Books On My Shelf is a ‘book review’ series by Jayanti Mallick. An avid reader, she handpicks her favorite author or books to review.
This is the first work that I have completed by the great Spanish author Gabriel Garcia Márquez . I wanted to read the translations of his works for so long that was turning into a legend in my life.
Can I say that, this novel will be counted in as, one of the best works that I have read till date?
I can say that.
It is so poetic and a difficult to keep down work, it keeps you turning pages in spite of having a languor pace. I was reading the book faster and faster to keep the pace at a double beat. Its the story of 17 year old, Florentino, who is an illegitimate child and falls in love with the daughter of a rich man with a dubious business. The object of this love, Fermina, realizes her infatuation, falls out of love and is married off to a rich, doctor named Juvenal, who turns out to be her soul mate. She is happily married for some 40 yrs before the doctor dies and is left a rich widow who is now available, to be wooed by now the affluent old flame. No pun intended!
In between, the boy who had promised to remain a virgin for his one true love sleeps with countless prostitutes, whores, desperate housewives and then ultimately turns into a pedo before he goes back to his self proclaimed one true love after 51 years of unrequited, loveless years.
The flow of the novel is perfect and effortless. It is so smooth and beautiful that in spite of all the shocking activities of the protagonist, one doesn’t hate him. The writer has made sure that he remains the focus of our attention. It almost seem to me that the main protagonist is actually the writer since he has taken so much care to make the readers empathize with him in spite of all his tainted character behavior.
The language is poetic and as one of my friends stated, ” For me the first line did it–“The smell of bitter almonds reminded him of the fate of his unrequited love.”
And these are my simple thoughts-
I will never deny the poetic consistency of the author. I like the author and his writing style. But I never enjoyed the story line. The male protagonist is beyond my understanding. My imagination pictured him as a non personality who gets the job because he is the only heir of his father although he is out of the wedlock. He is good at his job though does not care much about work. He is lucky to inherit his uncle’s share as well because his uncles sons are dead in quick succession. And thus he gains social standing due to his profession which deals with the river and passage. It was just difficult for me to empathize with a character that sleeps with other women without remorse and then cries over his lost love. And its just kind of sad that this kind of love is being celebrated. The writing is a classic, I just did not empathize with the story and the protagonist, and to completely accept the fact that I love a work this is important.
One of my friends asked me the question when I told her I was reading, “Love in the Time of Cholera”: why is the novel named so. My first reaction to that was that the first thing a good writer does for his work is, give it an intriguing title. It had sure intrigued me when I had first heard of it. The story is set at a time when the whole world was suffering, the epidemic cholera. it took more lives than the wars. The turn in the story takes place because of the cholera scare and changes the lives of the male and female protagonists. Fermina meets her husband due to the cholera scare when he was asked to treat her. And even more because the male protagonists love sickness symptoms were more of cholera than of actual love if there are any.
The background of the whole novel is the hovering shadow of cholera everywhere and since this is essentially the love story of Florentino and Fermina, it is appropriately named so.
One more thing to consider when we read works like this is to remember that they are translations. They are not the exact words of the author that we read but “somewhat the exact translation” of the Spanish original. This is the first work that I read, by “the Marquez” and I had heard so much about him since my college days that I had to complete his work.
In reality as I write this I am myself exploring many more facets of the book which cannot be done in a single post. The work is about love in its various forms, teenage obsession, infatuations, marital love and compromise, friendships and bonding. Each time one reads it probably one will find a new meaning within it. Now that there is the movie of the novel, I am sure I will go back to the literature again for a refresher.
At present I am reading another of his works ” Hundred Years of Solitude” after which he received the Nobel prize in literature. I will not say much on the book right now other than that it is taking me quite an effort to concentrate with the book. But I have made a promise to finish it and so I will.