Benji's Reviews > L'amore ai tempi del colera

L'amore ai tempi del colera by Gabriel García Márquez
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's review
Feb 11, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2011, carpe-diem, movie-relation, nonsequential-rereading, read-in-morocco, the-less-you-know-the-better, italian
Read in February, 2011

This is a rare book that forces us to choose the amount of meaning that it has. It's a good book if you make up your mind for it to be. Or, it can be empty and pointless and a longsuffering experience to get through. Dejame explicar:

I dont know if it was made this way on purpose, but this presents an amazing existential question that is extremely important for whether or not you enjoy this book. IF you agree like Florentino, that he's spending his life waiting, then all you get when you read the first 3/4 of this book is an empty, hollow experience that is meaningless. If you stop the waiting, however, and start living, just like Florentino needs to do, then each page is full of rich, meaningful experiences. So, if you choose the first way, then this book is super frustrating, painful, and I just want Florentino to fall into a hole and end his pain forever. This is the way I considered the book through the first 200 pages. I know he doesn't get the girl, at least for most of his life, so what does GGM want us to feel? Pity? Are we supposed to be laughing at this incredibly tiring and ironic life? Are we meant to see his folly and to be glad we're not (hopefully) doing the same thing? Is his example supposed to be instructive of a wasted life?

Considering the fact that in the first chapter we see his rejection early, and then his second rejection 50 years later, what's the point of reading the remaining 300 pages?

But, when you learn to start living despite the absence, despite the pain, to enjoy the days of your life for what they are, no matter being rejected--choosing the second way to interpret his life--and so for us to likewise interpret the book differently, giving each ''minor'' character a more full appreciation and interest, seeing their own value as what they are, rather than what they're not, not Fermina-- something which he himself starts doing himself, though not whole heartedly--then each new person he encounters is gratifying and fulfilling in their own way. A lifeless, bleak book becomes one bursting with as much drama and interest as Cien Anios was. Or, at least, Florentino can then have some sort of peace, a ceasefire against himself, permission to stop torturing himself. Or at least, if he can't move on, then he is able to find a balance rather than facing a new bleak and empty day, every day. One of the most revealing sentences is the woman Feona, who GGM says was ''the woman that was supposed to be his'' 'Not sure exactly about the wording there).

To me, that realization was very powerful, one of the most strongest reactions I've ever had from a book, it was a very real, powerful meta-text that you infer on your own as you read. So how tremendous that is, to have such a good story but also even including us as readers having to decide one way or the other, to make the same decision that Florentino has to do if he wishes to give his life meaning, or at least a meaning apart from that which was given to him at the time of his rejection.

My second favorite section is when he begins writing the later letters. His own rejection of the old way of writing, the agonizing over what tone to use, how often to write, what the envelopes should look like, what he feels when no answer comes. And he doesn't even realize that they're devoured by Fatima when each one comes. These small domestic dramas and decisions are what made 100 Years so good, exactly why GGM is able to sustain a narrative for 100 pages in NOONE WRITES TO THE COLONEL about a man waiting for his pension check.

Still 30 pages left to go, more to come later.

There's something interesting: in the final pages, GGM recreates a lot of parallels that happened to Florentino that now happened to Fermina. Her experiences begin to echo his. Maybe he's trying to say the importance of a shared history, the importance of the potential for sympathy.

Another theme is the power of the written word. This is seen in the beginning, to prop up their false love, then it happens when Florentino writes to the newspapers, and then again at the end. Both letters during the first post-Urbino year, and then the letter by the bedside along with the white rose in the part when ''Fermina hopes he knows what step to take next... Luckily, he does know.'' Almost as if the ability to move forward depends on the narrative each person tells each other, and themselves, and that Fermina needs to be ready in order for her to start seeing the story differently. Saying thesame things but with different words, and somehow it penetrates their consciousness differently, even if he still feels the same and she knows that.

Currently reading JORGE AMADO'S MAR MORTO, another one that deals with love and aging and the passage of time. So it's neat to see the two great writers riffing on this.

This isn't the only book where the writer uses the person's full name every time they are mentioned. Somehow, when doing that, it doesn't stick so well in my mind. Sort of like, if you have a telephone number longer than 7 digits, it becomes almost impossible to remember other than steady use again adn again over a long period of time.
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