Love in the Time of Cholera
First edition (Colombia)
|Author||Gabriel García Márquez|
|Original title||El amor en los tiempos del cólera|
|Publisher||Editorial Oveja Negra (Colombia)
Alfred A. Knopf (US)
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||348 pp (First English hardback edition)|
Love in the Time of Cholera (Spanish: El amor en los tiempos del cólera) is a novel by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez first published in Spanish in 1985. Alfred A. Knopf published an English translation in 1988, and an English-language movie adaptation was released in 2007.
The main characters of the novel are Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. Florentino and Fermina fall in love in their youth. A secret relationship blossoms between the two with the help of Fermina's Aunt Escolástica. They exchange several love letters. However, once Fermina's father, Lorenzo Daza, finds out about the two, he forces his daughter to stop seeing Florentino immediately. When she refuses, he and his daughter move in with his deceased wife's family in another city. Regardless of the distance, Fermina and Florentino continue to communicate via telegraph. However, upon her return, Fermina realizes that her relationship with Florentino was nothing but a dream since they are practically strangers; she breaks off her engagement to Florentino and returns all his letters.
A young and accomplished national hero, Dr. Juvenal Urbino, meets Fermina and begins to court her. Despite her initial dislike of Urbino, Fermina gives in to her father's persuasion and the security and wealth marrying Urbino offers, and they wed. Urbino is a medical doctor devoted to science, modernity, and "order and progress". He is committed to the eradication of cholera and to the promotion of public works. He is a rational man whose life is organized precisely and who greatly values his importance and reputation in society. He is a herald of progress and modernization.
Even after Fermina's engagement and marriage, Florentino swore to stay faithful and wait for her. However, his promiscuity gets the better of him. Even with all the women he is with, he makes sure that Fermina will never find out. Meanwhile, Fermina and Urbino grow old together, going through happy years and unhappy ones and experiencing all the reality of marriage. At an elderly age, Urbino attempts to get his pet parrot out of his mango tree, only to fall off the ladder he was standing on and die. After the funeral, Florentino proclaims his love for Fermina once again and tells her he has stayed faithful to her all these years. Hesitant at first because of the advances he made to a newly made widow, Fermina eventually gives him a second chance. They attempt a life together, having lived two lives separately for over five decades.
Urbino's function in the novel is to contrast with Florentino Ariza and his archaic and boldly romantic love. Urbino proves in the end not to have been an entirely faithful husband, confessing one affair to Fermina many years into their marriage. Though the novel seems to suggest that Urbino's love for Fermina was never as spiritually chaste as Florentino Ariza's was, it also complicates Florentino's devotion by cataloging his many trysts as well as a few potentially genuine loves. By the end of the book, Fermina comes to recognize Florentino's wisdom and maturity, and their love is allowed to blossom during their old age.
- Lorenzo Daza – Fermina Daza's father, a mule driver; he despised Florentino and forced him to stop meeting Fermina. He is revealed to have been involved in some illicit businesses to build his fortune.
- Jeremiah de Saint-Amour – The man whose suicide is introduced as the opening to the novel; a photographer and chess-player.
- Aunt Escolástica – The woman who attempts to aid Fermina in her early romance with Florentino by delivering their letters for them. She is ultimately sent away by Lorenzo Daza for this.
- Tránsito Ariza – Florentino's mother.
- Hildebranda Sánchez – Fermina's cousin.
- Miss Barbara Lynch – The woman with whom Urbino confesses having had an affair, the only one during his long marriage.
- Leona Cassiani – She starts out as the "personal assistant" to Uncle Leo XII at the R.C.C., the company which Florentino eventually controls. At one point, it is revealed that the two share a deep respect, possibly even love, for each other, but will never actually be together. She has a maternal love for him as a result of his "charity" in rescuing her from the streets and giving her a job.
- Diego Samaritano – The captain of the riverboat on which Fermina and Florentino ride at the end of the novel.
- América Vicuña – The fourteen-year-old girl who towards the end of the novel is sent to live with Florentino; he is her guardian while she is in school. They have a sexual relationship, and after being rejected by Florentino and failing her exams, she kills herself. Her suicide illustrates the selfish nature of Florentino's love for Fermina.
The story occurs mainly in an unnamed port city somewhere near the Caribbean Sea and the Magdalena River. Given that Rafael Núñez is mentioned as the "author of the national anthem", the country is likely Colombia. While the city remains unnamed throughout the novel, descriptions and names of places suggest it is based on Cartagena with the addition of the Magdalena River, which meets the sea at the nearby city of Barranquilla. The fictional city is divided into such sections as "The District of the Viceroys" and "The Arcade of the Scribes." The novel takes place approximately during the half century between 1880 and 1930. The city’s "steamy and sleepy streets, rat-infested sewers, old slave quarter, decaying colonial architecture, and multifarious inhabitants" are mentioned variously in the text and mingle amid the lives of the characters. Locations within the story include:
- The house Fermina shares with her husband, Dr. Juvenal Urbino.
- The "transient hotel" where Florentino Ariza stays for a brief time.
- Ariza’s office at the river company.
- The Arcade of the Scribes.
- The Magdalena River.
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Narrative as seduction
Some critics choose to consider Love in the Time of Cholera as a sentimental story about the enduring power of true love. Others criticize this opinion as being too simple. García Márquez himself said in an interview, "you have to be careful not to fall into my trap."
This is manifested by Ariza’s excessively romantic attitude toward life, and his gullibility in trying to retrieve the sunken treasure of a shipwreck. It is also made evident by the fact that society in the story believes that Fermina and Juvenal Urbino are perfectly happy in their marriage, while the reality of the situation is not so ideal. Critic Keith Booker compares Ariza’s position to that of Humbert Humbert in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, saying that just as Humbert is able to charm the reader into sympathizing with his situation, even though he is a "pervert, a rapist, and a murderer," Ariza is able to garner the reader’s sympathy, even though the reader is reminded repeatedly of his more sinister exploits.
Narrative as deconstruction
The novel examines romantic love in myriad forms, both "ideal" and "depraved", and continually forces the reader to question such ready-made characterizations by introducing elements antithetical to these facile judgments.
Love as an emotional and physical disease
García Márquez's main notion is that lovesickness is literally an illness, a disease comparable to cholera. Florentino suffers from this just as he might suffer from any malady. At one point, he conflates his physical pain with his amorous pain when he vomits after eating flowers in order to imbibe Fermina's scent. In the final chapter, the Captain's declaration of metaphorical plague is another manifestation of this.
The term cholera as it is used in Spanish, cólera, can also denote passion or human rage and ire in its feminine form. (The English adjective choleric has the same meaning.) Considering this meaning, the title is a pun: cholera as the disease, and cholera as passion, which raises the central question of the book: is love helped or hindered by extreme passion? The two men can be contrasted as the extremes of passion: one having too much, one too little; the central question of which is more conducive to love and happiness becomes the specific, personal choice that Fermina faces through her life. Florentino's passionate pursuit of nearly countless women stands in contrast to Urbino's clinical discussion of male anatomy on their wedding night. Urbino's eradication of cholera in the town takes on the additional symbolic meaning of ridding Fermina's life of rage, but also passion. It is this second meaning to the title that manifests itself in Florentino's hatred for Urbino's marriage to Fermina, as well as in the social strife and warfare that serves as a backdrop to the entire story.
Aging and death
Jeremiah Saint-Amour's death inspires Urbino to meditate on his own death, and especially on the infirmities that precede it. It is necessary for Fermina and Florentino to transcend not only the difficulties of love, but also the societal opinion that love is a young person's prerogative (not to mention the physical difficulties of love when one is older).
Stone Village Pictures bought the movie rights from the author for US$3 million, and Mike Newell was chosen to direct it, with Ronald Harwood writing the script. Filming started in Cartagena, Colombia, during September 2006.
The $50 million film, the first major foreign production filmed in the scenic walled city in twenty years, was released on November 16, 2007, by New Line Cinema. On his own initiative, García Márquez persuaded singer Shakira, who is from the nearby city of Barranquilla, to provide two songs for the film.
References in popular culture
In the movie Serendipity, Sara asks Jonathan to write his name and phone number on a $5 bill, while she writes her name and number on the inside cover of a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera. If they are meant to be together, he will find the book and she will find the $5 bill, and they will find their way back to each other.
In the film High Fidelity the character Rob Gordon mentions the novel: "Hey, I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but I'm certainly not the dumbest. I mean, I've read books like The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Love in the Time of Cholera, and I think I've understood them. They're about girls, right? Just kidding. But I have to say my all-time favorite book is Johnny Cash's autobiography Cash by Johnny Cash."
Also, in the film Playing It Cool, Topher Grace plays the character Scott. Scott is a writer and is deeply moved by the book so much that he often leaves copies of the book in public places for others to find and read. He leaves a note in the book for the assumed reader explaining how this book changed his life. Chris Evans the main character/narrator finally picks up the book to read. After reading the book, the narrator applies it to his own life. He says that there are people in our lives that are so important, they dwarf everything else.
- 1985, Colombia, Spanish edition, Oveja Negra, 1985, hardback ISBN 958-06-0000-7 and paperback ISBN 958-06-0001-5 (first edition)
- 1985, Argentina, Spanish edition, Editorial Sudamericana, 1985, hardback ISBN 950-07-0321-1(E) (first Argentine edition)
- 1985, Mexico DF, Spanish edition, Editorial Diana, 1985, paperback ISBN 968-13-1547-2 (first Mexican edition: 100,000 copies)
- 1988, US, Alfred A. Knopf ISBN 0-394-57108-8, Pub date 1 January 1988, hardback (first English-language edition)
- 1989, US, Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-011990-6, Pub date 7 September 1989, paperback
- 2003, US, Vintage International ISBN 1-4000-3468-X, paperback
- Morana, Mabel (winter, 1990). "Modernity and Marginality in Love in the Time of Cholera". Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 14:27–43
- Simpson, Mona (September 1, 1988) "Love Letters". London Review of Books 10:22–24
- Taylor, Anna-Marie (1995). Reference Guide to World Literature, 2nd ed. St. James Press.
- Booker, M. Keith (summer, 1993) "The Dangers of Gullible Reading: Narrative as Seduction in García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera". Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 17:181-95
- A.R. Lakshmanan, Indira. "Love in the Time of Cholera: On location, out on a limb". December 11, 2006. Accessed May 26, 2007.