During my vacation and the self-quarantine time with the coronavirus, I’ve been reading a lot. One of the people I’ve been reading books by is the Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He is a brilliant author. Really, he is. I started off with the novel Love in the Time of Cholera and then went onto his most famous novel, 100 Years of Solitude. I’ll talk about his brilliance and his 100 Years of Solitude in my next blog post, but considering my last blog post was titled “Life in the Time of Corona” I feel it necessary to talk about his novel, Love in the Time of Cholera here, in this one.
Synopsis (Spoiler Alert)
Love in the Time of Cholera is about a love triangle like all romance novels typically are. A young man named Florentino falls in love with a woman by the name of Fermina Daza and eventually convinces her to give him her hand in marriage. Fate—Fermina’s father—has other plans and wants her to marry up in society, not downward and in an act of defiance takes her away, hoping to stop this infatuation. It doesn’t help. When Fermina returns, however, and Florentino approaches her again, she rejects him and thus sets about Florentino’s carnal and lascivious lifestyle. She, on the other hand, marries a doctor who is the first character we are introduced to, Dr. Juvenal Urbino.
Interestingly enough, we find out that the concept of love in this story is compared to cholera; it is something undesirable for it results in physical pain and psychological pain. Florentino endures this as he waits 51 years, 9 months and 4 days for Fermina and throughout that time collects a number of lovers and suffers a string of heartaches along the way.
Relationships, I noticed, are portrayed rather ominously and the idea of a successful relationship doesn’t ever take root in this novel. The relationship that does exist between Fermina and Dr. Juvenal Urbino is forced and contrived and both admit that they don’t really love each other; rather, they marry out of circumstance and hope to grow love afterward. Also, during the course of that relationship, Urbino has an affair with another woman, which again brings to the forefront this idea of “love” and how ominous it is portrayed.
Finally, when the lovebirds that chose separate paths do finally get back together at the end of the novel, the symbol between love being a plague, like cholera, is portrayed even more for they convince the captain of the boat they are on to announce that there is a case of cholera on board the ship so that they can bypass any docking requirements and go on “forever.”
You can see a full review of this novel from me on Goodreads.
Takeaways and Insights
Why am I bothering to tell you this? Well, remember in one of my blog posts I talked about the value of literature? (If not you can find it here). The value of literature isn’t just a great discussion that we can have, or to obtain some historical piece of information like in the case of 1984. It can do so much more than that.
Although this insight should appear to be nothing new, literature, I’ve realized, helps define abstract ideas. Marquez’s book helps pin down the identity of love (supposedly). Or the ideas of freedom and liberty and any other abstract concepts. For me, I use literature to give insights into a breath of my imagination. It acts as a vehicle to funnel my creative energies.
With that being said, I always wondered why someone would equate love with cholera. How could both be tantamount to one another? I didn’t realize this until recently, when I got this feeling. This feeling didn’t allow me to sleep. It gave me inspiration and forced me to write the following description which will most likely find its way into one of my future novels at some point.
This feeling. It gnawed at him from his insides. It made him twist and turn at night, allowing him to only procure five hours of sleep when he could normally get eight. The feeling was responsive, too, never letting him have the upper hand, for sometimes he tried sleeping pills, and on those nights when he could easily secure ten or more hours, he only managed six.
This restive feeling stayed with him always. It ate his consciousness like the lining of his intestines. It allowed him no quarter, no relief; it hanged on him like a sycophant. Slowly, it drove him to the madness of interdependency, where he no longer knew this world in terms of solidarity; rather, he knew this world from the ethereal mask that he viewed the world behind when he wasn’t alone. When they were together.
For this feeling wasn’t all bad.
Like any virus that made you feel at your lowest, it, too, could make you feel at your highest when you became immune to parts of its genetic culture. It made your face contort at random intervals, stretching out the lines of your mouth to the fullest extent, or in some cases, producing a rictus of unfathomable pleasure when the two spirits were locked in the links of passion and understanding and acceptance. It made you feel limitless, the only limit being imposed on you was by you and your imagination.
In its arms, within smell of its idyllic daisy flowers, and even though he felt as vulnerable and naked as if it was his day of birth, he felt oddly secure as well. He felt swollen inside, as if a hill would feel when it became a mountain. He felt as alive as space would feel if given an interminable amount of oxygen. He felt as strong as gravity, allowing him to push the world of his qualms down to a terminable degree and keep afloat on this ethereal plane.
He felt a feeling that he had only felt one other time in his life to this degree.
He felt love.
As described above, love can be absolutely breathtaking. It can be amazing, which is way too short and bland of a word to describe it which is why I had to describe it in the way above. But, also, I know why Marquez now equated love to cholera as well because love can be hard as well. It can make us blind if we aren’t careful, or it can give us the power to see our goals so clearly. It can make us lethargic and unavailable or it can give us the vigor we need to take on the day.
The dichotomy is nearly unexplainable.
Can you relate to this feeling? Have you ever read a novel that has really spoken to your soul? That helped you explain some sort of feeling inside of you, some sort of idea? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts down below!