Great Book: The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway: voice of the 'Lost Generation', war hero, legendary drunkard, and dead ringer for Saddam Hussein.

Check it out:

No? Just my imagination? Never mind then.

It's hard for me to grab hold of Hemingway. He had such a tremendous influence on American writing of the past hundred years. It's like trying to see air.

The language is spare, almost skeletal in places. Non-descriptive and loaded with details at the same time.

The Sun Also Rises is about Jake, who suffered an unfortunate injury during World War I, and a bunch of expats that he hangs out with in Paris and other places.

Jake is unhappy because he is in love with a woman who sleeps with other men, and he can't do anything about it. Jake heads off on a fishing trip with one of his buddies, and finds some healing; then he gets dragged off to Pamplona for the bull fights with a group of soap opera characters straight out of sophomore year in college. It would be ridiculous if they weren't so real.

Brett, the lady love, is incapable of having a happy relationship and knows it. She sleeps around, attempting to convince herself she's having a good time, but each affairs ends with a crash and a bang and more unhappiness. Her fiance is a drunken bankrupt who uses alcohol and bad manners to disguise his anger at her infidelity. Her erstwhile lover Richard Kohn is a possessive lout and a bully. She collars a nineteen-year-old bullfighter, but he wants to turn her into a Spaniard.

Meanwhile Jake puts the sex drive he hasn't got into being an aficionado of the bull fights, but betrays even that when he faciliates Brett's seduction of the pure, innocent, graceful Romero.

Everyone in the book seems so injured I had to wonder whether this is commentary about the effect of the war on the survivors. And then the last sentence pulled it all together for me in a wonderful way. A real 'Aha!' moment.

"Oh, Jake," Brett said," we could have had such a damned good time together."
"Yes," I said, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

Jake's injury is really just an excuse for both of them to avoid putting their emotions to the test. What about the [sychological inflicted by the war that have caused all the disabilities and disfunction they are immersed in? Is that trauma also an 'explanation' for flaws that would have existed anyhow, a crutch and excuse for self-crippling behavior that's rooted more deeply?


SAND STORM said...

I agree with your take on it, good review.

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