Three Different Novels About Love

| Updated: March 4, 2022 1:15 pm

Last week, it was Valentine’s Day and I like to live my life with slowness, living with my circadian rhythms, not bothering about the rush and tumble of a sprawling metropolis. Sometimes, it has led to slowness in professional and other aspects of life. But one lives life in its fulness and its richness. The same about writing. So, I’m a week late, to speak about a few novels that I have admired on the theme of love.

Over twenty-five years ago, when I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, I fell in love with the novel. Around that time, I had also read his other novel, Of Love and Other Demons but nothing to dissuade me from the former. For a young man in his twenties, as I was then, Love in the Time of Cholera presented a unique world to me.  

Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza are the main characters of the novel. They fall in love in their youth. Their love blossoms but is discovered by Fermina Daza’s father, who is disapproving of her suitor’s middle-class moorings. Her father takes her on a three-year excursion, a hiatus, to the province where she was born, so she would forget her lover. They do communicate through telegrams as well. Later, she breaks off the relationship, thinking it is an illusion of youth. Florentino Ariza is virtually sick with love. He nearly leaves the city, but he decides to remain close to his lover. Though, in the next fifty years, he has over six hundred affairs with different women, he keeps her memory alive in his mind. Finally, towards the end of the novel, they are united again and they sail together, alone, on the river. The novel ends on that promising note. That scene is one of permanence. A lot happens in the novel. There is pestilence as well. There are several events in the lives of the main characters to keep them away forever. During all the turmoil and the tumble of their lives, they come together at the end, after fifty years of not being together.

There was also a movie made on the novel, also known as Love in the Time of Cholera. You can read about it here: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0484740

You could also read this excellent article in the online literary journal, Medicine and Meaning, journal of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on the novel, Love in the Time of Cholera: https://medicineandmeaning.uams.edu/love-in-the-time-of-cholera/ 

In my mid-twenties, I could think of no other novel on the theme of love in the literatures that I had read across the world. I felt there was nothing better than Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, Love in the Time of Cholera in this context. A year or so later, I discovered the Brazilian literary giant, Jorge Amado’s novel, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands. The passion inherent in Amado’s novel, I found unparalleled, and I find it even now. As the title of the novel, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, indicates Dona Flor can live with both her husbands. One of her husbands is the dashing, swashbuckling husband and the second husband provides her the orderly, social, respectable life. She can have both the husbands. But there is a catch in the situation. Her former husband, the dashing Vadinho, who had also cheated on her, has died, whereas she is now married to Teodoro, who gives her a respectable life. Vadinho’s ghost comes to her and gives her the sexual pleasures, the rush of low life that she desired. On the other hand, Teodoro is respectable, kind, considerate and gives her the order and the stability that she needs. In the middle of these two relationships, we also have descriptions of the cooking school that Dona Flor runs. The story takes place in Bahia and presents a world full of magic and other worldly experiences. The complete love experience that I found then in Jorge Amado’s novel, I had found in no other.

A movie was also made on Jorge Amado’s novel, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands. You can read about the movie here: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077452/

A few years later, I had discovered the Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk. I had his novel, My Name is Red, at my home library before he won the Nobel Prize in 2006. When I got hold of Orhan Pamuk’s novel, The Museum of Innocence, which he says is “a love novel”, I thought I had read nothing to equal a novel like that. In Orhan Pamuk’s novel, The Museum of Innocence, Kemal, a wealthy man, is going to marry Sibel but he falls in love with Fusun, who is not financially well-off. He meets her for the first time when he goes to a shop to buy a bag for the girl, he is going to get married. Fusun is a shop attendant. There is a secretive and intense affair over a few weeks and Fusun also confesses her deep love for Kemal. Kemal had thought he could continue his married relationship with Sibel and continue his secret relationship with Fusun. However, Fusun vanishes suddenly. Kemal is sad, then, he finds that Fusun is married to another person. He establishes contact with her again and she agrees to meet him only a distant cousin. He tries to express love to her in different ways over the next few years, but it doesn’t make any difference to her. While he meets her, he keeps on collecting various things that remind him of her. Later in the novel, Fusun gets divorced but Kemal and Fusun are unable to lead a life together, except a tryst they had. Meanwhile, Kemal has collected various objects related to Fusun and he has built a ‘Museum of Innocence’, an archive that reminds him of different moments with her.

Interestingly, Orhan Pamuk, the author, also built a ‘Museum of Innocence’ in Istanbul. You can see it on Google Arts and Culture website: https://artsandculture.google.com/story/KAVxIqBekvaEKw?hl=en

It’s a beautiful idea and it is true that the novel is also an archive, a museum of daily life. And a lover keeps collecting objects that remind him of his lover. Here is an excellent interview of Orhan Pamuk with Harry Kreisler, “Finding an Authentic Voice” under the series, Conversations with History at The University of California at Berkeley:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkNHdin3An4
In the interview, Pamuk talks about the differences between the East and the West, and he also talks about his novel, The Museum of Innocence, and the “love pain” that a lover feels. That interview is a treat to watch. I’ll take your leave till next week and let you just absorb these different ways in which the emotion of love is expressed in these three novels.

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