There is the romantic, unrequited, ideal love of Florentino Ariza for the beautiful but proud Fermina Daza. At the age of 21 she rejects Florentino realizing the naivite of her first childish romance and marries the successful doctor Juvenal Urbino. For 51 years, 9 months and 4 days Florentino never forgets his first and only love. The poor boy turns into a successful man, passes through more than 600 sexual affairs for half a century, but remains faithful to his life purpose – to be reunited with Fermina some day. This idealistic and obsessive sort of love gives a reason for his existence and a constant struggle for self development so that he is worthy of his angel.
There is the practical, calm, and balanced love of Fermina Daza and her husband doctor Juvenal Urbino. They marry not because of passionate and burning affection but because of practical needs. Fermina Daza has decided to marry by the age of 21 and the doctor is attracted by her pride, strength, and attractiveness. The family builds a stable life, learning slowly to love and appreciate each other for who they are, to overlook and live with each other’s shortcomings and to adapt to the difficulties of being a husband and wife. Their love story is not heartbreaking, tragic, or passionate. It is not a disease that eats the heart and soul, but a cure for tranquility and understanding. Juvenal and Fermina pass through the inevitables reefs of betrayal, lies, and jealousy but manage to secure their friendship and support till Juvenal’s death.
And there is the love of Florentino and Fermina. After her husband’s death, Fermina starts remembering her young love. Florentino’s feelings haven’t changed for more than half a century. He still idealizes his beloved and begins once again to write her letters. This time, his letters are not romantic confessions in love but wise thoughts about life, adulthood, age, and growth. Both in their seventies, Fermina and Florentino have nothing really to expect from life. Except to live the love they never had the change to when they were young. Sensing death knocking on the door, the two take a journey down the river to rest in each other’s arms, old bodies with young hearts. After 53 years, 7 months, and 11 days, with the nights, they are finally together. Under the flag of cholera forever and ever.
What about the cholera, you might ask? The author uses cholera both literally and metaphorically. The disease that kills millions of people around the world in the 19th century. The endless civil wars that dislocate Columbia and leave families broken. The cynicism of life, the loss of the tremulous idealism, the decadence of human values and virtues in a world where people no longer believe in pure and sublime love. And of course unrequited love. Florentino’s lovesickness is a literal illness, an emotional and physical disease comparable to cholera.
I was deeply touched by Gabo’s (as they affectionally call him in Latin America) Love in the Time of Cholera. The author’s first novel after his noble prize for literature in 1983 is about the kind of love all of us want to experience. Somehow the overcynism of contemporary society has made us believe it is nonexistent. Love in the Time of Cholera takes second place in my most favorite love stories of all times. I will reread this book over and over again just to touch one more time the magic of love that conquers time and age.
PS: Maybe I will give 100 years of Solitude yet another change. Although, I know that its magical realism is still not a bite for me.