Obsession: ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ by Gabriel García Márquez [1985]

I rate Love in the Time of Cholera, not on how much I enjoyed it, but on how much it aggravated me. Sure, I will not be reading it again, but it still has me thinking, which is something. I read it while it rained and now I write about it in unmanageable heat, I cannot help but wonder had the weather had been the opposite (if I read about a warm climate in a warm climate) I would feel more positive about this book.I mention the weather not because I am British, but because it is a natural conversation that occupies my thoughts. In addition, I am sweating more than anyone normally should, so the heat really is at the forefront of my mind.

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.Synopsis from GoodReads

I will not pretend to understand love, it baffles me, leads to poor decision making and illogical judgements, while at the same time making you utterly happy. This most definitely explains why I was so angry at love within Love in the Time of Cholera, a story which chronicles the love of Florentino Ariza for Fermina Daza, their lives, and other relationships.

Florentino’s obsessive and undying love for Fermina was disturbing. He dedicates his entire existence to his love for her, all based on a juvenile lust between star-crossed and restricted children. Throughout the years Love in the Time of Cholera travels Florentino finds other distractions, some are physical relationships, others are a non-physical reliance. However, it is the seduction and molestation of his young ward América Vicuña, whom he meets at the age of twelve, which most disgusts me. Florentino charms América into love and then as Fermina did to him, completely cuts her off. In this act Florentino extracts punishment on the Fermina like child where he is unable to with Fermina herself. That Fermina could learn to love this monster again, an obsessive paedophile who runs on his uncontrollable urge for unattainable Fermina and sex, startled me. Márquez has created a fascinating anti-hero in Florentino, with no morals or a conscience he is driven only by the need for Fermina, and acquiring the means in which to tempt her back.

Fermina was an easier character to connect with, though never sympathetic. She is drawn into a fantasy romance with Florentino yet brutally cuts him out when the illusion of what she thought was love is broken. She then settles in love by marrying the wealthy and well connected Juvenal Urbino, contented, but at times unhappy. Fermina is selfish, while loving she is also callous and demanding of both Urbino and Floerntino; making little sacrifice for others.

What has been stuck in my head for so long, however, is that in Love in the Time of Cholera’s intense, immovable, obsessive love is partnered with such a damaged human in Florentino. Softer, more compromising and what you could describe as loving, but not being in love, is related in Urbino’s love for Fermina, and for a while, she for him. Even Urbino succumbs to passionate love in the form of a young patient, where he momentarily becomes more like Florentino than as a reader was enjoyable. Florentino and Fermina are fiery passionate characters who display their emotions with gusto, Urbino counteracts this with a calmer reflective personality. Even in the mentioning of the characters, Florentino and Fermina are granted first names, they are the children of the novel, trapped in an un-ageing lust; Urbino, however, is referred to by his surname, he is the adult in love, mature and reasoning (mostly). This is what is marvellous about Love in the Time of Cholera, love, and how I now do not know which is better, dark passionate and damaging love, or quite settling love. Infuriating.

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