Love in the Time of Cholera is a translation from the original Spanish by Edith Grossman. The premise is simple: Florentino Ariza has been waiting for over fifty one years for the love of his life, Fermina Daza, to lose her husband so he could finally declare his love for the second time. He was a passionate youth when he fell for her originally but a courtship of letters came to an abrupt end when she rejected him and married distinguished doctor, Juvenal Urbino, instead. When the end finally comes for her husband will Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza have a future together?
It's not easy to articulate how beautiful this book is. We start off by living through the eyes of Dr Juvenal Urbino, which certainly dispels any thought of disliking him for the sake of it. He is attending the suicide of a friend and is shocked to discover a secret past that colours his view of him. His death, however, doesn't spell the end for his involvement in the novel. We see his relationship with Fermina Daza as the narrative flits around but we also get her insight and Florentino Ariza's. We learn everything about their lives as we go through what is an intimate portrayal of several people. We also get flashes of intimacy with other characters - Florentino Ariza's many sexual encounters, for instance - and what comes out of that is an exceptionally realistic world of human beings and their interactions.
I bought this book because I've been dithering over it for years. I've picked it up numerous times and been fascinated by the blurb but for whatever reason it always went back onto the shelf. I'm happy I finally bought it. It's so much more than the blurb suggests because it doesn't just concentrate on the prior relationship and the potential future relationship but on everything in between. The good, the bad, the amusing - it's all here. What I got from this novel was a sense of completeness, of having viewed lives from beginning to end. What more can you ask for from fiction?
"He was what he seemed: a useful and serious old man. His body was bony and erect, his skin dark and clean-shaven, his eyes avid behind round spectacles in silver frames, and he wore a romantic, old-fashioned mustache with waxed tips, He combed the last tufts of hair at his temples upward and plastered them with brilliance to the middle of his shining skull as a solution to baldness. His natural gallantry and languid manner were immediately charming, but they were also considered suspect virtue in a confirmed bachelor. He had spent a great deal of money, ingenuity, and willpower to disguise the seventy-six years he had completed in March, and he was convinced in the solitude of his soul that he had loved in silence for a much longer time than anyone else in this world ever had." (p57)