I recently finished reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. While he is very well-known for his work One Hundred Years of Solitude, I happened to chance this other book of his at Landmark. It has a mango-coloured cover with worn out drinking steel glasses and a stark red flowers in a concavity of an off-white painted wall. It makes for a solemnly pretty picture. The abstract of the book says that it is a tale of a man, Florentino Ariza, who waits for over a decade to be with his childhood love, Fermina Daza who is married to a certain Dr. Juvenal Urbino. After Dr. Juvenal Urbino dies trying to retrieve his pet parrot from a mango tree, Florentino Ariza tries to reclaim the love of the woman he met when he was a tender teenager. This is all that the abstract says; and honestly, there is nothing more than this that the book really says to you.
GGM’s writing is very instinctive. It’s like you are sitting with a drunk man at a bar who would be narrating a story to you in a disconnected fashion. He says what he wants when he wants it. There is no pattern. The drunk man beckons to you to hear a story and begins with telling you about a certain Dr. Juvenal Urbino he knows and then he tells you about his habits, education, and career. He tells you of his marriage to Fermina Daza and the affluent lifestyle they have. He tells you of his achievements in medicine and his kids with that woman. He tells you of his unfortunate death while retrieving his pet parrot. The drunk man is one peg down. He orders another round. Then he begins narrating the story of a woman who lived, a woman who loved, a woman who left her childhood love—Fermina Daza. All of this while he’s reminiscing the beauty of a time that was once a reality and seems nothing more than a fairy story kids used to once hear. The man’s eyes sparkle with the recalling and he has a shy smile on his face. He tells you about the love letters once written and the shy glances exchanged between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. The music in the bar stops just when he tells you how Fermina Daza rejects Florentino Ariza’s love and marries Dr. Urbino. The drunk man has now ended his drink; and the “happy” part of the story is over. He yells at the bar man for another drink who takes a while! He throws some things around and while you’re trying to get away he calms down and makes you sit. He pacifies you saying it’s okay when, in fact, he is pacifying himself. And then, over another glassful he tells you how Florentino Ariza has lived all these years in a sentence he pronounced on himself. How Florentino Ariza has lived with nothing but just one goal in his life, that of making Fermina Daza his. He might have fallen in the arms of many women but how he has “loved” Fermina Daza alone. The drunk man slurs, and you’re not sure where this story is going. You see his ashen face and wonder if it’s a real story or is he just reeling under the influence of alcohol. You want to leave but you want to know if Florentino Ariza really did get himself that love story that one would be amazed at. So, you buy the man another drink and ask him to go on. The man is now disconnected, he tells you of a lot of things you could do without, but you still stay. You wait till he comes around and tells you about how finally Florentino Ariza does start communicating with Fermina Daza after her husband’s death. You look at the man’s glass and hope that he lasts through the narration. You hope you could finish his drink for him and get to the end of the story. Finally, he does come to the part you’ve been waiting and he does not pass out before telling you that Florentino Ariza won his love “Forever.”
You then take the drunk man home, put him to bed and wonder for some part of the night whether a man could really wait for over fifty years to be with a woman he loved. And that is it possible that a woman would repress her feelings for fifty years hiding them behind societal norms and her idiosyncrasies? You wonder if such a love story is possible. And then you realise that an inebriated man said that to you; you’re going to have to find out for yourself. You just wonder how.
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