Classics Challenge: Love in the Time of Cholera
Welcome, one and all, to the final post of the spring 2011 cycle of the LT Classics Challenge. This week we will be looking at Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. Rather than doing my usual “questions this week/discussion next week” thing, both are included in this post and we’ll have a jolly Classics Challenge wrap-up next Friday, including the announcement of this cycle’s lucky winner!
As always, please do share your thoughts about this book in the comments. All participants in the Challenge will be entered in a drawing to win a Penguin Clothbound Classic or a limited edition World Book Night 2011 book (winner’s choice). This is your last week to get in on the goods, so definitely share your thoughts below or on your own blog!
And without further ado, Love in the Time of Cholera! As always, there be spoilers ahead, mateys:
Taken as a whole, what do you think about Florentino Ariza’s love for Fermina Daza? Was it selfish or romantic? And, in the end, was it worth it?
I am definitely on the romantic side here. While I can absolutely see the ways in which his love made him selfish and rebounded in unexpected, damaging ways onto others (most notably onto América Vicuña with her suicide after his sexual abandonment of her in favor of Fermina Daza), I still think his unstinting (mental and emotional) devotion to Fermina Daza over the course of decades was incredibly romantic.
And it was the ending itself that made it romantic rather than selfish: if things had not worked out between them after all that had happened, I think I would view Florentino Ariza’s love for Fermina Daza in an entirely different way. It would probably seem more pathetic and perhaps even insane (i.e. doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results). But with the surprisingly happy ending (I had grave concerns about those two crazy kids literally up until the last page), Florentino Ariza’s love becomes justified and sweet.
Not only that, but the ending resolved which side of the thin line between devotion and obsession he personified. It wasn’t insanity; it was just that he was a man with a goal and his entire purpose in life was love. How can that not be romantic?
So, yeah, in my opinion: totally worth it. Although why everyone thought Fermina Daza was so awesome is more debatable to me…
Fermina Daza doesn’t seem like a particularly admirable character or a good heroine: she’s flighty, emotional, ineffable, and largely mysterious. On the other hand, we as readers always know what is going on with Florentino Ariza, from his feelings to his physical passions. Is this a purposeful dichotomy? And does it further support or foreshadow their eventual union—i.e. “opposites DO attract”?
All I can say is that I was totally on board with Florentino Ariza and wanted all the very best for him while all I wanted was for Fermina Daza to come to her senses and decide something or know something to be true. It felt like, as a character, she flitted uncertainly about much more than Florentino Ariza, or any other character in the book, including the many conquests of Ariza. This is probably more realistic (how often are we as people ever sure of something?), but it also made her very difficult to understand (a sentiment no doubt shared by her two lovers).
Favorite Parts: I thought the bit where Florentino Ariza wrote an entire love-correspondence for two anonymous lovers and eventually became their son’s godfather was really charming. I also really liked the initial set-up for the whole novel, with the two deaths and the introduction of Ariza as a random funeral attendee.
Least Favorite Part: The moment when Florentino Ariza falls down the stairs of his office right before Márquez reveals that he was okay. My heart nearly stopped with fear about how cruel and senseless a fate that would be. One never knows with these contemporary novels; they so often end in perfect, yet depressing, manners. I’m delighted that this one didn’t!
As always, these questions are just starters and I’m happy to discuss any part of the book that you found interesting. I really loved this book, so I hope you all did, too. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!