Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Serendipitous Cholera

Serendipitous Cholera

I watched the movie Serendipity in Jakarta early last year. It is a romantic comedy about a pleasant chance meeting between two strangers played by Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack which leads to them wondering whether they are really destined for each other.

They decide to test fate by writing down their names and contact numbers--she in a used book, and he on a five-dollar bill before releasing them back into circulation, and see if through some fortunate accident or serendipity, these objects would end up in the opposite party's hands. If they do and they manage to get in touch with each another, then fate does have designs for the both of them.

The used book chosen by Kate Beckinsale's character is one written by Nobel laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez entitled Love in the Time of Cholera. The book is the recurrent motif in the movie: After years of hunting for the book in vain in every used book store in town, it finally ended up serendipitously in John Cusack's hands as a gift from his would-be bride (Bridget Moynahan)!

I read Love in the Time of Cholera ten years ago and it remains one of the most magically touching and humorous love stories I have ever read. It is the story of the undyingly love of one very unlikely hero, Florentino Areza, (who suffers from chronic constipation) for his lifelong obsession, a beautiful girl called Fermina Daza. The consummation of their love only comes more than half a century later, when they are both old and withered. The novel has the usual Marquez touch of light-hearted surrealism minggled with deep emotional pathos. (One Hundred Years of Solitude, his most acclaimed work, is another dazzling read).

This serendipitous encounter of mine with the book again in the movie brought back memories. I first read the paperback version when I was still a student in PJ. Later during a trip to the States I chanced upon a hardcover version of the book while browsing at the Kepler's bookstore in Menlo Park, and promptly bought it. It looks exactly like the one in the movie--a first edition. I still have these two copies back home in Subang Jaya.
"Fermina, I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love." Thus does Florentino Ariza lay bare his heart to Fermina Daza after - by the former's exact count - 51 years, 9 months, and 4 days of yearning.
Hate to admit it, but I can be quite a sucker for romance sometimes.

According to Marquez, the symptoms of love are the same as those of cholera. Reading the book made me felt like I had contracted cholera myself. It left me in a daze for a while. And now, after more than a decade, those symptoms are still there.

No comments: