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Love in the Time of Cholera
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message 1: by Kristina (new) - added it

Kristina (ZiggyZiggler) | 116 comments Mod
Love in the Time of Cholera made a narrow win for our first read! Please get a copy and start reading. This work of literature has obviously been the subject of entire college courses, so we'll see where it goes.

For now, I am hoping that it's reasonable to be done with chapter one by around May 7 or so and go from there. I pledge to do my best to have an open format and be a good discussion leader.

All I ask is that nobody gets too far ahead on the discussion board. At a pace of 6 pages a day, we should cover the book in about 8 weeks and the discussions that blossom can continue to flower for however long:)

If you have any problems getting a copy of the book, please contact me in a private message and I will try to help.

Happy Reading!!


message 2: by Cliff (new)

Cliff (riffcold) | 1 comments I started this years ago (reading English and Italian side-by-side) but didn't get very far as I got distracted by the things you are supposed to be distracted by when you are on Spring Break in Europe :)

I do remember the bitter smell of almonds kicking things off...so a great excuse for me finish this finally! Happy reading all!


message 3: by Kristina (new) - added it

Kristina (ZiggyZiggler) | 116 comments Mod
Cliff wrote: "I started this years ago (reading English and Italian side-by-side) but didn't get very far as I got distracted by the things you are supposed to be distracted by when you are on Spring Break in Eu..."

Yay!! Glad you got distracted and had love in the time of Europe and can be with us now:)


message 4: by Kristina (new) - added it

Kristina (ZiggyZiggler) | 116 comments Mod
Well, I'm only up to page 9 and have never read it before, so can't offer any insights to the first chapter as part of the entire book.

What I found interesting so far was Dr. Urbino recognizing "the authority of death" and although it went on to say that he taught the concept that we are all "masters of our own death", he rejected his friend's suicide.

He seems to be a man that doesn't like it when people color outside the lines. To me, this is evidenced by his saying "you should have reported him" to the lover of his friend. It doesn't seem he can wrap his mind around the idea that Jeremiah and his lover had let their own love define what they would do and not the other way around.

His observations about suicide and the sufferings of love and the crystals found in the heart appear to me to be not necessarily THE truth, but HIS perception of the truth.

I can't wait to see how this unfolds. It seems that it will be much more complex than a love triangle. The title alone indicates that. Jeremiah's lover not only chose to be loyal to his wishes, she chose to give the dog a choice too.

Themes so far? Aside from death and love and choice, does anyone see other themes?


message 5: by Kristina (new) - added it

Kristina (ZiggyZiggler) | 116 comments Mod
Okay.....I'm into chapter two now and found something interesting. With e-book format, it's easy to search for more occurrences of a word.

On page 18, the author slipped into first person plural with the use of "our" in reference to cultural norms. I looked ahead for that word and it happened again on page 43. I looked no further but I do find it interesting that Marquez is/was obviously a man in love with his people. I wonder why it wasn't edited.

Looking forward to hearing from others:)


Terri Jacobson (TLJJ53) The themes of love and death are the first ones that jump out at me, though it's hard to predict where the book is going by just the first chapter. The contrast in the deaths of Jeremiah and Dr. Urbino is pretty great. The suicide of Jeremiah seems so calm and so well thought out. It happened with the support and love of the person closest to him. Dr. Urbino's reaction shows some rigidity of character--"Your duty was to report him." Dr. Urbino's death was almost slapstick in nature. The reactions to the two deaths were also quite different. Jeremiah's death goes almost unnoticed, except by his lover. He is buried in unconsecrated ground. Dr. Urbino's death is greatly mourned, with the bells chiming and the flags at half-mast for 3 days, and the huge turnout for the vigil of his death. Interestingly, it is at the end of this vigil that Florentino Ariza appears and declares his long-standing vow of love for the widow, Fermina Daza. Her violent reaction certainly sets the stage for the next chapter.
A note in passing, it is immediately after Dr. Urbino's death that cholera is mentioned for the first time.
My favorite quote from Chapter 1: "At nightfall, at the oppressive moment of transition, a storm of carnivorous mosquitoes rose out of the swamps, and a tender breath of human shit, warm and sad, stirred the certainty of death in the depths of one's soul."


message 7: by Laura (new)

Laura (lauraroxie) | 14 comments This is my first time reading this book as well. I agree with Terri on the themes of love and death but I also think there is a theme of fear of aging and death. It struck me twice, first when Saint Amour actually told his lover he "would never be old" and at 60 killed himself. Also, Urbino is awakened from his last nap by sadness and realizes his last days are here. I felt he was fearing death. Could be wrong about that but that's how it seemed to me. I don't get what ever caused Urbino and Fermina to marry so that will be interesting to discover. They seem like such opposites and she was apparently from the wrong side of the tracks. I will be interested to learn what "drama" she provoked when she was 18! And what was in that letter!!


message 8: by Kristina (new) - added it

Kristina (ZiggyZiggler) | 116 comments Mod
Terri wrote: "The themes of love and death are the first ones that jump out at me, though it's hard to predict where the book is going by just the first chapter. The contrast in the deaths of Jeremiah and Dr. Ur..."

I noticed that too Terri. The "authority of death" that Urbino recognized.
Another thing I found interesting/talented was the "tender breath of human shit" helped me realize that in those days that was probably always a background smell wherever people gathered in large numbers.
He also did another interesting thing about human waste when he remarked on the secret pleasure of the smell of his own urine laced with asparagus. I think it really drives home how in touch the author is with the human condition and that a human being in their entirety makes up who they are. I'm actually prancing around just coming out and saying that

1. People do find comfort in their own familiar body smells and that makes us very much a human animal: something very earthy about that when it's not a mental illness.

2. It is a Freudian belief in psycho sexual stages about control of one's own body in developmental years.

3. Moreso than the Freudian cocaine fueled beliefs that everything is tied to sexuality, I think it indicates a silently acknowledged return to infantilism on Urbino's part. Outside of that, it was only his wife observing that.

No matter the case, I liked it very much because it was so full of subtle truths whatever those truths may be.


message 9: by Kristina (last edited May 06, 2012 02:03PM) (new) - added it

Kristina (ZiggyZiggler) | 116 comments Mod
Laura wrote: "This is my first time reading this book as well. I agree with Terri on the themes of love and death but I also think there is a theme of fear of aging and death. It struck me twice, first when Sa..."

Love the comments Laura. I hadn't read them yet when I just replied to Terri's remarks. Please read them. I would have worded it a little differently to address your observations as well. You'll see the connection to the aging process as well.

OH!!! One thing I'm really curious about! The "accusing eyes" of the children in the pictures. What about that friend of Urbino's that died in the beginning. Is it really repulsive? There's just strong clues, but I wouldnt be surprised if it turns out to be something quite different than where my mind went. Will it be something that makes us love him instead of hate him?

That was a big hook for me. The promise that we'll get to know more about that photographer of children who went out and took his dog with him and why his letter was so difficult to write. That's another theme thing! Urbino and his wife deeply affected by words committed to paper. Something very sacred about memorializing the truth in ink.


message 10: by Laura (new)

Laura (lauraroxie) | 14 comments I know this is probably very obvious to all but it is so ironic to me that the bird, the one being that Urbino spent so much time educating and caring for, more so than his children it would appear, at least from this chapter, and the only animal he would allow into the home as it speaks, is the thing that killed him. Kristina, you and Terri have such powerful insights, I'm afraid I feel quite outgunned by you both but love your comments. What was it you meant by Saint Amours repulsive death and the strong clues. Did you mean clues about his past crimes in life?


Terri Jacobson (TLJJ53) I really liked your comment on aging, Laura. (Don't feel outgunned, your insights are great!) Dr. Urbino actually says "old age was an indecent state that had to be ended before it was too late." I expect this theme to be further developed. Kristina, I thought your insights were great as well. You talk about the "infantilism" of Urbino, and I think we see this also in both Florentino Ariza and Fermina as the story unfolds.

I'm well into Chapter 2, almost to page 100. This covers the story line as Florentino and Fermina begin their relationship through her exile by her father when he finds out, and also the part where Ariza does his treasure hunt. (I have no idea what that is all about.)

In this section I think we see the childish nature of the relationship as it begins to form between Florentino and Fermina. Florentino falls in love from afar and almost begins to stalk Fermina. This passion is so intense from the very beginning, it can hardly be based in reality but is some ideal Arizo has in his character about the nature of love. We begin to see the author talk about love as a sickness with the same symptoms as cholera. I think we also see the strong connection between flowers and love. Florentino sees Fermina in her yard "and on her head she wore a garland of fresh gardenias that made her look like a crowned goddess." And later when Florentino approaches Fermina, he experiences "the floral scent that he would identify with her for the rest of his life." He then approaches Fermina with his letter, and as she holds out her embroidery to receive it, a bird shits on it. This presages the doomed nature of their love, and also continues the theme about shit as noted by Kristina.

Immediately after this, Florentino becomes sick with the symptoms of cholera that are extreme in nature, but we find out that it is lovesickness, not actual disease. Then later as he is frustrated with waiting for Fermina to answer his letter, he eats gardenias and drinks a liter of cologne, which makes him so sick his mother finds him unconscious on the beach in a place where drowning victims (suicides?) are often found. Fermina finally responds to his letter, and he spends the afternoon "eating roses and reading the note" over and over. He seems to want to be sick with love.

Wow, that's a lot so I think I'll stop here.


message 12: by Laura (last edited May 12, 2012 09:52PM) (new)

Laura (lauraroxie) | 14 comments Just finished chapter 2. So much happens in this chapter it seems. It seems to be the beginning and the end of Florentino and Fermina's affair so that is a lot for one chapter. It also seems to me that Fermina was never really in love with Florentine. It was simply teenage rebellion against her father for dragging her away from this illicit affair, an affair of words only and not even passionate words on the part of Fermina. Her "love" for Florentino seemed flat and uninspired before her father took her away and only seemed to become impassioned then so it seems more a reaction to her fathers unwanted control over her life than any real love. And whoa, what a reaction when she sees Florentino in the Arcade of Scribes. It's reality hitting her like a locomotive when she sees the flesh and blood Florentino after her years away compared to the imagined memory, her "memory of poor emaciated Florentino sitting under the almond trees... with the book of verses on his lap". She had so idealized this portrait of him.


message 13: by Pam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pam (pcsnyder) | 5 comments Hi, folks. Sorry I haven't been able to check in until now, but I've been moving right along with the reading. I'm almost 1/3 of the way through the book.

Just a few things I wanted to weigh in on. First, I saw several comments above attributing the "indecent state" comment to Dr. Urbino, but the quote itself is "perhaps he would have agreed with Jeremiah de Saint-Amour that old age was an indecent state that had to be ended before it was too late" (emphasis mine). That means that Saint-Amour believes it's an "indecent state," not Dr. Urbino. Urbino isn't sure whether or not he agrees, which we get because he says "perhaps." Considering the means of their two deaths, and the themes of the fear of aging and death that Laura pointed out, I think it's an important distinction and helps to support Laura's reading. Saint-Amour clearly did not fear death as much as he feared aging, while Urbino seems to be the opposite: he struggles through his old age, recognizing he hasn't much life left to live, but he cannot consciously end his own life.

Consciously, you say? Yes, consciously. Urbino is devoutly religious, so willful suicide is out of the question. But the idea is clearly on his mind, as we can see from the fact that he's ruminating on the Saint-Amour's "indecent state" concept just a few paragraphs before Urbino loses his life. Marquez implies that the two thoughts/events are connected by placing them so close together, and he emphasizes Urbino's desire to die at the end of the "indecent state" paragraph: "At eighty-one years of age he had enough lucidity to realize that he was attached to this world by a few slender threads that could break painlessly with a simple change of position while he slept, and if he did all he could to keep those threads intact, it was because of his terror of not finding God in the darkness of death." In other words, the only reason Urbino isn't ready to die is because he's afraid that there is no God. Consciously taking his own life (as his friend did) is a no-win situation (either there is no God, or Urbino damns himself to hell by suicide, neither of which he finds desirable), and his fear of there being no God is stronger than his friend's fear of aging was. I would argue that Urbino's death was a grey area between suicide and accident. What 81 year old man, if he wants to keep living, goes chasing parrots up trees? He could just as easily have sent a household servant up the ladder instead of climbing it himself. And I don't believe for a second that he "misjudged" the number of rungs he'd have to climb. He's shown himself to be of a meticulous and scientific mind, and while his memory may be like a sieve, his reasoning has not been shown to have the same flaw. Urbino found a way to emulate his friend while avoiding the religious stigma of suicide.

That's all for now -- I want to read a bit more before I chime in on the Florentino Ariza parts. I'm not sure I like his character.


message 14: by Terri (last edited Jun 05, 2012 09:29AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Terri Jacobson (TLJJ53) Comments on the end of chapter 2 and all of chapter 3:

Chapter 2 ends with the hunt for sunken treasure by Florentino Ariza and the severing of the relationship that has developed by the correspondence between Ariza and Fermina Daza. Chapter 3 introduces Juvenal Urbino and develops his relationship with Fermina. It closes with the return of the couple from their honeymoon with Fermina being pregnant.

I think we can see the further development of the themes we have already identified. There is the fear of aging/death, love as a sickness with symptom of cholera, the frequent mention of scents and smells. I would add to this the repeated mention of birds.

Dr. Urbino reflects on the nature of death when he receives a posthumous letter from his father. Reading this letter "hurled him headlong against the certainty of death." Urbino reflects on this letter 20 years after receiving it, and he realizes that "he was identical to (his father} and to that awareness had now been added the awful consciousness that he was also as mortal."

This part of the book also continues to develop the theme of love as an illness with symptoms of cholera. Florentino seems to really like his feelings of "lovesickness." He pushes this to the extreme of making himself sick by eating flowers and drinking perfume. Marquez writes that "he took pleasure in his pain."

I agree with Kristina that life at the time of this novel was much more earthy, with all kinds of odors, both pleasant and unpleasant. There are repeated references to the pervading smell of open sewers and rotting vegetation. There are also references to the scents of flowers often associated with Fermina. Florentino associates fragrances (especially of flowers) with Fermina. After the severing of their relationship he notes that "little by little the fragrance Of Fermina Daza became less frequent and less intense, and at last it remained only in white gardenias." Fermina seems also to relate perfumes with herself. She brings home from her honeymoon a new perfume "but she used it only once because she did not recognize herself in the new scent."

In addition to the frequent use of flowers and fragrances, Marquez makes many references to birds. Of course, we have the opening image of the book with the parrot incident. Florentino describes the prostitutes at the transient hotel as "little birds." We also have the episode of the bird droppings on Fermina's embroidery when she receives the letter from Florentino. When Dr. Urbino visits Fermina in her home, he sees cages of strange birds, "the strangest of all were three crows in a very large cage, who filled the patio with an ambiguous perfume every time they flapped their wings." As the Doctor is leaving, he knocks into the cage, and the birds break into a "sordid shrieking, flapped their wings in fright, and saturated the Doctor,s clothing with a feminine fragrance." When he is at the door with Fermina's father, the crows awaken under their sheet and they emit a "funereal shriek." The Doctor returns home to his mother and sisters with "his entire being dishonored by the whorish perfume of the crows." We will see more birds in the coming chapters. I think birds can symbolize women, or they can be an ominous portention of things to come.

Dose anyone have any insight into the section on Florentino's search for sunken treasure? There are some almost sexual reference to Euclides. He is described as having "an eel's body that could slither through a bull's-eye." There is the contrast of Flortino's formal dress while Euclides is "almost naked." There is the reference to Euclides diving throuth the water "like a tarnished shark." I do like it that Florintino is able to salvage from the episode the "loving shelter of the lighthouse."


message 15: by Laura (new)

Laura (lauraroxie) | 14 comments All great comments. I learn so much from reading your insights. In regards to references to birds, do you think there is anything to the fact that Fermina brought back from Europe "ostrich plumes, crests of peacocks, tailfeathers of Asiatic roosters, entire pheasants, hummingbirds, and a countless variety of exotic birds preserved in midflight." That occurred to me because of all the previous references to birds in this chapter as well as the first two chapters as mentioned. I found it interesting that Lorenzo and Ferminas first contact with and treatment of Florentino and then Urbino seem so similar but yet opposite in how they are treated by Lorenzo. The treatment of Florentino by Lorenzo when he delivers his first letter is cruel, but Lorenzo encourages the delivery of the first letter by Urbino. Lorenzo dislikes Florentino because he is poor and would not be good for his daughter, yet loves Urbino because he is rich and famous. Whether they love his daughter or not is of no consequence to him at all.
I also love Ferminas consistency throughout the years in her feelings for the Archbishop. "To hell with the Archbishop" she tells her husband in chapter 1 when he suggests that the Archbishop become involved with their ongoing argument. Again, in chapter 3 when the nun suggests the Archbishop will have to come and convince her to court Urbino, she tells the nun to "let him come."
I see this is the chapter where we see that Florentino learns to quiet the pain of his love for Fermina with substitue love, especially with the widow Nazaret because they are both using the love of the other to forget their one true love.
There were a couple of things that I did not understand or maybe there is not really anything to this but when Lorenzo comes home late one night and said to Fermina "We are ruined... total ruin, so now you know." Would this be why he is so intent on getting Fermina to accept Urbino? Also when Fermina finally changed her mind to let Urbino court her it seemed like she just changed her mind so suddenly, I could not see a motivation except for when she says "lay exhausted.. thinking of the countless years she still had to live." Did she just decide there would be no other options? Not sure, what do you think????


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