Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 617

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When Love in the Time of Cholera first appeared in 1985, it was an immediate success and won wide critical acclaim. Translated into English in 1988, it was a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club in the United States and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for many weeks. Garcia Marquez also received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction in 1988 for Love in the Time of Cholera. Critics noted the many varieties of love depicted in the novel. Jean Franco in The Nation stated that the novel "is not only about the past but also about the anachronistic life forms that still survive in the ruins left by nineteenth-century progress. In this respect, the novel shares in the fin de siecle ['end of century'] mood of much contemporary Latin American writing." In relating both the story of Fermina Daza's marriage and her later courtship, S. M. J. Minta of the Times Literary Supplement stated that it was a "novel about commitment and fidelity under circumstances which seem to render such virtues absurd."

Some observers claimed that Garcia Marquez was unconvincing in his portrayal of romantic love. As Angela Carter remarked in the Washington Post Book World, the novel "seems to deal more with libido and self-deceit than with desire and mortality." Yet critic Michael Wood in the New York Review of Books wrote that "love is a disease in this book, and this is a romantic novel; but the disease is one of the self-deluding, stubborn will, a fruit of mythology and obstinacy rather than any fate beyond ourselves." He goes on to say that the novel, "like Garcia Marquez's other novels, is an exploration of destiny but of this kind of destiny the kind we invent and displace and fear and desperately live up to or die for."

Countering criticisms that the work was over-emotional, S M. J. Minta claimed that "the triumph of the novel is that it uncovers the massive, submerged strength of the popular, the cliched and the sentimental." Author Thomas Pynchon, writing in the New York Times Book Review, commented that "The Garcimarquesian voice we have come to recognize from the other fiction has matured, found and developed new resources." He concluded by saying, "There is nothing I have read quite like [the] astonishing final chapter," and called Love in the Time of Cholera a "shining and heartbreaking novel." Paul Bailey of The Listener said that the novel is Garcia Marquez's most "deeply considered and satisfyingly ambitious novel—the best, in my view, that Marquez has written." According to Mona Simpson in the London Review of Books, the novel "has brought a new depth to the meaning of the word 'magic.'" She continues, "This is not a story of boy meets girl, boy gets her back. Garcia Marquez, as ever, remains stubbornly committed to the voice of the community: individual happiness is not considered an absolute good."

Later critics generally, continue to extol the virtues of the work, even while pointing out some of its shortcomings. Gene H. Bell-Villada, in Garcia Marquez: The Man and His Work, states that "it is perhaps no paradox that Love is Garcia Marquez's most joyous book—and also his least disciplined or rigorous. Yet it is a novel that stays in the mind, producing a deep and lasting glow of satisfaction after being read, and the outer chapters are as beautiful and artful as anything ever fashioned by the author." Michael Bell, in Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Solitude and Solitary, comments that the novel is Garcia Marquez's "most striking attempt to square the circle, to write a genuinely popular and accessible romance while maintaining, if only to challenge, the sophistication of a high modernist consciousness."

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