Reading “Cholera”

Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, like Midnight’s Children, was a long, hard slog, especially for one with a glacial reading pace. The text lives in thick blocks, with little to no dialogue (and rarely two lines of dialogue back to back). But there are many sublime passages, including the insightful line from Uncle Leo XII when he rejects the notion that he is a rich man:

“I am a poor man with money, which is not the same thing.” (pg. 167 in my Penguin edition)

I was also struck by the descriptions of deforestation, near the end of the work, with the acute awareness of its impact and all that would be lost. With the area around the river stripped of entire forests, villages would be flooded “even in the cruelest droughts” (pg. 336). By coincidence, the skins of alligators, exterminated by hunters all along the river, went to the tanneries in New Orleans, which we all know would have its own flooding issues, due to similar factors, many years later.

At least Captain Samaritano emerged as an example of human compassion when he intervened on behalf of a baby manatee (and faced official censure for doing so) whose mother had been murdered (pg. 332). River travelers apparently victimized these harmless animals for target practice, and I can fully relate to Samaritano’s desire to punish these scum.


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