off - so as a little known Austrian once said, I'll be back.
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Old 06-01-2012, 03:55 AM   #3
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I read this a long time ago. Its excellent but I can't get more detailed than that without having to painfully wrack my memory. Maybe its time I read it again.
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Old 06-01-2012, 04:44 AM   #4
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I don't know how many will agree with me but I don't think that this is really a love story at all; instead, it's a rather dark portrait of selfish destructive sexual obsession. Consider the following points {I've put them in spoilers for those who haven't finished the book}

Spoiler:
1. Ariza, in effect, stalks a teen-age girl.
2. He has a number of odd relationships--some of which seem to be motivated by something close to love but he never seems able to make a commitment.
3. {IMO} He has a moral responsibility for América Vicuña's suicide and betrays his position as a guardian.
4. Fermina Daza really seems to have worked out a satisfactory relationship with Juvenal Urbino, who despite his narrowness does a great deal of good for the community. He also makes one of the most significant statements about the nature of marriage and love:

"Always remember that the most important thing in a good marriage is not happiness but stability."

5. While Fermina does not, at first, understand this view, she changes in the end when she realises that it " . . . was the lodestone that had given them so many happy hours."
6. It's interesting that the book begins with a suicide and has another near the end and both have links {albeit of quite different types} to a love relationship.

So I feel the significance of the title is that love is itself a disease--as seems to be made clear at the end.


What do some of the rest of you think?

Last edited by fantasyfan; 06-01-2012 at 04:54 AM.
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Old 06-02-2012, 03:10 PM   #5
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I will not use any spoiler tags, so anyone who has not completed reading this book and does not want unread information disclosed should probably stop reading this now.

I believe that Fantasyfan raises some valid points about the novel not only being about love, but sex. However I happened to think that the title is appropriate as it describes how the novel explores various forms that love could take in the time and place that it was set.

The major love story of the book is of course the love Florentino Ariza carries for Fermina (Daza) Urbino from when he first encounters her when she is just a teenager, though her marriage to Juvenal Urbino, until it can finally be realized in old age when she is a widow. This love of Florentino's would seem strange today because it is a throw back to the Age of Chivalry and Romance. To quote from one of my favorite books:

Quote:
“Of the two or three faculties that have been added to the European mind since the civilisation of Greece and Rome, none seems to me stranger and more inexplicable than the sentiment of ideal or courtly love. It was entirely unknown to antiquity. Passion, yes; desire, yes of course; steady affection, yes. But this state of utter subjection to the will of an almost unapproachable woman; this belief that no sacrifice was to great, that a whole lifetime might be properly spent in paying court to some exacting lady or suffering on her behalf—this would have seemed to the Romans or the Vikings not only absurd but unbelievable; and yet for hundreds of years it passed unquestioned. It inspired a vast literature—from Chrétien de Troyes to Shelly—most of which I find unreadable; and even up to1945 we still retained a number of chivalrous gestures; we raised our hats to ladies, and let them pass first through doors, and, in America, pushed in their seats at table. And we still subscribed to the fantasy that they were chaste and pure beings, in whose presence we couldn't tell certain stories or pronounce certain words.” Civilisation by Kenneth Clark
Yet in the time and culture that this novel is set, it would not seem so strange at all, at least during youthful courtship. When poets could make a living in the “Arcade of Scribes” penning flowery romance letters for young suitors. It is telling that during all the years that Florentino engaged in hundreds of sexual liaisons, whether for one night or extended affairs, he never gave thought to attempting to do so with Fermina. Other married women yes, but not her.

The love between Fermina and Juvenal Urbino is another type of love, one more modern and practical. She for a time is caught up with the romantic fantasy love with Florentino, but then with a flash of maturity and wisdom discards that for a lasting marriage with Urbino. Fantasyfan mentions the quote from Urbino: "Always remember that the most important thing in a good marriage is not happiness but stability." I would say equally applicable is the truth that it may be more important that husband and wife be good friends than that they be passionately in love, at least for a marriage to endure from the ages of early 20s to the 70s. After Juvenal has died, and the letters Fermina receives from Florentino help Fermina deal with her loss, she still wishes that Juvenal could be with her to discuss those letters with him.

There is also the aspect of various forms of purely sexual passion explored as Fantasyfan notes. Florentino may hold chaste romantic love for Fermina, but he himself is by no means chaste sexually, more of a sexually obsessed predator. Here it seems to me that the novel is immersed in a Latin male dominated culture of its time. It is the responsibility of women to protect their virginity and males should be free to attempt any means to over come this. And if a woman succumbs to sexual advances it is because that was, even if in secret or without her knowing at the time, what she actually desired. The novel is scattered with married women who, once free from their husbands, become sexually promiscuous, if not sexual predators. In some instances I found this disturbing.

When as a young girl Leona Cassiani is raped, her response to this is to wish the man who raped her to return so that she could once more have sex with him. When Florentino starts a sexual relationship with América Vicuña, violating the trust put in him as her guardian and engages in what is essentially pedophilia, she becomes sexually vociferous and kills herself when the relationship ends.

I really love the quality of writing in this book, and thought there was another overall theme. That of the effects of aging and decay. The town of Cartagena and the Magdalena River are already at the beginning of the novel in decline from former days of glory and this only continues throughout the novel. When Juvenal Urbino returns from his education in Paris he is struck by this, but yet stays and learns to love his place there. The principal characters also age and decay over the course of the novel, yet seem to find a way to find a way to keep frozen in time. The way the novel ends with the thought that Florentino and Fermina will be forever able to remain together boating up and down the Magdalena River.

Good book and thanks to Sun Surfer for putting it forward.

Last edited by Hamlet53; 06-02-2012 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 06-05-2012, 02:36 AM   #6
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I am just starting the book as I had to wait for the library copy so I won't comment yet on overarching themes.

I am really enjoying reading the book not so much as a story of love, obsession or sex but as a novel that shows a time and place I do not know much about otherwise and a novel with many wonderful little details. My two favorites so far are the old woman who decides to return to the whorehouse of her youth to live out her old age and the line about not worrying about the civil war in the cities because they kill you with decrees not bullets.

In response to fantasy fans comment about Ariza stalking a teenage girl, I think that in that time and place girls were expected to marry earlier and were an appropriate object of romantic interest.

On a more frivolous note, "The Book Group", a British TV show streaming on Netflix has a n episode entitled magical realism in which this book is the club's selection of the month. It was fun to watch that episode while starting the book myself.
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Old 06-06-2012, 03:27 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Hamlet53 View Post
I really love the quality of writing in this book, and thought there was another overall theme. That of the effects of aging and decay. The town of Cartagena and the Magdalena River are already at the beginning of the novel in decline from former days of glory and this only continues throughout the novel. When Juvenal Urbino returns from his education in Paris he is struck by this, but yet stays and learns to love his place there. The principal characters also age and decay over the course of the novel, yet seem to find a way to find a way to keep frozen in time. The way the novel ends with the thought that Florentino and Fermina will be forever able to remain together boating up and down the Magdalena River.

Good book and thanks to Sun Surfer for putting it forward.
The theme of aging is very pronounced--now that you mention it. The various characters seem to have different sorts of responses to it. Urbino, for instance, is deeply religious and i believe he finds a stability in his religious faith. Saint-Amour accepts the end on his own terms. I wonder if his love of chess is a parable for life? His final chess position is a lost game.

One of the finest aspects of this book is the brilliance of the character development. All of the characters have a certain ambiguity of motive and desire which makes them very realistic and profoundly sympathetic. For examplle, the relationship between Urbino and Fermina is quite complex and many-faceted. Above all owing to the attention to significant detail {e.g. the "bar of soap" episode} in the author's dramatisation, the marriage is vivid and certainly believable.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 06-07-2012 at 09:11 AM.
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Old 06-08-2012, 02:08 PM   #8
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I also liked some of the humor in this novel. How Florentino was much sought after at the Arcade of Scribes for his talent at writing love letters, yet could not write a simple business letter to save his life. How Fermina demands that she never be made to eat eggplant before agreeing to marry Juvenal Urbino, yet later this becomes one of her favorite dishes. That Urbino's talking parrot that for years speaks the most inappropriate things at inopportune moments, yet on the occasion of the visit of the President of Columbia for the purpose of hearing the amazing parrot speak the parrot cannot be induced to speak a word.
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:31 PM   #9
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There are spoilers contained below. You should stop reading now if you do not wish to have parts of the story disclosed.

This has been on my to-read list for a while, and I was very excited to see this as the May selection for the MR Literary Book Club selection. However, it has been a while since I have been so disappointed in a book! I found the first 1/2 of the book almost painful to read, and overall, it was a very slow read for me... I agree with most of the comments posted by FantasyFan and Hamlet53. A few thoughts:
-- I also did not see this as a "great love story".
-- I wanted to yell out to Ariza "Get over it and move on" when love was not returned -- particularly since the two individuals barely, if at all spoke or spent time with each other, and their "love" was only thru letters. I felt like his love for Fermina really fell into the category of being OCD.
--Ariza (as an older man) has slept with 622+females, including taking advantage/being a predator of a 14 year old girl who he was guardian for, and who committed suicide as a result. He then tells Fermina he "remained a virgin" for you.

I enjoyed the rich portraits of characters spanning most of their lifetime and the writing style. I guess one of the take-aways that I have is there are many different types of love.
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Old 07-07-2012, 03:37 PM   #10
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Some sad news today that Gabriel Garcia Marquez's brother has confirmed that he is suffering from dementia. There is a thread in the news section.

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=184054
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Old 07-12-2012, 05:35 PM   #11
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However, it has been a while since I have been so disappointed in a book!
I will have to agree! It may be because the one I read is an ENglish transaltion, instead of one in my mother tongue, Italian, which I suspect works out better than Engelish; it may be because I have foallen completely out of love with magical realism, which I used to enoy enormously; it may be because I found the main themes depressing (death, really), but I did not like this book very much.

On magic realism, once you stop going with it, it is difficult to condone the "jerkiness" in the way the plot develops - for instance, I could not see what is the turning point in the relationship between Juvenal and Fermina Daza that pushes her to marry him. I would have also loved to see more of Ariza's letters to the widow Fermina, to get some feeling of what his thoughts were.

And I must echo the points already made above that to I find this very far from being an exploration of love - I really read it as a book about death. There is vitality in the sense of satisfying urges - mostly sexual ones, and there is no companionship in "loving" relationships, which feel very much like a flight from boredom.

Death approaches relentlessly, and the characters in the novel looks for something to distract them from the approaching doom - what is moving their life is not apparent: there isn't much role for the children, for knowing what e.g. the relationship between Juvenal and Fermina is about, or indeed any relationship. Sure, many things happen in these characters' lives, but what makes them tick?
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Originally Posted by Hamlet53
All of the characters have a certain ambiguity of motive and desire which makes them very realistic and profoundly sympathetic.
This is precisely what I read in a completely opposite way: perhaps it is because I find myself deeply critical of the magic realism approach now, but I felt GGM left a lot of gaps in the narration that I could not fill myself, so that to me the relationships appear quite artificial.

But I'll have to ponder much more on all that you've written, especially Hamlet and toomanybooks, as you guys have a very different take from mine, so that's food for thought.
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