Thoughts on “A Love In The Time of Cholera” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

“A Love in the Time of Cholera” is a novel written by Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It revolves around Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza, who in their youth, fell in love but did not end up together. Fermina marries Juvenal Urbino, a doctor, whom she thinks can offer her stability and love. On the other hand, Florentino vows to wait for the right time to reiterate his undying love to his beloved.

Fifty-one years, nine months, and four days.

This caught my attention when I was browsing the book’s cover. This is how long Florentino waited to express his feelings for Fermina and pursue her again.  In the course of this half-a-century time frame, Fermina lived her married life with all its ups and downs even though for most people, the marriage appeared to be perfect. Florentino, on the other hand, rises up in his business career but has involved himself in 622 affairs. Among these many trysts, there had been possible genuine loves as well. After the death of Fermina’s husband, Florentino seizes the chance and relentlessly laid siege to her heart.

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Fifty-one years, nine months, and four days.

That’s an awfully long time to wait for someone you love, isn’t it? Honestly, I have mixed feelings and thoughts about this novel. Let me start with the not-so-good.

First, I was bordering on admiration and exasperation with Florentino’s obsession with Fermina. Imagine, pining for her for more than fifty years while she goes on with her life. Furthermore, at some point in the book, I felt and questioned whether Florentino was really in love or that he was just adamant or obsessed with her because he cannot have her.  His love is more of a disease which consumed him. At this juncture, Marquez was successful in depicting love as a sickness or disease, which affected Florentino physically and emotionally. Second, there were times that I got angry with Florentino because of how he treated women. Typical male! Of course, it takes two to tango and most of his partners were consenting adults. But I cannot shake off my irritation most especially when he discards women just like one sheds off one’s clothes. Case in point, the maid whom he assaults, impregnates and then asks some man to marry the girl to hide what happened. And let’s not forget America Vicuna who was entrusted by her parents to him as his ward but whom he seduces and eventually engages a relationship with. America sunk into depression, which also lead to her suicide when she finally learned that the affair was over.

Of course, Florentino is not the only womanizer in the novel. There’s his father and Juvenal too. But I will stop at this

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point because I think I have made my feelings clear enough as regards to womanizers.

On the other hand, what I really liked about this book is how it also revolved on Fermina Daza. At first, when she rejected Florentino, I was mad at her. But when she realized the reason why she rejected him, I saw the wisdom behind it. I also came to like her – a woman who made choices in her life and despite all that has happened to her, she faced it all bravely and gracefully.

Although I have some complaints about the book, Gabriel Garcia Marquez again scored a good one in this novel. I can understand why a lot of people were blown away by this tale. There is something romantic about a man who waited for fifty-one years, nine months, and four days to be able to reiterate his feelings to his true love. Moreover, the idea of having a second chance at love is so appealing. However, it is not only a love story, it also dwells on themes such as growing old and death.  It makes one reflect on humanity and mortality.

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Thoughts on “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

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“One Hundred Years of Solitude” is a saga about the seven generations of the Buendia family and the rise and fall of the town of Macondo, which the family patriarch, Jose Arcadio Buendia founded.

I never thought that I could finish this novel in such short a time. I feared that it would take me at least two weeks or even longer to finish it because I made several attempts on reading the first few lines but I never got past the entire first page.

Now I understand how for some people, it took them longer to read this novel. I could think of a few reasons. First, there are a good number of parts where the narrative and descriptions of events, things, places or personalities would be lengthy. Mind you, it’s not at all boring. But the reader has to get used to Marquez’ style of storytelling. It transports the reader into the world that the author has created. For instance, I really felt the tranquility and idleness of the town at some point that I felt that my reading adapted a slowness in its pace. However, there were also times that I would read on and on and couldn’t put the book down when there is a build-up of events. Personally, I think that the way Marquez engages the reader is just brilliant.

Second, the reader just has to get used to the author’s use of “magical realism, a style of writing where the supernatural is presented as part of ordinary/everyday life, and the ordinary as supernatural. This is also one of the major themes of the novel. The supernatural or extraordinary events are well incorporated in everyday life that it ceases to be supernatural. For instance, the visitation of ghosts and the levitation and ascension of Remedios the Beauty are treated as normal occurrences. The author maintained a tone which is the same from the beginning till the end, which blended the mundane and extraordinary. The reader would then pause and be taken aback and question the realities of such phenomena.

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Third, the time element can be confusing because there is a matter of swinging back and forth from the past to the future and vice versa through the use of flashbacks and leaping to future events. Again, the reader has to get used to this scheme; as if time is boundless, which I guess in another theme of this novel. However, what struck me is the circular and repetitive history of the Buendia family, which is further manifested in the replication of names and characteristics. For instance, almost all Jose Arcadios possess physical strength and inquisitive dispositions while almost all the Aurelianos possess lean physiques and quiet dispositions. I had to refer to the family tree many times so that I won’t be lost in the family’s history. I also remembered muttering to myself, “Can’t they think of other names to give to the children? It’s getting downright confusing!”

Another recurring theme in the novel is the tendency of the Buendia family to commit incest. The first to commit is the family patriarch, Jose Arcadio Buendia, when he married his first cousin, Ursula. All throughout the generations, the tendency and possibility was always there. Well, until it comes to fruition in the person of Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano Babilonia. I’m not so sure how readers then react to incest.

Lastly, solitude is another theme of the novel. The solitude of the town of Macondo located at the remote jungles of the forest; the solitude of the Buendia family apart from the townspeople; and yes, even the individual family members are prone to have their own solitary dispositions too. I’m not sure though for what purpose – escape? or just plain egoism?

I’ve written some factors why some readers find the novel difficult or why it took them longer to finish. But I would also like to emphasize that these are also the reasons why there are readers who find this novel interesting. I admit that reading the book was challenging and intimidating. But once I got used to the writer’s style, I was drawn into the world of the Buendia’s and the life at Macondo.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is definitely one of the literary geniuses. He is a powerful storyteller! Despite the seriousness of his tone, he made me laugh several times while reading the book. I am looking forward to read his other works.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Month

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May is going to be Gabriel Garcia Marquez month. I have lined-up 2 books written by the above-mentioned author as my “books-to-read” for May.

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I had the books since 2008. I bought them while on a shopping frenzy during an annual sale in a

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known bookstore outlet. As I am guilty of buying tons of books and leaving them on the shelf, it took me about 2 years to finally pick them up. I plan to read them; I just hope that I would be able to finish by the end of the month.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a rather thick book. I’m actually intimidated by it. But I will take this as a challenge. A Love in the Time of Cholera has been used in the movie “Serendipity.” I have heard good reviews and I want to finally see for my self why both have been bestsellers.