I’ve been meaning to write and post this blog entry about Love in the Time of Cholera for a while now (a couple of weeks, really) but just haven’t gotten around to polishing it off. It’s gotten to the point where I think if I leave it much longer, I’ll never come back to it, and so, complete or not, here are some thoughts on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera…
Well, to be fair, part of the reason I haven’t gotten around to this is because I’ve been extra busy with work (my manager has been on holidays for the last two weeks) and with gardening (weeds everywhere after the rains recently) and Persian study (I’m in the middle of writing another short story). But another part of the reason why I’m kind of still in the process of collating my thoughts on LITTOC is because it’s such a strange book.
The title itself is the first hint that this is going to be a rather peculiar tale, but it’s not so much head-scratching as it is eyebrow-raising. After I finished reading LITTOC, I went on Good Reads, as I usually do after finishing a book, and looked at what other people thought of it. A lot of people were, in fact, quite offended by what they had read in those pages.
And it’s easy to see why: LITTOC is quite explicitly sexual and, at times, perverse. There’s mention of prostitution, adultery, rape, underage sex/molestation — nothing was off limits, really. And these things are presented in a way that might seem flippant or as if Marquez is condoning such behaviour.
I can’t say I know what Marquez’s intentions were in writing LITTOC in the way that he did, but I’m inclined to think that he was not trying to normalise promiscuity. I mean, maybe he was, but maybe he was also just trying to show the extremes of the human condition, focusing on lust and desire. Overall, although I can see how people were offended and repulsed by the novel, I don’t feel quite as affected. It is just a story, after all.
Having said that, it’s probably not one that I will re-read unless I have nothing else to read. It’s also not a book I’d go around recommending to many people, so it’s probably just going to live on my bookshelf for the foreseeable future. I do, however, still think that Marquez is a skilful writer and an excellent storyteller, so I still want to read more of his work. After all, One Hundred Years of Solitude was one of the most magnificent books I’ve ever read, so I can’t let one odd experience make me shy away from the rest of his collection.
Actually, it’s probably lucky that I read OHYOS before reading LITTOC, since it might have taken me a lot longer to read a second Marquez book if it had been the other way around. Then again, a lot of Good Reads reviewers were disappointed with LITTOC because of the expectations they had built up from reading OHYOS, so maybe LITTOC might have been viewed more favourably if it was read first (?)
Well, if I think about the things I really liked about OHYOS, I can see them in LITTOC too. These are things like bizarre characters with their own peculiarities, and complex story construction. The flow of the novel is actually quite masterfully done. It starts near the end of the timeline, when the main characters are quite old, and then goes back to their childhood years, and glides between various stages of the lives of each character. For example, you might be reading about Fermina Daza and Dr Juvenal Urbino’s relationship, and then several pages later find yourself somehow back with Florentino Ariza, and suddenly you see how that part of Fermina Daza’s life fifty pages ago has rippled into his life.
And the way cholera is weaved into the story is quite clever too. Initially I thought it was just going to be some background fact – something to place the story in time and space – but as it progressed, I saw how cholera or, rather, the impact of cholera influenced the characters and the direction of the story.
All up, I think LITTOC is the sort of book you can’t take too seriously. The story is written and developed in a believable way, but a lot of characters and happenings in the novel are so ridiculous and exaggerated.