Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Love in the Time of Cholera

Only 10 pages left of Love in the Time of Cholera

I’m geeking out so much over this book right now that I almost missed my stop this morning on the way to my internship. Unless something incredibly terrible happens in these next 10 pages—which I doubt—I think this one has now replaced Memories of my Melancholy Whores as my favorite of Gabriel García Márquez’s books so far. It is also finding a place in my favorite books of all time list, although I’m quite bitter to include a work written by a MAN among my favorites. (Kidddding.)

As soon as I finish, the movie version is getting bumped to the No.1 spot on my Netflix queue (disregarding the fact that “Volver” has been sitting on my TV for two weeks since I have no time to watch movies). It’s bound to be a disappointment, because the book is THAT GOOD, but still, I’m curious.

You have to read this. If you know Spanish—which I don’t, other than my sweet conversations with the cooks at work, which basically consist of “que pasa?”—I suggest you read it in Spanish instead of English, because I bet Márquez’s prose is even more beautiful in the original version.

This is the most fascinating love story I’ve ever read (and not one that will inspire me to say “yum” at any point, although the movie stars Javier Bardem AND Benjamin Bratt, so I’ll try to contain myself). The story centers on Fermina Daza, who rejects the lovesick Florentino Ariza when they’re young and marries Dr. Juvenal Urbina instead. Florentino never marries, but throughout the story, well, the back of the book says he “whiles away the years in 622 affairs,” but let’s just say: he has a lot of sex. Yet he remains madly in love with Fermina the entire time, and on the night of her husband’s death, 51 years after she rejected him, he declares his love for her again. (I’m not ruining anything by telling you this, I promise.)

It’s a little crazy, sure, but Márquez makes it work. The story goes back and forth in time, chronicling Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza’s lives, and the way it’s organized is genius. On top of that, his writing is so incredibly beautiful. Please, please, do yourself a favor and read this book!

Here are two of my favorite passages to tempt you with:

“…Florentino Ariza learned what he had already experienced many times without realizing it: that one can be in love with several people at the same time, feel the same sorrow with each, and not betray any of them. Alone in the midst of the crowd on the pier, he said to himself in a flash of anger: ‘My heart has more rooms than a whorehouse.’ He wept copious tears at the grief of parting. But as soon as the ship had disappeared over the horizon, the memory of Fermina Daza once again occupied all his space.”
This next one details Fermina Daza’s early stages of grief for her husband:

“She could not avoid a profound feeling of rancor toward her husband for having left her alone in the middle of the ocean. Everything of his made her cry: his pajamas under the pillow, his slippers that had always looked to her like an invalid’s, the memory of his image in the back of the mirror as he undressed while she combed her hair before bed, the odor of his skin, which was to linger on hers for a long time after his death. She would stop in the middle of whatever she was doing and slap herself on the forehead because she suddenly remembered something she had forgotten to tell him. At every moment countless ordinary questions would come to mind that he alone could answer for her.”
The actress in the movie version is going to have to be pretty damn spectacular to try to convey all that. That might be one of the most heartbreakingly accurate descriptions of grief I’ve ever read.

Read. This. Book.

*I’m writing a book review for Feminist Review this month on the novel Picking Bones from Ash, which I’ll be reading next. I’ll try to be a little more objective with that one.


  1. Sold! Although my reading list keeps growing out of control, you have convinced me to move the Spanish version of Love in the Time of Cholera straight to the top. I'm completely obssessed with the movie soundtrack, particularly Shakira's "Pienso en ti". I will openly admit that I really like, almost groupie-style, the incredibly short-statured Columbiana. However, I appreciate her more for her songs in Spanish, rather than her belly dancing skills and truthful hips.

    I'm currently enjoying Fathless: Tales of Transgression by Joyce Carol Oates. Good stuff. Next up - El amor en los tiempos del cólera. Thans for the recommendation!

  2. You're going to love it. I finished it yesterday.

    I love Shakira, too, but you should probably be a little more appreciative of her honest hips.