The very recent passing of Nobel-prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez represents a loss of one the world’s most lyrical novelists. Born in Columbia, Márquez was a pioneer of the style of magical realism, the melding of the fantastical imaginary into the mundane ordinary, the Salvador Dalí of literature. His stories are journeys into the world of the mind and all the wonders that can be found therein. Although he is probably best known for One Hundred Years of Solitude, my personal favorite is Love in the Time of Cholera.
On the surface, the novel is a sentimental tale of obsessive, unrequited love and its physical elements akin to illness. A torrid youthful romance between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza is thwarted by her disapproving father. She eventually accepts her father’s choice of a husband and finally the calm of a conventional life bury everything she ever felt for Florentino under the dust of time. He chooses a much more active restorative route, filling the hole left by Fermina with an endless series of women, while reserving his heart, in a pantomime of fidelity. After more than 53 years of waiting, Fermina’s husband dies and Florentino attempts to collect his prize, only to be met with utter bemusement on Fermina’s part.
The story doesn’t end here, but that is enough to illustrate the deeper currents flowing through the main stream of the novel. Márquez is exploring the power of the mind to shape our realities, the magical gift we all possess. The artists of his time experimented with the effects of visual perspective on the world, while he is playing with mental points of view. Love in the Time of Cholera, though, is a both a warning and a celebration. The warning is against the presumption that an individual’s world built completely within the alchemy of mental solitude can ever truly fuse with another’s. The celebration is of the extraordinary products of a true commingling of solitary magical realities.