Friday, 29 October 2010

Juvenal Urbino's hat

Two things happened at the beginning of last week. First, I visited the library and reacquired two books that I'd borrowed but not finished earlier in the year. Secondly, fresh in the realisation that last week's wedding (which merits its own post) was to be held on a Queensland beach in a Queensland summer, I resolved to buy a hat.

Hats are back, or so the story goes, and I was fortunate to have a friend who I knew had bought a hat not that long ago, so I leant on him to give me a lead on where I might find a hat that could be worn with a suit. He supplied me with such, and on the Wednesday I swung by said vendor, knowing that my unrefined requirements would be insufficient but hoping for the grace of a helpful salesman. I found one, who directed me not towards the trilbies and fedoras that I expected, but towards a bewildering range of panamas. After a lengthy discussion of the why, which and how much of his selection, I walked away with a black-banded white number, which time would paint as either dapper-cool, or gangster-pretentious.

So what on earth does all this have to do with books? Well, one of the neglected-but-revisited borrowings from earlier in the year was Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera. The story, vividly painted by presumably both the author and his very adept translator, is set on the Caribbean coast of Colombia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Its three characters are Dr Juvenal Urbino, a very civilised and socially elevated type, Florentino Ariza, a socially awkward romantic who flickers between unrequited love and wild promiscuity, and Fermina Daza, a sketchily drawn parvenue who is pursued by Ariza as a girl, but finds social respectability by marrying Urbino.

As far as the story itself goes, I could take it or leave it. What I did like was the romantic combination of the place and time, which came through so vividly for me. This was most true, I think, in the early part of the book, with Dr Urbino tripping around the city dressed up to the nines with his suits and carriage. And, in my mind anyway, in his hat. My hat. Whenever I get dressed up and wear it, I shall think of myself of Juvenal Urbino. At some point, I may get myself a cane. Of course, he's also a devout catholic who dies falling out of a mango tree, but we get to pick and choose what we like in a character.

Talking with friends, its probable that the book has, in the relationships between its central characters, symbolism for the nature of love in changing times, with Florentino the romantic impractical and Urbino the stable and practical, but I really didn't feel the need to break down the prose to extract drier meaning. I focussed on hats.

1 comment:

Keith Duddy said...

I want pictures of you on beach with hat!