“…they had seen each other for what they were: two old people, ambushed by death, who had nothing in common except the memory of an ephemeral past that was no longer theirs but belonged to two young people who had vanished and who could have been their grandchildren.”
It was not until I read the last chapter of Love in the Time of Cholera, that I understood where the book got its name. For a story with the incredible premise of a love that festers for half a century and scars many lives in its wake, Cholera seemed to end in the only way it could. To borrow from the first line of the novel, it was – indeed – inevitable. And it is over at last: Florentino Ariza with his premature baldness, Fermina Daza with her panther eyes, Dr. Urbino with his carefully concealed terror, Ms. Lynch in her madwoman’s skirt. I miss them terribly, as I miss the Magdalena and the city of the Viceroys.
Were it not for the sympathy of the narrator, Juvenal Urbino would have appeared as a hypocrite, Fermina Daza would have seemed a woman incapable of love, and Florentino Ariza would be seen as a quiet lunatic. It is staggering to me that García Márquez can make them appear as real people – people with problems, conceits and terrors, people you and I would meet and befriend without ever realizing what lay beneath their exterior idiosyncracy. While reading, I often thought that somebody I knew would behave exactly like the character I was reading about. As the story swung wildly between the idealism of the players and the reality that thwarts, disfigures, trivializes or ridicules their passions, I had to force myself to keep fatalism at arm’s length, to run from inevitability so it wouldn’t cloud other thoughts.
I cannot get enough of the style of writing, this lyrical and unblinking way of describing events. Time, or more accurately, the passage of time, seems to be inseparable from the narration. A sense of history seems to give power to the story, to wedge it in one’s memory and to give the language a kind of severe beauty. It is evident in Cholera as much as it was in One Hundred Years of Solitude (e.g. “Many years later when he faced the firing squad …”). When I read One Hundred Years…, I wasn’t sure if this was characteristic of García Márquez, or an artifact of Gregory Rabassa’s translation. But now, having read this book, which has been translated by Edith Gossman, it is clear that a sense of time is embedded in the original Spanish writing of García Márquez. I wonder if the writing of other Latin American authors, such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Isabel Allende shares this characteristic.
I decided to read the book three months ago after my sister, hypnotized by García Márquez, read me a long passage from the book on the telephone – the part in which Florentino Ariza plays the violin under Fermina Daza’s balcony, acknowledged only by the dogs in the city. At lunch yesterday, I sat still for a long time after closing the book on a love that could not end, wondering how often they would haunt my dreams in a rickety boat sailing through a yellow fog.