Valentine’s Day is all about love. But when love is so complex, so intense, so soul-encompassing, how are mere mortals like ourselves ever meant to be able to express our love? Fortunately for us, ‘love’ is a topic that writers have been making into an art form since literature was still in its foetus form. Whether that be in the form of poetry or prose, the ability of a writer to capture such beauty is enough to make you fall in love. So whether you’re single this Valentine’s Day and hoping to daydream the day away conjuring up your own Heathcliff and Cathy style romance or in a relationship and looking to find something that speaks the voice of love more adequately than you could ever hope to, there is no better place than literature to look for such delicate expression.
Love in the Time of Cholera // Gabriel García Márquez
I think there are very few romance books in existence that spend the majority of their time detailing the love affairs that occur in between the principal couple’s meeting, and finally getting together – and even fewer write about it so mystically and distinctively as Gabriel García Márquez in Love in the Time of Cholera. Perhaps it is the Colombian writer’s trademark style of fantastical realism, so useful here to blend the commonplace aspects of love with those heroic romantic actions we always dream of, but never experience. Maybe it is his unique skill to engage a reader through pages and pages of action-less, speech-less work, and yet still feel as though we are privy to the innermost parts of a character’s life. This superb blend between intensely detailed language and the utter large timescale of the book, that made reading about the intertwining lives of Fermina Daza and and Florentino Ariza so unforgettable.
We start our story with the death of Fermina Daza’s husband, Dr. Juvenal Urbino, one day under extremely bizarre circumstances (think parrots and suicidal chess players). This man’s death marks the last chance for Florentino Ariza, a fellow villager who has harboured a love for the new widower for over sixty years, to finally proclaim his affection for her one last time. In an ironic turn of events which involves a half-centenary ago flashback to the beginning of Florentino’s passion for Fermina, Marquez shows us that the love story within the novel does not just centre around two lovers. Love in the Time of Cholera celebrates love in all of its possible forms and manifestations, be it carnal, physical, romantic, or purely a love borne out of convenience and companionship. Most importantly, none of these variants are painted worse than any other, and I closed the pages of this book feeling a sense of liberation about just how many forms of unique affection we come across in our lives.
Through Florentino’s ceaseless search for unity with Fermina, we encounter all of his life’s lovers along with him, from reclusive widows to fourteen-year-old students and all the rest in between. Márquez’s often brashly unrealistic plot seems to both poke fun at such an unrequited, transcendent love, whilst equally letting us involve ourselves as deeply as we like in the very idea of it. To experience Marquez’s world of extreme and fantastical love is not something you want to miss out on.
Words by Megan Harding