Love and Death are the main primary obsessions of human society. Being emotional beings, love and affection forms the basis of our interaction with other people. Death being inevitable truth and end of every life form, it preoccupies our conscious and sub conscious thought process. Life, emotions and inevitable Death have been forever recurring themes of literature, poetry, music, art and films too. Human being is both condemned to love and die.
Some authors have found similarities between love and death and have offered a rare noir magical insight. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s recurring theme in his novels and short stories is about protagonists waiting for death and love. In his ‘Memories of My Melancholy Whores’ grand old man on his ninetieth birthday seeks out a virgin, ends up empathizing with her and observing her sleep after a long tiring day and only in the end when he realizes his feelings, he decides to seek her warmth for rest of his remaining little life. At one time he is told that he is a fool to let go someone he really has started to love because, “There is no greater misfortune than dying alone”.
In yet another tale, ‘Maria dos Prazeres’ the theme of love and death reoccurs. Here a seventy year old whore sees a dream and interprets it as warning of her Death. She marks and buys a place for her grave. She trains her little dog to find the grave and even cry, so that someone will visit her after she is dead. But when she meets a young man she realizes all her dreams were not about death but about something more dreadful than death. Love indeed can be more dreadful simply because one has to endure the storm while being alive. Death is painless end compared to pains which emotions can inflict.
Marquez’s another masterpiece is the novel ‘Love at the Time of Cholera” where three main characters explore all possible realms of love, lust and relationships. The main protagonist suffers in love for years. Love almost becomes a disease like cholera. The book ends metaphorically on the similar but positive note.
Pablo Neruda, greatest Chilean poet too has recurring themes of love and death in his poems. In fact in his famous poem ‘Tonight I can write the Saddest lines’ he explores love, absence of love and continuity of love and life. Making it very clear that human mind will seek and find love even after end of one phase of love. The continuity is similar to the circle of life and death. The dark truth is that life continues after the end, it could be end of love or actual death. Intense emotions do fade. Everything is truly transient. But the moments and memories are true.
While magic realism and other Latin American movements explored themes of death and love, there is a unique bridge that connects these masterpieces to an unlikely destination: Alternative Music. Radiohead for long have discussed themes related to love and death. Street Spirit for example can be interpreted as a song that is a defiant take on fading completely from the memories of people. Yet, the singer craves for love and before fading out seeks to understand a world that is rather unforgiving. Death usually is Love’s greatest enemy, for the death of a lover immediately puts an end to the love and leaves a void. This void continues to haunt the loved person, perhaps for an eternity.
Another musician who is deeply connected to the themes of death and love is PJ Harvey. She takes the listener on a journey where death lurks around every corner, waiting to consume innocent love which is rather elusive. Bertolt Brechtand composer Kurt Weill wrote a song “The Ballad of the Soldier’s Wife” which is a testimony to a dead man’s love and the widowed wife’s harrowing ode. Millions of loving relationships and bonds have come to an end as a result of wars and battles.
Perhaps, death really has a way with people, and death could just be the ultimate enemy of love. While it is difficult to understand a paradox, and the mechanism behind love and death, the ones that are left behind need to live with the agony of facing the void. This void is expressed through words, films, music and paintings. While love and death are strange bed fellows, art connects these two contradicting themes in a brutal fashion.