Monday, August 13, 2018


Gabriel Garcia Marquez. LOVE In the TIME Of CHOLERA. 1988. 

This is a Hawthorne Book Club selection discussed on August 9, 2018, so I am just going to post our post-discussion notes: 

  • Gabriel GARCIA MARQUEZ, “Gabo”, born in Colombia, South America, March 6, 1927. Died Mexico City, April 17, 2014. Raised by grandparents near a banana plantation. Studied in Barranquilla on the Rio Magdalena, Bogota, and Cartagena. 14-year engagement to Mercedes Barcha Pardo. M. 1958. Began publishing in the early 1950s. ONE HUNDRED YEARS Of SOLITUDE 1967. Sent on assignment in Europe, stationed in Paris, for safety. Home. Exiled to Mexico 1981. Befriended Castro in Cuba. Denied entrance to USA 1962-1996. Wrote & spoke only in Spanish (a political statement). Nobel Prize for Literature 1982. LOVE In the TIME Of CHOLERA published 1985, translated into English in 1988. Film 2007 starring Javier Bardem Benjamin Bratt. GGM also published Non-Fiction - The STORY Of a SHIPWRECKED SAILOR 1970, LIVING TO TELL the TALE 2003, MEMORIES Of MY MELANCHOLY WHORES 2005.
  • COLUMBIA, northern South America, bordering Caribbean, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Venezuela. Pop. 42M. Capital: Bogota. Home of the Medellin drug cartel. Spanish colony. Independence 1819. Civil War 1860-62. Thousand Days War (Conservatives vs. Liberals) 1899-1902. La Violencia Civil War 1948-58. Cholera killed 10sK in 19th century. 2016 President Santos awarded Nobel Peace Prize for attempts to end 50+ years of civil war.
  • Reasons NOT to read LOVE In the TIME Of CHOLERA: in translation, small font, 100-word sentences, page-long paragraphs, no dialogue (Spanish), 50-page chapters, omniscient narrator, unknown/unnamed setting, unknown history, parrots, magic realism (because I did not know what it meant).
  • Reasons to GO ON READING: see above--learn something about South America, learn something about magic realism, humour, physicality, sensuousness, surprises, flowers, insightful observations about character, politics, society, AGED protagonists (not another coming-of-age novel), glimpses into private lives, sex lives, many more themes beyond “unrequited love”.
  • Plot/Characters/Setting: In a city near the Caribbean with connections to Europe & the Andes, at the mouth of the Magdalena River, Florentino Ariza documents his 51 years 9 months and 4 days of unrequited love for Fermina Daza who was married to Dr. Juvenal Urbino for 50+ years. What do they each want? Does what they want change over 50 years?
  • Structure/Style/Magic Realism: The story begins with the death of the husband. In 6 major chapter divisions, it shifts back and forth between present and past—the history of Florentino’s love life (622 relationships documented in 25 journals, one-night stands do not count), the history of the marriage, the history of the couple’s (Florentino and Fermina) interactions and sightings. Omniscient narrator; little dialogue because, G M says, there is still a gap between spoken and written Spanish. This makes the style seem Victorian/Dickensian. Yet it is full or surprises, spot-on observations.
  • G M is celebrated as a writer of magic(al) realism. Ignore the “magic” as the term does not refer to fantasy or interiority or imagination. Magic realism means SHOWING SOMETHING COMMON or daily as unreal, MARVELOUS, or strange. Almost the opposite of abstraction. A combination of metaphor and heightened observation. The opposite of poetry which takes the real and finds the metaphor. Magic realism starts with metaphor and ends in reality. [the symbolic wedding night > Fermina remembers hearing her husband urinate] “Poetry is a plane taking off; Magic realism is a plane landing.” In magic realism, the emphasis in on the REALISM.
  • Humour: the parrot soup; the firemen in the house; the naivety; the sex positions; the woman using the pacifier; the strong sense of smell—corpses, sewers, urine, dirty clothes, flowers.
  • Themes: GM said that if you think this book is a soap opera about romantic love, you have fallen into his trap. What is he saying about love? Sex? Romance? Aging? Marriage? About private and personal communications (by stalking, letter, telegraph, telephone, government news releases, gossip)? About relationships, truth? About politics, the centuries-long civil war between Liberals and Conservatives? About technological advances and environmental degradation over fifty years? What really are the important things in life? Is the ending dark or light? Despair or hope?
  • Wiki: “…that lovesickness is literally an illness, a disease comparable to cholera. . . . The term cholera as it is used in Spanish, colera, can also denote passion or human rage and ire in its feminine form.  [Thus] the title is a pun: cholera as the disease, and cholera as passion, which raises the central question of the book: is love helped or hindered by extreme passion?”

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