Jul 19, 09
Read in July, 2009, read count: 1
** spoiler alert **
"The girl raised her eyes to see who was passing by the window, and that casual glance was the beginning of a cataclysm of love that still had not ended half a century later."
To read such an excerpt, you might be led to believe that Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera" is a passionate love story that spans a lifetime, detailing an exciting and beautiful affair. It is, in a way. By another definition, however, a romance is called "an embellished account...an idealised lie." And by those standards, LITTOC, feels much more like looking in the mirror and not liking what you see (the stretch marks, the cellulite)...much more like real life.
If you had in mind a South American "The Notebook" when you selected this book...you've come to the wrong place. The love of Garcia Marquez's telling here DOES involve an affectionate relationship between an elderly couple. But this author chooses to peel back the layers of his characters and include "warts and all" details, such as one partner administering an enema for the other, or brushing his false teeth. He even addresses the characteristic "scent" of the aged....what he calls the "smell of human fermintation."
The story, which starts when our heroine is a teenager, spans a lifetime. But for the majority of the book, she is married to another man, a man she possibly never even loves. And the one who pines for her is not standing by waiting patiently for the chance to step in. When he is not being consumed by cholera-like episodes of insomnia or diarrhea, he is having loveless sex with hundreds of women, some of them married, many of them years older than he is, one of them fourteen years old.
So this is a non-illusory romance, told from the viewpoint of a poet, who is possibly an unreliable narrator. It unfolds during a plague, when life and living are fragile, and unsightly. Major themes include love as disease, aging, suffering, reality vs. illusion, and solitude...the sorrow that comes from being full of love and from being without love...the aloneness of a misunderstood life, the solitude of death and the ones it leaves behind.
Garcia Marquez's strength is by far his style of writing and his unexpected approach. He has his own way of construcitng sentences and of story-telling that are poetic and uniquely brilliant, to the point of winning him a Nobel Prize for Literature. His use of "magical realism" lends meaning and magic to his birds, his flowers, his music and allows him to liven up his atmosphere with apparitions and haunted dolls.
The story here is not glossy or delicate. It is real and at times, reveals all of the faces of love...the patient and the sweet, but also the ugly, and the deadly. Don't come if you're not prepared to look at life under a microsocpe.