Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
List Price: $14.95 Sale Price: $12.71

This love story, like love itself, is paradoxical. Florentino Ariza is a hopeless romantic who loves Fermina Daza. Fermina Daza is a utilitarian who marries Dr. Juvenal Urbino for stability. So does Ariza join a monastery to pine in romantic fervor? Not exactly—he engages in 622 affairs with various women, maintaining all the while his heart's continued devotion to Fermina. Whether his love is real or just sentimental hogwash is the theme of Márquez's eloquent, sorrowful novel.

If Ariza's marathon amours sound disturbing, don't worry: they are. But it's not the infidelity that's disturbing, it's Ariza's continued insistence that his heart remains Fermina's. He dallies with infinite (or so it would seem to those of more moderate affections) women on a deeply intimate level, but only because he cannot have his heart's desire. Purity, for him, is wholly intentional, and what he does with his body (or the bodies of others) is irrelevant.

Of course it's not irrelevant, and Márquez uses Ariza's sexual appetite to look at different kinds of love. The contrast of his faithful heart/profligate body, and Fermina's kept chastity/wayward heart shows the incompleteness of physical or romantic love by themselves. When the two are reunited the focus isn't infidelity, but the unity achieved after lifetimes of loneliness.Márquez doesn't tell us how to think about Ariza's exploits—he simply celebrates the nature and purpose of love.

The mystical, unexpected ending is a euphoric conclusion to a baffling love story. Márquez's brilliant prose gives the impression of a fairy tale or religious text (in many ways it is) as well as a sober reflection on life and death, the danger of honesty, and the sorrow of conviction. Truly one of the great works of modern literature, Love in the Time of Cholera is a love song about love and a mea culpa on behalf of the whole flawed human race.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Sexual promiscuity, language
Summary: A hopeless romantic has repeated affairs while maintaining his devotion to his first love against the backdrop of a cholera outbreak.

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