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Classic review: Love in the Time of Cholera

A tale of love, illusions, and life's possibilities.

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[This review first ran in the Monitor on May 12, 1988.] The Colombian-born writer Gabriel García Márquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, 15 years after the extraordinary fireworks display of his stunning novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. In all the years before and after the prize, he continued to write fiction that sputtered and smoldered with a fitful brilliance; strongly written, but thematically disappointing works that never quite matched the already fulfilled promise of his early masterpiece of Magic Realism.There are no fantastic happenings in "Love in the Time of Cholera." But a man called Florentino Ariza does love a woman named Fermina Daza unrequitedly for more than 50 years, waiting until she is widowed to declare himself, when he is 76 and she 72.

Florentino first sets eyes on Fermina when she is still a schoolgirl. An aspiring poet (throughout his life he will continue to enter poetry competitions, never winning), he woos her in the courtliest fashion: with letters, serenades, verses inscribed on the petals of flowers. Fermina responds, more coolly and guardedly, but when her coarse, ambitious father tries to end the romance, she and Florentino circumvent his plans. Love seems just about to triumph when all of a sudden, Fermina has a kind of negative epiphany in which she realizes that this great love was merely an illusion.


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