Saturday, 19 April 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera

published 1985

translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman







[Florentino and Fermina were in love as teenagers, but she married someone else, Juvenal Urbino. Here they are meeting years later]


Florentino Ariza waited for them with the provincial officials, surrounded by the crash of music and the fireworks… Juvenal Urbino greeted the members of the reception line with that naturalness so typical of him, which made everyone thing the Doctor bore him a special fondness: first the ship’s captain in his dress uniform, then the Archbishop, then the Governor with his wife and the Mayor with his, and then the military commander, who was a newcomer from the Andes. Beyond the officials stood Florentino Ariza, dressed in dark clothing and almost invisible among so many eminent people. After greeting the military commander, Fermina [Urbino’s wife] seemed to hesitate before Florentino Ariza’s outstretched hand. The military man, prepared to introduce them, asked her if they did not know each other. She did not say yes and she did not say no, but she held out her hand to Florentino Ariza with a salon smile.




observations: The Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez died this week.


More than 30 years ago, someone lent me the Marquez book One Hundred Years of Solitude. On the front cover a review quote said ‘this book will change your life’. My friend said ‘it won’t change your life, but you must read it and you will love it.’ She was right – so much so that I bought my own copy of it, unusual in those broke days, when a borrowed book was a big saving. It was my first exposure both to magic realism and to South American literature (as I’m sure was true for many people), and it was SO different, so full of colour and life compared with Northern literature of the time (John Updike, John Fowles, Graham Greene), that I was enchanted and went on to read much more from him and from other authors such as Isabel Allende and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Marquez had the best titles – No-one Writes to the Colonel – and not one but two of the best first lines ever: this is from 100 Years:

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
And the book above:
It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.
His style is distinctive: long hypnotic passages describing people’s lives and thoughts, funny and mesmerizing. ‘Tortuous’ sounds like an insult, but it’s not – you settle into his books for a long winding tale. It’s a good way into 100 Years before you get the significance of the firing squad mentioned above.

Love in the Time of Cholera has the edge for me, a lovely book. My favourite bit comes when he describes the home life of Fermina and Juvenal:

He would push aside his plate and say: “This meal has been prepared without love.” In that sphere he would achieve moments of fantastic inspiration. Once he tasted some chamomile tea and sent it back, saying only: “This stuff tastes of window.”

And he’s right – all chamomile tea tastes of windows.

The picture shows aviator Charles Lindbergh visiting Colombia in 1928 (hence the US flag), and meeting dignitaries – it’s from our much-loved resource, the San Diego Aviation Archives.

16 comments:

  1. Moira - I'm so glad you featured Márquez' work. So many of his books tell people's stories at the human level at the same time as they also address larger themes, and that takes skill. And you're right about his writing style. It seems complex, but if you let go and just let it take you along, it does. If you haven't read Autumn of the Patriarch, I recommend it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Margot, that's a very good description of why he is so good. I don't think I have read that one, so I will.

      Delete
  2. News of his death passed me by, I hadn't heard. 100 Years is on the pile - similar to Roth, Franzen etc in that I felt I ought to read it. It always seems to figure highly on those 100 best book lists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just 100 years? Not eight of his other books unread? How restrained. He is very good, Col, I think you will enjoy it when you get round to it.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for this post, Moira. Magic realism isn't really my thing but I did enjoy this book many years ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sarah - I think Marquez was the real deal, some of the other proponents of magical realism not so much.

      Delete
  4. Moira, I have this book as well as "One Hundred Years of Solitude" though I have read neither. Perversely, I have been reading books by a particular writer only after I learn of his or her death, and I'll be doing the same with Marquez.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you'll enjoy them Prashant - he really was a great writer with a fresh take on the world.

      Delete
  5. I may try both of the titles you have mentioned, or I may start with Chronicle of a Death Foretold, which I have seen two posts on recently, since Marquez's death. I had just read about him in a Cult Fiction book recently, before he died, and thought I should try something of his.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you enjoy whichever you choose Tracy. The thing that comes over is that he was a really nice man, and the books are fully of humanity.

      Delete
  6. I haven't read his books, although friends of mine sing Marquez's praises, not only as a writer, but for what he did with his life, his view of humanity.

    Sometime I hope to read one of his major works.

    I did see the film, Love in the Time of Cholera. It was quite a story of love and obsession, but what I liked the most was the beautiful photography of the countryside, jungle, river, and these aspects, which fit right in with this blog's theme: the beautiful clothing and jewelry of the women characters.

    I loved the very simple, yet artistic silver jewelry, earrings, necklaces, and
    wondered where I could go in The Big Apple to find something like what was portrayed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh that's so interesting, I don't think I knew there was a film of this, and now it sounds like something I really should be looking out for. Thanks for the tipoff Kathy.

      Delete
  7. Definitely see that film with Javier Bardem and Benjamin Bratt and a lovely Italian actress whose name slips my mind.

    I hope you blog about it, including the photography, clothing and jewelry.

    ReplyDelete
  8. the haunting sounds of the cicadas, the orange-ness of the oranges, the whiteness of the walls, the caribbean heat remains with the reader long after. ambiguity and uncertainty once attributed to the 'history of the novel' by kundera is explored through the kaleidoscope of love. such epidemics will always be welcome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a lovely and evocative description of the book, thank you.

      Delete