am 17. Mai 2010
This review is more of a critic than a review.
This book was highly recommended to me by friends, acquaintances and book clubs. It is a supposedly powerful love story involving two principal characters- Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, and a strong supporting character, Dr. Juvenal Urbino. It is well- written and quite interesting to read. However, I still don't understand why Newsweek called it 'a love story of astonishing power'. This book is not about love. Its about anything but love. Its about courtship, teenage infatuation bordering on obsession, its about arranged marriage, the significance of sex, promiscuity, extra-marital affair, companionship, mutual respect and affection.... anything but love. If you have read the book and are interested in a critical review of the plot, read on to know why I think Gabriel Garcia Marquez has misunderstood love...
If Florentino Ariza truly and sincerely did love Fermina Daza, and wanted to wait for her until eternity, what sense do I make of the fact that in the meantime he had absolutely no qualms about sleeping with every woman who came his way. How, in the name of everything holy, is true love a justification for being a heartless pervert. In fact, in my opinion, Florentino's last affair makes him a paedophile... a fourteen year old? I mean, for heaven's sake! Unrequited love, no matter how deep, profound and heart- breaking it is, does not give you the license to turn yourself into a pervert. Florentino had 172 long term relationships and countless other one- night stands, while he was waiting for his true love to come to him. And what is even more appalling is that at several instances during the course of his sexual escapades, Florentino admits to the fact that while he is physically intimate with another woman, he is able to forget Fermina, and that her thought comes rushing back to him as soon as this other person has left his company. Is that supposed to indicate true love or is that reflective of an immature Casanova who is still caught up in his teenage infatuation, which as I mentioned earlier, is bordering on obsession... and obsession, which apparently only sex, with as many women as possible, can cure. What a conceptual fallacy! And the fact that he refused to marry any of those innumerable women, that he quit the relationships the moment things got serious, only corroborates his immorality. True love is as much a test of your perseverance, resilience, and will- power, as it is of your integrity and loyalty. I actually don't know how to define Florentino's feelings for Fermina.
When the two eventually get together half a century after their tumultuous teenage affair, we are led to believe that Florentino's love for Fermina is finally requited (and consummated as well). Once again, I disagree. They were just two very old people, lonely in life and in desperate need of companionship. Fermina's is a very shrewd character. She comes across as an opportunist. She knew Florentino would do anything for her, and it really seems like she took advantage of his naiveté and procured a companion for the rest of her life. It is obvious that Dr. Juvenal Urbino's death had driven her into a sort of depression, which is not at all uncommon among the elderly. When you lose someone who has arguably been your best friend for 50 years, you are going to be devastated. And it is going to be difficult to stop yourself from falling into an abyss of loneliness and despair. Florentino pulled Fermina out of that abyss and gave her a reason to smile and continue living life to the fullest, as he had always imagined he would. Fermina was fortunate to have found a true friend at that age, or better still, a friend with privileges, but thats all Florentino was. She might have loved him as a friend (it was all too convenient) but she did not love him the way love is supposed to be.
I don't think Dr. Urbino was in love with Fermina either. He was enchanted by her, so he pursued her in a very gentlemanly way, and finally, Fermina, with no one else to marry, agrees to wed Urbino. The book says, they found true love in Paris. I beg to differ. They were a young, newly married couple, in Paris, of all places, where neither of them had anything else to do besides spend the entire day in the company of each other; there were no household problems to deal with, no in- laws to handle, and no one to disturb them... it was a holiday, and they were, I guess, relaxed and without a worry in the world. And since they were young and still virgins (I guess Urbino as well), obviously, they had a lot of intercourse, and obviously, they enjoyed it, there being no reason not to, and mistook all that pleasure for love. They faced the true test of their love when they returned home, and had to deal with the real world. And thats when their own world started to fall apart, to salvage which, they actually had to go back to Paris. The had to escape reality to rekindle their affection (I am not going to call it love). With time, they got used to each other. I presume they developed a sort of mutual respect and understanding, which might have gradually metamorphosed into adoration. If Urbino really did love his wife, he wouldn't have gone ahead and had two extramarital affairs; not one, two! Call me old- fashioned, but I seriously don't understand how one can have a sexual relationship with another person when he/ she is supposedly in love with someone else. Fermina and Urbino must have liked each other a lot, and must have grown fond of each other, but they were not in love, never ever!
I have been in love that was unfortunately, unrequited. So, I can dare presume that I know and understand Florentino's feelings for Fermina, just like Hildebranda did. And if I was to be Florentino, I cannot, for the life of me, imagine having 172 relationships just to be able to forget the love of my life (if thats what that is)! What I would rather do, is wish this person all the happiness in the world (because I am one of the few remaining of that endangered species that still believes true love is selfless), get married to someone that I adore and respect a lot, but may not necessarily be in love with (although I think it is possible to be in love with two people at the same time, but maybe not to the same extent), and live my life with honesty and integrity. But I am a woman; I am sure guys think differently.
You cannot choose who you fall in love with. Hildebranda fell hopelessly and helplessly in love with a married man, and hers is probably the only character in this book I can sympathize with. This book is not a love story. Its a drama about life, in its various hues and colors, but not love.