It must be very clear to you all by now that I am completely in awe of the great author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I got to know about Marquez only after the news of his death appeared in the Telegraph( our local newspaper ). There was a beautiful write-up about him and his various books. I was so impressed by the article that I decided to read atleast one of his books to find out if it is as good as the journalist claims it to be. It took me almost three months to get hold of this book and I have to say that I had to eat the humble pie as this book proved to be much much more than what the journalist had written about.
Before I get carried away in my praises for the novel and it's author, let me tell you very quickly about its story.
The story is set in a fictional 19th century South American port city. Fermina Daza is a young pretty girl, daughter of Lorenzo Daza, a mule driver, who is involved in many illegal tradings. Florentino Ariza, is the illegitimate son of Transito Ariza and Don Pius V Loayza. They fall in love with each other in their youth and exchange many love letters. The affair continues even after her father gets to know about it and she rebels. But suddenly one fine day,she realises that she does not love Florentino and that they are practically strangers,inspite of exchanging letters for more than two years. She moves ahead in life and marries a young, promising,highly qualified and respected doctor, Juvenal Urbino. They spend half a century together till a fateful day when Dr.Urbino dies while trying to save his pet parrot. Meanwhile, Ariza suffering from unrequited love, finds solace in the arms of a series of females, while claiming in his heart to be still waiting for his one true love, Fermina. The story takes an interesting turn when Florentino proposes to Fermina once again,after her husband passes away. Whether Fermina accepts his proposal at this juncture in their lives, is to be read and seriously people, I cannot play a spoilsport by disclosing the way this story ends.
When I started this book I was under the impression that it is a sentimental story about the power of true love but gradually I realised that this story is much more and is just not one dimensional. Garcia Marquez himself had said in an interview on this book, "You have to be careful not to fall into my trap".
This book is basically about the different types of love we experience in the course of a lifetime. Love need not always be the gooey-lovey feeling between a man and a woman and at the same time it need not be true and pure and an all encompassing feeling. In the case of married couples, most of the time, it is a feeling which is created or rather an illusion of this feeling is created, after spending decades with someone, as in the case of Juvenal Urbino and Fermina Daza. "It is incredible how one can be happy for so many years in the midst of so many squabbles, so many problems, damn it, and not really know if it was love or not", said Fermina to Florentino, when talking about her five decade long marriage to Urbino. Another kind of love spoken here is the love of a doting mother, Transito Ariza for her son, Florentino. We also see here the love of Lorenzo Daza for her daughter, Fermina, which was pure though selfish in its own way. Dr. Urbino had married Fermina not because he loved her, but because he liked her arrogance, her strength but he firmly believed that there would be no obstacle to their inventing true love, after they had kissed for the first time. Then we have Florentino Ariza - he claims that Fermina is his true love and is determined to earn status and lots of money to win Fermina back, even though she is happily married to Dr. Urbino, but at the same time he has a series of affairs with many a delighted woman. Infact, in his obsession for Fermina and his never satiating lust, he misses out on the true love of Leona Cassiani, who loved and cared for him dearly, though they never made love. Marquez has even shown Florentino having an affair with a young America Vicuña, a mere 14 year old girl whose family had entrusted her to Florentino as her guardian while she was sent to his town to study secondary education. An old man having an affair with a girl, good enough to be his grandchild was a very big put off for me and almost made me hate this character.
Barring this disgusting section, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book .
Infact I really found certain dialogues written by Marquez to be very interesting and true in its sense.
One such dialogue is, " The problem with marriage is that it ends every night after making love, and it must be rebuilt every morning before breakfast", said by Dr. Urbino.
Another of my favourites is, " It was not possible to live together in any other way, or love in any other way, and nothing in this world was more difficult than love."
Another sample, Fermina said this, " The problem in public life is learning to overcome terror; the problem in married life is learning to overcome boredom."