Friends and followers call him Gabo, at least for the sake of conversation it’s a sentimental but necessary modification of the preponderant Gabriel Jose Garcia Marquez. Born in 1927, the Columbian novelist is the master of magical realism. The genre, which grew out of Latin America, allows the author to create dreamlike, fantastic, and often unsettling images. The reader experiences a strange world with flowers that fall from the sky like rain, ageless time, an angel with enormous wings who falls from the heavens, and a man who grows fatter and fatter even though he arrives on scene a dead body washed ashore. Within the pages of Love in the Time of Cholera , the phantasmic vehicle of magical realism allows the process of loving and aging to transcend far beyond our natural expectations to a vision of something remarkable, exciting and new. With over two-dozen published works and an entire lifetime dedicated to perfecting his craft, Marquez is definitely no one-hit-wonder.
In fact, Love in the Time of Cholera (Vintage International $14.95) would not have been possible without Marquez’s earlier works. For over forty years, he built a caravan of love ― from tormented love, unrequited love, random love, virgin love, innocent and corrupted love, a love demanding servitude and subjection, a love born not as a blessing but a gift from the devil, to a love that is uncontainable, solitary, taboo, selfish, discouraging and illusionary. The reader identifies Marquez’s brand of love as a disease, yet in the same moment cannot deny its timeless beauty. Finally, by refusing to acknowledge the natural boundaries of time, Marquez arrests this love in the same kind of motionless space that he applies to his fictional town of Macondo.
Only those willing to suspend disbelief and accept Marquez's illogical scenarios will recognize the beauty in his character's over-charismatic life long declarations of love or endless rejections of love, or recognize that virginity remains alive and well in the midst of licentious copulations, or appreciate the beauty in the surreal image of promiscuous old bones, which are perhaps flashes—reflections—of an aging Marquez. A few years back, this feisty, tenacious gray-haired Columbian, who like his fictional characters refused to surrender himself to limits set by others, was spotted shirking his eightieth birthday party, hosted by the literary community, to stroll instead along the Cuban shores discussing Latin American politics with his old friend, Fidel Castro.
In one of his earlier projects, the metaphorical masterpiece and Nobel Prize winning novel One Hundred Years of Solitude , Marquez toys with the boundaries of genres by running long threads of history through one-hundred years of pure fiction. Taking his readers on a 417-page journey through Columbian history, Marquez tells the unforgettable hundred-year saga of the mythical Buenda family who live in the ethereal timelessness of the fictional South American banana town of Macondo under a curse of sleepiness, forgetfulness, and isolation. No matter what they do, they cannot escape their fate: one hundred years of immense suffering and civil war. Having said that, after creating a novel commended for its creative magnitude, what might have inspired Marquez to later to write solely about the character of love? Marquez obviously never thought love a lesser challenge. Thomas Pynchon, an American fiction writer known for his complex texts, responded to Marquez's endeavor in a New York Time’s review, 'The Heart’s Eternal Vow.' Pynchon described the bold soul who would create a work preoccupied by love. "It is a daring step for any writer to decide to work in love's vernacular, to take it, with all its folly, imprecision and lapses in taste, at all seriously." He argued it equally daring to "suggest that vows of love made under a presumption of immortality-youthful idiocy, to some-may yet be honored much later in life when we ought to know better, in the face of the undeniable." Perhaps what embolden Marquez’s writing was timing. He wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude when he was forty, and apparently, the inspiration for Love in the Time of Cholera came nearly two decades later. Nearing sixty, it's not so far-fetched to speculate that he was thinking about both the illusory and real aspects of love and how they might look at the end of one's life.
However, a Marquez’s love story doesn't fit in the genre of the feel-good run of the mill Harlequin romance. Rather, he sets this love story among the troubling truths of history, the death and decay that came with the cholera outbreak, and year after year of civil unrest. Yet, in the midst of death’s shadow, there is enduring and erotic love. A love that ignoring the laws of reality, lurks in the shadows, passionately tormenting a sad, ugly old man, waiting on death, waiting for its turn.
Finally, the reader understands the need to re-characterize love. Moving beyond the pitfalls of passion, beyond the brutal mockery of hope and the phantoms of disillusion, beyond love, this courageous story forces a vision beyond false teeth and enemas. Loving in our old age doesn't have to be a ridiculous or revolting notion. Marquez’s spin on love suggests that life, hope, and possibility are more accessible the closer we are to death. No longer does growing old have to be a long and lonely trek to The End.