The Colombian Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garca Marquez tells the story of a plague of insomnia that afflicted the Buendia family in the town of Macondo in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). As time passed, all family members lost their memories and lost track of their identities, but they were able to recollect their stories as told by a Gypsy who came to town once. Garcia Marquez shows how storytelling in our collective memories serves the foundations of our human nature in this novel. The vast literature about plagues, pestilences, and pandemics shows that we are inextricably linked to one another, to life in general, and to the natural world’s wild powers. “All that was needed was shrewd questioning… to conclude once again that the symptoms of love were the same as those of cholera.”
The reader will feel both at home and far away in Garcia Marquez’s world. It is influenced by the Cuban Revolution on the one hand, but it is also focused on the turn of the century. On the one hand, Garcia Marquez’s tale adheres to the stylistic standards of “high art,” but it is influenced by a variety of elements from popular culture. It restores literature’s time-honored mission of entertaining through the simple act of narrating, implying that the texture in which the real and the imaginary, the autobiographical and the collective, are intermingled and has no justification other than the revival of the forgotten art of story-telling. No other book exemplifies this more vividly than Love in the Time of Cholera, because it is immediately apparent in this novel how the author reworks romantic clichés in an extraordinarily unique approach. In reality, the novel might be viewed as a kind of frieze depicting all stages of love, from adolescence to old age, Platonic and erotic, lawful and illicit, transitory and everlasting, childish yet profound.
Gabriel Garca Márquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera was set during the sixth cholera pandemic, which lasted from 1899 to 1923 and was published in 1985 as El amor en los tiempos del cólera. The novel, which deals with themes of love, ageing, and death, takes place in a South American community ravaged by wars and cholera outbreaks between the late 1870s and the early 1930s. The tale is set in the Colombian walled city of Cartagena, and it revolves around Florentino Ariza, who falls in love at first sight with Fermina Daza, who marries her father’s preference, Dr. Juvenal Urbino. When the doctor passes away, Florentino resumes his courtship of Fermina. Ironically, their spirit of unwavering devotion contrasts with the surrounding corporeal decay.
Florentino Ariza, a young telegraph operator in a Caribbean port city in the late 1800s, falls madly in love with Fermina Daza, a beautiful student. They keep their romance hidden through letters and telegrams because she is so sheltered. When Fermina Daza’s father learns of her suitor, he takes her on a trip to help her forget about it. Lorenza Daza has far higher aspirations for his daughter than Florentino does. Her anguish at being separated from her lover is palpable, but when she returns, she ends the relationship, claiming all that has happened between them to be a figment of her imagination. Instead, she marries Dr. Juvenal, an elegant, educated, and wealthy man. She would deem herself the happiest woman on the planet for being his wife. Florentino Ariza, despite being devastated by her rejection, is unmoved. He has proclaimed his everlasting love for Fermina and is eager to obtain the fame and wealth he deserves in order to regain her. Florentino Ariza addresses Fermina again at her husband’s funeral, 51 years, 9 months, and 4 days after her husband’s death. There have been hundreds of other partnerships, but none of them have had the same effect on him as Fermina. One of his lovers says, “He is ugly and sad, but he is all love.” Garca Márquez beautifully and unflinchingly examines the essence of love in all its forms, small and big, passionate and serene, in this magnificent romance novel. Love can strike these characters like a plague, but it can also survive harsh decades of war and cholera, as well as the effects of time itself.