Finishing Love in the Time of Cholera – by Melissa

Seventeen hours of driving can carve quite a chunk out of  a read-aloud project, but with our move to Japan and starting new jobs, it took six months to wade through the jungle of Marquez’s magical but viney prose. We finished it last night. We’d had about 40 pages to go for weeks. Emmett and I started the book in July on a road trip from San Antonio to Nashville, on our way to our wedding reception in Emmett’s hometown.

Last night I read to Emmett as he cooked dinner. When we paused to eat, he noted how fitting it was that we’ve taken so long to finish the book because the story expands over at least 6 decades and deals so heavily in time and endurance.

We finished reading later in bed and let out the deep sighs of perfect endings.  I was tempted to say that I liked this book better than One Hundred Years of Solitude.  But the two are not nearly the same. One Hundred Years is a history, a family story.  Cholera is about the lifespan and love of just two people, from the near beginning to the near end of their lives.  The topics are handled so differently, I decided to abandon thoughts of which might be better.  In Cholera, Marquez tells a gritty and uncomfortable love story whose characters shift from protagonist to antagonist and back again. The novel, like its title,  juxtaposes two contrary ideas, euphoric love and gruesome illness. We are unable to distinguish the two in the thick of the story, but in time, we slowly come to our senses.

This is always my experience with magical realism.  It starts out in exaggeration, becomes fat bellied with sparkles and lunacy, and then sobers up to pull off a careful and hard won peace.  Magical realism is a genre that goes hand in hand with Latin American folklore and myth.  Marquez’s narrators tell stories earnestly, but the details are otherworldly.  The acceptance of magical events as extraordinary but not impossible helps us recognize the more magical gifts of our own reality, a good lesson in gratitude and present-mindedness.  One of the most mysteriously described scenes in One Hundred Years is the precious first chapter wherein gypsies come into port bearing enormous diamonds of bitterly cold heat whose name is not written until the last word: ice.

As for Cholera, it does not read as much like a legend in which fantastical events are accepted as truths, but rather treads carefully on the softer-glowing edges and mysteriously won battles of love.

*Note from TigerSpider: Read the book, skip the movie. Dispite featuring the glorious Javier Bardem, we do not Ω the movie.  Not one bit.


Filed under Books, Reviews

5 responses to “Finishing Love in the Time of Cholera – by Melissa

  1. Grace Christman

    I hope you both are well and it’s exciting to hear you are starting new jobs. I’d highly suggest reading Chronicle of a Death Foretold, I read it in high school and found it enjoyable although I cannot vouch for the movie. I look forward to reading more by Marquez and hearing how you all are doing.

  2. Melissa

    Hi Grace! We started our jobs in August and are still doing the jittery Bambi walk through the forest of teaching. Thanks for your rec! It’s great to hear from you! How is everything in life treating you? Check out our “We Omega This” page. I think you’ll like it!

  3. Betsy

    yes yes yes.

    you two doing a read-aloud? that makes my heart sing.

    texas misses you. as do i. all is well and working here.

    ps- i’m really glad you didn’t say it was better than 100 years. i like the apple/orangeness of your comparison. i still need to read this one, but it would hurt my heart if he wrote something absolutely better than 100 years.

  4. Melissa

    Ohh sista how I miss ya. Read-aloud is such magic sharing. In fact, I should add it to the omega page. Thanks for your sweet words! It’s great to hear from you.

    I’m glad I didn’t say Cholera is better, too. In 100 Years, when Rebeca starts eating earth and whitewash wall to dull the agony of being in love, I knew the book was genius and also wondered why didn’t I think of that! But I challenge you to finish Cholera and not be tempted to weigh the two. Even if just for a split second. It WILL elbow its way in and sit beside 100 Years in your heart.

    What should I read next? What are you reading right now?

  5. Betsy

    i can’t wait to read it now.

    currently, I’m trying to read the works of Rudolf Steiner, who fathered Waldorf-style education and biodynamic farming.

    i’m also reading Things Fall Apart, but I bet you’ve already read that?

    I wonder if my cats will put up with the reading aloud. They get so smarmy sometimes.


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