Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Love in the Times of Cholera - my viewpoint

Falling sick gave me a chance to read this book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  I had put off reading his '100 years of Solitude' which my husband had read and said it is a master piece and that 'that is a novel' which spans lifetimes.  So, I picked the book, one because it was by the famed author, second it was smaller and more because I thought I will be able to finish it by the time I recovered.

The book is set in a port near the Caribbean Sea and revolves around life and scenery of that time.  If there is one character that is central to the whole book, it is 'Cholera'.  Life revolves around its coming and going definitely.  The character of Fermina Daza, is one of a girl who grows/evolves from adolescence to womanhood, typical of women as nature endows them.  They learn and adapt as nature has endowed them(otherwise, how do women leave their past lives and embrace their husbands lives as their own).  Florentino Ariza is the person who is in love with Fermina throughout the novel, from the time he is young to when he is old.  It starts with childish love when they are young and continues till their old age, in different ways for each of them though where one tries to leave it out of her life and the other pursues it.  Given this main line, the author deftly portrays everyday life woven into their lives and he is extremely good at it.  The mundane everyday things that we do in our daily life is woven into the story so well, you fail to realize or recognize it straightaway.  It seems different and takes a little time to understand that his writing is what makes it sound magical.

The author has built the characters slowly, painstakingly over a period of time (here through their entire life).  He is able to show the difference in their behaviour and attitude as they age through his writing, which is difficult to convey.  In this, it looks like he has lived with his characters.   

Love - the word means different things to different people.  Love for some is being loyal in every way, whereas for some others it means pursuing it yet living their natural lives, whereas for others it is living it yet not living it.

Florentino has numerous affairs throughout his life, enjoys them with the person in the moment and once out of it realizes that his love for Fermina continues(as he says).  Sometimes, I feel getting into a relationship for him is like eating and going about his daily chores - for nowhere does he search for her when he is with one of the numerous women in his life and yet he remembers her.  I failed to understand if he is dispassionate, detached or just by nature unattached.  Sometimes, it looks like one and when you have made it the definite premise, then you find a totally different trait indicating maybe he is fluctuating.  Also, he remains attached to the women in his life remembering them, writing his life with them, visiting them and growing old with them.  He cries on the dead of America Vicuna out of love he says but maybe both guilt and love for that was a first experience, where a women decides to end her life for he moved away to another - other women in his life are not bothered by it.

Marquez writes about emotions of any normal human being so well, yet so subtly that you identify with it yet, you think it is different for the characters.  Like when Fermina and Urbino settle in their married life understanding each other's capacity and adjust or ignore the failures.  Finally, as life grows Marquez shows how people capable of handling major events in their younger days falter on a little step later in life (like when Fermina learns about Urbino's affair, indicating that age is catching up and it is time to go.

Finally Florentino does get the chance he has waited all his life but I wondered whether he found happiness or not.  First, the smell of old age, two of his seeing Fermina and third about his own capacity.  Yet, in the very end, he wants life on the boat (just the two of them and the caption and his friend) to continue.  I wondered whether he was finally happy with Fermina or was it that on a boat with a boundary, Fermina will not become one of his numerous affairs, or if he realized that imagination did not match reality and he resigned himself to life being what he got and that happiness lay in accepting it and not searching for the mirage.  This because he cried for America when he knew he will get Fermina.  He realizes he loved America - so how is it possible to move so swiftly to another or is he so dispassionate that his goal is what he will be happy with at any cost, or is he someone who can pass instances in life by just because they have passed.

The book is great, given the way it is written.  Weaving a story with the common things in life is I guess Gabriel Garcia Marquez's talent.  It is a simple story of life that you can find anywhere made different by the portrayal.  Also, the character grows and you grow along with the character identifying the nuances and changes in each person.  That is the brilliant part of the book.  He is able to help you capture the picture he sees and yet have your own perspective.

However, sometimes I wondered if the author is unable to nail whether to portray Florentino as right or wrong or to keep it abstract so that the reader can come to his own conclusion.  Sometimes, when he has started portraying him as untrue to his goal he flips and starts doing the opposite and sometimes he conveys how difficult it is to be one or the other.

I also wonder if reading the book through a fever was a good idea, given that the book has a central character of cholera.  Maybe, should read it again when I am healthier.