So I recently started G. G. Marquez's autobiography, or at least the first
installment (I believe it comes in two parts), and I cannot help but be a little
disturbed by some of the connections I have been making between his life and his
writing. I was pleased to discover that Marquez based the story in my favorite
novel, Love in The Time of Cholera, was based on the story of his parents and their struggles to be together. Clearly his mother is embodied in Fermina Daza, and clearly his father takes the form of Florentino Ariza; who, however, did Marquez use as a mold when writing Dr. Juvenal Urbino? This had been a mystery to me until I started reading the stories within his autobiography. Consider this anecdote from his youth:
"My grandfather's world was quite different. Even in his final years he seemed
very agile when he walked around with his toolbox making repairs to the house.
Or when he made water for the bath come up by spending hours at the manual pump in the backyard, or when he climbed tall ladders to see how much water was in the water barrels [...] It was a miracle he did not die one morning when he tried to catch the shortsighted parrot, who had climbed as high as the water barrels" (79).
This just also happens to be the manner in which Dr. Urbino perishes one hot summer afternoon. Trying to recapture a parrot that has escaped its cage and climbed onto a tree, Dr. Urbino takes a fatal fall, living only long enough to tell Fermina how much he loved her.
Now consider this next quote, in which a young Marquez is forced to visit the scene of a suicide by his grandfather:
"The first thing that shook me when I came in was the smell in the bedroom. I
learned only much later that it was the almond smell of the cyanide that the
Belgian had inhaled in order to die. But not that or any other impression would
be more intense and long-lasting than the sight of the corpse when the mayor
moved the blanket aside to show him to my grandfather" (92).
The opening line of Love in the Time of Cholera introducing Dr. Juvenal Urbino:
"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate
of unrequited love."
You may, as I have, start to suspect that Dr. Juvenal Urbino is based largely on Marquez's grandfather. Now the question is: why? Is it a coincidence, not really intended, merely got at because Marquez always thought his grandfather would make an interesting character? Or maybe its allegorical of some freudian Oedipus-like complex? Or maybe there is something more there; perhaps a secret love affair between his mother and his grandfather, some sort of innapropriate connection between a father and a daughter?