Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza’s love is one of the myriad facets of love explored by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in “Love in the Time of the cholera”. At the one end love was transcendental and serene taken as a passion for Florentino Ariza (which he was able to materialise in an old age companionship with Fermina) but at the other extreme it was a sickness and chronic disease for him.

His sensual and erotic overtures with his numerous mistresses in the course of the novel treat love as a carnal desire. The author is prudent enough to not to reject the physical aspect of the passion but duly acknowledges the pleasure derived out of it by the protagonist (Florentino) with the tinge of humour. However, the author appears to have preferred the transcendental or eternal aspect of love over its all other aspects. In other words the novel appears to be a true anatomy of love.

After Miguel de Cervantes, the Spanish literature had once again contributed significantly to the world literature. This time the author was none other than the Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez who received his Nobel Prize for literature in 1982.

The very absence of chronology and exact location (setting) of the novel is quite in tandem with the theme of the novel. The novel is set in some unnamed Caribbean city which is a composite of Cartagena and Barranquilla. It simply reinforces the idea that the love as a passion is a beyond the ambit of ordinary clock time and space; that it can survive in multiple times, regardless of the effects of the chronological time on the lives of the protagonists. Florentino and Fermina decide to live together when their furore of youth has passed away: Florentino an octogenarian and Fermina in her 70s when they decide to unite. However, the novels narration turns out to be highly realistic with the flashes of fantasy.

The notion of negating the chronological time has its parallel in James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. The story of Stephen Dedalus is devoid of specific time-space frame of reference, infact, it exists in multiple times.

The novel opens with the day of Dr Urbino’s death, the husband of Fermina Daza, and encompasses the period of more than fifty one years. It flashes back to the past and then comes to the day of Dr Urbino’s death and ultimately Fermina and Florentino decides to marry after a passage of fifty one years, nine months and four days. Florentino was the ex-lover of Fermina whom she had easily rejected for his inferior social status.

The pangs of unrequited love, leave Florentino marooned and woe-betide. However, he vows to become successful and gets a job in his dead father’s river boat company where he eventually manages to rise to the top. Meanwhile, he compensates himself for the bereavement he suffered due to Fermina by courting 622 mistresses.

“FlorentinoAriza was very sensitive to the faltering steps of age. Even as a young man he would interrupt his reading of poetry in the park to observe elderly couples who helped each other across the street, and they were the lessons in life that had aided him in detecting the laws of his own aging”. And for his baldness, he would contrive a fad,

“But when he accepted his baldness with all his heart, he attributed to it the masculine virtues that he had heard about and scorned as nothing but the fantasies of bald men. Later he took refuge in the new custom of combing long from his part on the right all the way across his head, and this he never abandoned “

In the same vein, the loss of his teeth was put on an errant dentist and when his mother discovered the malady, it was not the pain of love but tooth ache.

“His mother was alarmed by a night of inconsolable moaning from the room next to hers, because these seemed to be the same as the ones from another time, which had almost disappeared in the mists of her memory, but when she made him open his mouth to see where the love was hurting him. She discovered that he had been victim to abscesses”.

To Marquez, Florentino’s love sickness is a proper psychological disorder. Here the author has taken the character of Florentino to the realm of Freudian Psychoanalysis. The novelist depicts the character doing the grotesque act of devouring the gardenia flowers and gulping the cologne to know the taste of his beloved, Fermina. Afterwards he had to throw up the contents in the form of a fragrant vomit. This syndrome has been duly referred to by Freud in his famous essay “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917). That in such a condition of extreme melancholy the ego wishes “ to incorporate this [lost] object into itself, and, in accordance with the oral or cannibalistic phase of libidinal development in which it is, it wants to do so by devouring”.

The Cholera epidemic has potent symbolic significance in the novel. The love sickness of Florentino was misconstrued as symptoms of Cholera by many characters, thus establishing a link between the two.

The major casualty of the Cholera epidemic was the poor class therefore the theme of class stratification in the society was accentuated by the author.

Marcel Proust has reprimanded the lovers about the change of heart, which would render all the pains borne by them as futile. All is flux and people do not remain the same with the passage of time. However, it is not so with Florentino Ariza. His passion survives due to his constant heart. His conjugal union with his much desired beloved comes at the age of eighty, yet he is least regretful about it. In the last part of the book, the Captain of the boat in which Florentino and Fermina were celebrating their honeymoon, asked him as for how long he might be sailing. Floerntino replies succinctly, “Forever”.

–By Faheem Sikander