If One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez‘s masterpiece, is the novel of youth, Love in the Time of Cholera is instead the novel of maturity. Published in 1985 by the Colombian publishing house Oveja Negra, the novel soon became a success. The predominant themes are epic romance, aging, and death. The writer depicts all forms of love: the foolish young and the blossoming, the spiritual and the physical one. Above all, he describes how love changes over time.
Maturity appears not only in the choice of themes but also in the author’s voice. García Márquez’s style is refined and conventional all at the same time. He resorts to every kind of influence from fiction, stirring in the reader authentic feelings of hope and the certainty that everything that happens in the book is also plausible outside of it.
Epic Love in the Time of Cholera
Fifty-one years, nine months, and four days is the seemingly eternal time Florentino Ariza, the male main character of Love in the Time of Cholera, waits for his lover Fermina Daza. The novel is set in a Caribbean and Latin American city, unnamed but similar to Cartagena in Colombia, between 1880 and 1930, during a cholera epidemic. It opens on the day of Dr. Juvenal Urbino’s death.
After the funeral, Florentino Ariza renews his devotion to the widow, Fermina Daza. She refuses him, and then the story brings the reader back to the beginning of Florentino and Fermina’s epistolary relationship. Fermina’s father opposes their love and takes her away from Florentino to block and prevent a marriage between them. Regardless of the distance, they continue to exchange letters. But when Fermina returns, she realizes the hollowness of her love. She doesn’t love Florentino anymore and accepts Dr. Juvenal Urbino’s courtship. If Florentino embodies the poetic lover, Juvenal Urbino is a practical man, a physician and cholera specialist, who inspires self-confidence. So Fermina marries him.
While Fermina becomes a devoted wife, Florentino decides to take a vow: to remain forever faithful to Fermina’s love, until the day they can live their lives together. His fidelity is only spiritual since he evolves into a sort of Don Juan, and seduces almost 622 women.
The long-awaited day arrives more than fifty years later, after Dr. Juvenal Urbino’s death when Fermina refuses Florentino again, but then decides to give him a chance.
Far from One Hundred Years of Solitude
García Márquez’s novels are always characterized by fantastic and mystical episodes, like the ones in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Yet Love in the Time of Cholera seems to be devoid of these elements.
The American writer Thomas Pynchon finds the reasons for this lack in the central theme of the novel: love. According to him, it needs a higher degree of reality instead of magical illusions. As he argues “love and the possibility of love’s extinction are the indispensable driving forces, and varieties of magic have become, if not quite peripheral, then at least more thoughtfully deployed in the service of an expanded vision, matured, darker than before but no less clement”.
Based on the novel, in 2007 a film came out, directed by Mike Newell and starring Javier Bardem, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, and Benjamin Bratt.