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Love in the Time of Cholera | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Love in the Time of Cholera | Context


Novel of Manners

Although most critics consider Love in the Time of Cholera a romance, Gabriel García Márquez called it a novel of manners. This genre of fiction focuses on the customs, etiquette, superstitions, and values of a group of people in a specific place and time. Typically, the conventions appear at the story's beginning and the characters either meet, rise above, or fall below them.

English writers Henry James, Evelyn Waugh, and Jane Austen, American writer Edith Wharton, and French writer Honoré de Balzac worked within this genre. The novel of manners can range from "limited" (Jane Austen wrote about the gentry of the English countryside) to "sweeping" (Balzac wrote about the various kinds of life in the 19th century). Unlike the popular authors of novels of manners, in Love in the Time of Cholera, García Márquez writes about a period of time almost a century after it takes place.

Cartagena, Colombia

A port city located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, the walled city of Cartagena still echoes its 16th-century founding with town squares, cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, and much color. Gabriel García Márquez claimed to have "completed [his] education as a writer" here, a place he lived in for a year between 1948 and 1949 and visited frequently thereafter. Travel writer Anand Giridharadas describes the city as a "blend of seediness and charm ... a city so pregnant with the near magical ... [that] toucans land on a table at its finest hotel ... the city that ... [furnished] the reality for [García Márquez's] magic."

This city, a place much beloved by García Márquez (who owned a vacation home there), inspired the setting for a story of lovers: Love in the Time of Cholera:

  • The novel's Park of the Evangels is based on Cartagena's Plaza Fernández de Madrid.
  • Fermina's house resembles a house on the east side of the plaza.
  • The novel's Arcade of the Scribes is similar to the Plaza Bolívar.

In a documentary García Márquez reflected:

All my books have loose threads of Cartagena in them. And, with time, when I have to call up memories, I always bring back an incident from Cartagena, a place in Cartagena, a character in Cartagena.
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