Monday, March 31, 2008
Love In the Time of Cholera
I read this book when I graduated from college and I loved it. I raved about the beautiful language and remembered the opening scene referring to the smell of cyanide and death to bitter almonds. I remember not understanding the title so much and taking it at face value. A few years ago, I read "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and became a true Gabriel Garcia Marquez fan. I was so relieved that Oprah had an interactive site for that book, explaining characters, symbolism and even a Q&A with a Marquez scholar. It was a difficult book and frustrating at times, but oh so worth it! Just beautiful.
When the LITC movie came out the end of last year, I decided to reread this book first. I'm thrilled I did because I got more out of this book today than I did 15 years ago. When I read the snapshot of Fermina and Juvenal's daily married life, I understood it so keenly. I looked at Florentino through his mother Transita's eyes and felt her heartbreak knowing his heart was broken. Also, I did find something annoying and alluring about Florentino himself. There are times you want to shake him and say "Wake up, man! Live your life!" But you know that's not how it is. This is his life.
I saw the movie on DVD and it moved exactly like the book. We are always the first to complain when the movie steers away from the book. However, when the movie is this close to a book, it becomes predictable and tiresome. My husband walked out the first 30 minutes, complaining Florentino was a schmuck for waiting 53 years for this man to die. I stayed with the movie until the end (albeit fast forwarding) and I did like the ending. I felt the relationship between Fermina and Florentino in the end was illustrated better in the book -- you could see it grow through the letters. Javier Bardem in this movie was.. well.. whew! I felt he brought the sadness and awkwardness of Florentino alive, and maintained it while the character aged. I wasn't impressed with Fermina as a character, even in the book because I felt she was complex, but never fully matured.
As for the title, the symptoms of love and cholera are similar, which leads to the confusion and the alliances. Yet, the beauty of is it is that to experience love in the time of cholera means that love will survive. Take the ending, when they feign cholera so they can be in love.
In short, read the book.