One of my goals for this summer was to spend some time just reading and writing, and enjoying it. Over the last few years, it has seemed like every kind of work has been about deadlines and publications, and although the end results of the last few years’ efforts are some of my proudest accomplishments – I Just Make People Up, The Life and Poetry of John Beecher, and Treasuring Alabama’s Black Belt – the climate of my working life had changed slowly into something that lacked joy, that took effort, that needed to be rejuvenated. So, as the summer began, and as I was reading the three August Wilson plays, I also re-read Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera.
Along with One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I like for different reasons, this novel is easily one of my most favorite books. Without moralistic judgment, Garcia-Marquez captures every imaginable kind of love that men and women can share, as the diametrically opposed characters of Florentino Ariza and Dr. Juvenal Urbino dizzyingly orbit Fermina Daza, and as each of three lead their own separate lives. The poet/telegraph operator/riverboat company executive Florentino Ariza, who begins as a smitten young man, revolves his whole life around waiting for Fermina Daza, who rejects him after a years-long courtship of letters, while the measured and overly steady Dr. Juvenal Urbino possesses Fermina Daza in an almost fifty-year high-society marriage that fluctuates wildly in its character. Beyond the three of them, the minor players in the drama, who come and go in Garcia-Marquez’s far-reaching narrative are equally compelling, human, flawed, and necessary.
Love in the Time of Cholera is brilliant and lyrical and dense and exhausting to read. The style is heavy like the presence of the three main characters, whose dominant personalities drive the tension in the love triangle, and the complexity of the story is immense. Garcia-Marquez digresses and returns so fluidly into side stories and back stories, which create such a three-dimensional and living world that his writing style is inimitable. I’m done re-reading the novel now, and I’m simultaneously glad and sorry about that. Although the details of the life-long love triangle are so well fleshed out, the novel also requires a tremendous of amount of attention and energy to read, although it is well worth it.