Love in the Time of Cholera

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Love in the Time of Cholera  

1st US edition cover
Author Gabriel García Márquez
Original title El amor en los tiempos del cólera
Translator Edith Grossman
Country Colombia
Language Spanish
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date 1985 (English trans. 1988)
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 Nobel Prize winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez that was first published in Spanish in 1985, with an English translation released in 1988 by Alfred A. Knopf.

The film adaptation was released in 2007, directed by Mike Newell and starring Giovanna Mezzogiorno as Fermina, Javier Bardem as Florentino, and Benjamin Bratt as Juvenal.


[edit] Plot Summary

The main female character in the novel, Fermina Daza, is the strong axis around which the story revolves. Fermina easily rejects Florentino Ariza in their youth when she realizes the naïveté of their first romance, and she weds Juvenal Urbino at the age of 21, the "deadline" she had set for herself, ultimately because he seemed to be able to offer security and love to her. Urbino is a doctor in medicine 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 values his importance and reputation in society to the utmost. Urbino is a herald of progress and modernization.[1]

His function in the novel is to provide the counterpoint to Ariza’s archaic, romantic style. He proved to be a faithful husband, save for one small affair late in their marriage, though the novel suggests that his love for her was never as spiritually chaste as Ariza's was. By the end of the book, Fermina has recognized a change in Ariza and their love is allowed to blossom once more in their old age. For most of the novel, their communication is limited to correspondence by letter; not until the end of the book do Fermina and Florentino converse at length.

[edit] Other characters

  • Lorenzo Daza – Fermina Daza’s father, a greedy mule driver; he despised Florentino and forced them to break up
  • 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 for this.
  • Tránsito Ariza – Florentino’s mother
  • Hildebranda Sánchez – Fermina’s cousin
  • Miss Lynch – The woman with whom Urbino has an affair
  • The Captain – The captain of the riverboat on which Fermina and Florentino ride at the end of the novel
  • 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.
  • América Vicuña - 14-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 upon failing her exams because of her love to Florentino, she kills herself.

[edit] Setting

The story takes place in an unnamed port city somewhere in the Caribbean, near the Magdalena River. While the city remains unnamed throughout the novel, descriptions of it led one to the conclusion that it must be Cartagena, and Bolívar, Colombia, where García Márquez spent his early years. The city is divided into such sections as "The District of the Viceroys" and "The Arcade of the Scribes." The novel encompasses the half-century roughly between 1880 and 1930.[2] The city’s "steamy and sleepy streets, rat-infested sewers, old slave quarter, decaying colonial architecture, and multifarious inhabitants" dot the text and mingle amid the lives of the characters.[3] Locations within the story include:

  • The house Daza shares with her husband, Urbino
  • The "transient hotel" where Ariza stays for a short time
  • Ariza’s office at the river company
  • The Arcade of the Scribes
  • The Magdalena River

[edit] Major themes

[edit] Narrative as seduction

Some critics choose to view Love in the Time of Cholera as a heart-warming story about the enduring power of true love. Others criticize this view as simple, contending that the author has woven a story so dense that the reader risks falling into its trap of sweetness and simplicity if they do not pay close attention to what is happening. García Márquez himself said in an interview, "you have to be careful not to fall into my trap."[4]

This is manifested by Ariza’s excessively romantic attitude toward life, an attitude which shapes his obsession with Daza, 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 Daza and Urbino’s marriage is perfect and happy, while the reality of the situation is not so ideal. Critic Booker relates Ariza’s situation 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 consistently reminded of his more sinister exploits.[4]

[edit] Love as an emotional and physical disease

García Márquez's main notion is that lovesickness is a literal illness, a disease comparable to cholera. Ariza suffers from this just as he might suffer from any malady. At one point, he conflates his physical agony with his amorous agony 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 human rage and ire. (The English adjective choleric has the same meaning.) It is this second meaning to the title that manifests itself both on the level of Ariza's hatred for Urbino's marriage to Fermina, as well as the theme of social strife and warfare that serves as a backdrop to the entire story.

[edit] Aging and death

Jeremiah Saint-Amour's death inspires Urbino to meditate on his own death, especially the infirmities that accompany it. It is necessary for Fermina and Florentino to transcend not only the difficulties of love, but also the societal view that love is a young person's prerogative.

[edit] Suffering for love

Florentino's penchant for high drama as a poet and a lover is portrayed as both ridiculous and serious. He may go to outlandish lengths for love, but in the end the absurdity is ennobling and his suffering has a kind of dignity. He also endures physical pains.

[edit] Allusions/references from other works

In the film Serendipity, this novel is the one of which Jonathan (John Cusack) must find a copy in order to retrieve Sara's (Kate Beckinsale) phone number.

In both the novel High Fidelity and the film based on the novel, Rob Gordon (also played by John Cusack in the film) makes reference to this book along with The Unbearable Lightness of Being, saying that he's not the smartest guy in the world, but that he's not the dumbest either, having read these books and thinking he's understood them: "They're about girls, right?" he quips.

Steve Martin, in his humorous essay "Writing is Easy," talks about why Love in the Time of Cholera does not make a very good title. It's all tongue-in-cheek, of course. The essay can be found in his book Pure Drivel.

In the 21st episode of the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, lead character Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) describes his ideal wife's favorite book as being Love in the Time of Cholera.

In The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Rival," Marge is reading a book entitled "Love In The Time Of Scurvy." Also, in the episode titled "Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade," Lisa is on the bus reading "Love in the Time of Coloring Books."

Mexican film director Alfonso Cuarón's directorial debut, Sólo con tu pareja, was released in the English-speaking world as Love in the Time of Hysteria.

Icelandic singer Emiliana Torrini released an album in 1999 titled Love in the Time of Science.

In Annie Wang's book "People's Republic of Desire" Lulu writes a book during the SARS scare called "Love in the Time of SARS", later renamed "Love in the Time of Socks".

[edit] Film adaptation

Stone Village Pictures bought the film 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, in September 2006.[5]

The $50 million film, the first major foreign production shot in the scenic, walled city in twenty years,[5] was released on November 16, 2007, by New Line Cinema. On his own initiative, García Márquez convinced singer Shakira, who hails from the nearby city of Barranquilla, to provide three songs for the film.

[edit] Publication details

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ Morana, Mabel (winter, 1990) “Modernity and Marginality in Love in the Time of Cholera". Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 14:27-43
  2. ^ Simpson, Mona (September 1, 1988) "fuck letters". London Review of Books 10:22-24
  3. ^ Taylor, Anna-Marie (1995). Reference Guide to World Literature, 2nd ed.. St. James Press. 
  4. ^ a b Booker, M. Keith (summer, 1993) “The Dangers of Gullible Reading: Narrative as Seduction in Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera". Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 17:181-95
  5. ^ a b A.R. Lakshmanan, Indira. "Love in the Time of Cholera: On location, out on a limb". December 11, 2006. Accessed May 26, 2007.

[edit] External links

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