Love in the Time of Cholera | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Love in the Time of Cholera | 10 Things You Didn't Know

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Gabriel García Márquez's fourth novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, was published in Spanish in 1985 and in English in 1988. Based in part on his parents' relationship, it tells the story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, who fall in love but are separated by her father. As years pass, they both have other relationships, but in their old age they come together again, finding love at the end of life.

An examination of love in all its forms—from young love to the love of the elderly, from pure love to depraved love, from love as disease to love as cure—Love in the Time of Cholera received rave reviews, with writer Thomas Pynchon in the New York Times proclaiming it a "shining and heartbreaking novel." The story is a paean to love, its characters choosing to hope that their loves can transcend the ravages of time.

1. Love in the Time of Cholera was partly based on the courtship of García Márquez's parents.

García Márquez has noted two inspirations for the love between the aging Florentino and Fermina in his novel. The first, which triggered the idea for the tale itself, was the sight of an elderly couple who were dancing together on a ship. The second was the relationship between the author's own parents. His mother's father objected to his parents' marriage, as Fermina's father does in the novel, but they married despite his resistance. And García Márquez discovered that his own septuagenarian parents "were still—at that time—making love!"

2. The character Florentino Ariza has been compared to Vladimir Nabokov's Humbert Humbert in Lolita.

Ariza's similarity to Humbert Humbert, who seduces the 12-year-old Lolita in Nabokov's novel, is most evident in his seduction of 14-year-old América Vicuña. In addition, however, critics have noted that the appeal of Ariza's love stories, in which he describes his repeated seduction and abuse of women, is similar to that of Humbert's narration, in which he uses language to seduce the reader as he tells his own story of seduction and abuse.

3. The time García Márquez spent writing Love in the Time of Cholera was one of the happiest periods of his life.

García Márquez wrote his first novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, in a great burst and struggled over nearly every line of his second novel, The Autumn of the Patriarch. But writing Love in the Time of Cholera, he stated, "was a pleasure." He went on to explain:

Those two years when I was writing it was a time when I was almost completely happy. Everything went well for me. People spend a lifetime thinking about how they would really like to live. I asked my friends and no one seems to know very clearly. To me it's very clear now. I wish my life could have been like the years when I was writing Love in the Time of Cholera.

4. The film version of Love in the Time of Cholera was called "histrionic," "egregious," and "completely botched."

The screen adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera came out in 2007, starring Javier Bardem. The film flopped. Reviewers noted that it "looks lovely, but feels lifeless"; is a "hodge-podge of histrionic, ridiculous scenes cobbled together with no build-up"; and is "all yodeling Shakira ballads and emotional shots of the would-be lovers staring at each other until their cheeks pale from exhaustion." The Philadelphia Inquirer, however, found that the film had "many pleasures," including Bardem's "hypnotic presence."

5. García Márquez's grandmother inspired his storytelling.

As a child García Márquez lived in the town of Aracataca with his grandparents. His grandmother, Tranquilina Iguarán Cotes, was a great storyteller. Many of her stories featured supernatural events and beings. Love in the Time of Cholera melds these dreamy, otherworldly stories with the real-life love of the author's parents.

6. García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera has been both criticized and praised for its attitude toward women.

Feminist critics have praised Love in the Time of Cholera for its depiction of marriage as a dehumanizing institution that ignores the will and desires of women. Fermina Daza, on becoming a widow, feels free for the first time. García Márquez has been praised, too, for creating strong female characters such as Fermina and Leona Cassiani. Other critics, however, have taken offense at García Márquez's sympathetic portrayal of Florentino Ariza, a predatory womanizer whose lovers are often more caricature than fully drawn characters.

7. One reviewer called Love in the Time of Cholera an "anti-love story."

García Márquez's novel is often seen as a deeply romantic love story, ending with the main characters aboard a ship that will carry them together for the rest of their lives. The author himself, however, warns readers "not to fall into my trap." A critic in the New Canon claims that Love in the Time of Cholera focuses on the "foolish aspects of love": the ignorance, pettiness, and declining health that the aging main characters suffer. He calls the book "the great anti-love story of our time."

8. Love in the Time of Cholera makes an appearance in two films starring John Cusack.

Two films starring actor John Cusack feature references to Love in the Time of Cholera. In Serendipity, Cusack's character's love interest, played by Kate Beckinsale, writes her phone number in a copy of the book and then gives the book away, telling Cusack that if he finds it again, they are meant to be together. In High Fidelity, Cusack's character admits, "I've read books like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Angela's Ashes, and Love in the Time of Cholera, and understood them, I think—they're about girls, right?—just kidding—but I don't like them very much." In an additional touch of serendipity, the producer of High Fidelity was also the director of the film version of Love in the Time of Cholera.

9. García Márquez's translator preferred Love in the Time of Cholera to the author's other novels.

Edith Grossman translated all of García Márquez's works from 1985 on. When asked which of his works was most difficult to translate, she responded, "Everything he wrote was gold. They were all wonderful to work on; I can't say which was the most difficult." But she did admit, "I think my favorite may be Love in the Time of Cholera."

10. García Márquez often made the trip up the Magdalena River that his main character makes.

As a boy García Márquez was sent to a Jesuit high school outside Bogotá, Colombia. To get there, he had to travel up the Magdalena River on a steamboat. Decades later this boat trip would become one of the central settings for Love in the Time of Cholera.

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