Skip to comments.Hemingway's Achievement
Posted on 07/03/2011 3:32:15 PM PDT by Borges
Ernest Hemingway died by his own hand almost 50 years ago, on July 2, 1961. His fame rests on his evocative stories crafted in spare prose, his tragic romances of love and death, his vivid war reporting and his travel books. He was an uneven author, but wrote at least one great work in every decade of his career. His description of the Greek refugees retreating after a Turkish victory"Minarets stuck up in the rain out of Adrianople across the mud flats"appeared in his first and best book of stories, "In Our Time" (1925). The novelist Ford Madox Ford praised the perfection of Hemingway's pure, skeptical and stoical style by observing, "his pages have the effect of a brook-bottom into which you look down through the flowing water."
"The Sun Also Rises" (1926), published during the Prohibition era in the U.S., portrayed the self-destructive life of U.S. expatriates in France and Spain as personified by Jake Barnes, rendered impotent by a war wound. Jake's hopeless love for Brett Ashley, a promiscuous and exciting English aristocrat, provides the core of the novel. But his tragedy is assuaged by the beauty of the natural landscape, which "abideth forever," and by the hope of a new and more promising generation.
"A Farewell to Arms" (1929) develops the brilliant opening sentence of "In Another Country" (1927): "In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more." Hemingway portrays his bitter disillusionment in the wounding of Frederic Henry, the retreat from Caporetto, the arduous escape by rowboat into Switzerland and the death of Catherine Barkley in childbirth.
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
I’ve read Meyers’ biography of Hemingway and I did my master’s thesis on Sun Also Rises, and the depth of Hemingway and his stylistic foil Faulkner continue to make a mockery of much of their contemporaries.
And it all started with a woman named Duff Twysden.
I once read an account of when Zelda, along with F. Scott Fitzgerald first met Hemingway. Fitzgerald and Hemingway were already friends.
After a while, Zelda told F. Scott that Hemingway was a phony. Then Hemingway whispered to Fitzgerald that Zelda was insane. The writer said “both of them were probably correct”.
He was a great writer. I have read and re-read his books and they are always rewarding. Faulkner? Not so much. Faulkner’s characters never *do* much, they are enmeshed in their imposed Freudian snares and one becomes impatient with them.
Hemingway was the last of the literary writers whose characters acted, did stuff, made things happen.
Did Hemingway consider himself a "literary" writer?
I don’t read him much, but when I do I feel almost drunk because so often he mentions alcohol.
>>He was a great writer. I have read and re-read his books and they are always rewarding. Faulkner? Not so much. Faulkners characters never *do* much, they are enmeshed in their imposed Freudian snares and one becomes impatient with them.
Well, many people have difficulty with understanding Faulkner, so that is understandable. I would say that Hemingway was less important of an author, simply because Faulkner outwrote by about 4 times the amount of novels, created his own allegorical county, and experimented with narrative in a way that Hemingway never even attempted.
Hemingway’s one grace is that there is so much meaning hidden in his stories, but the narration really never changes much. If you look at a story like “Sound and the Fury” or “As I Lay Dying,” the story is cut into pieces that the reader has to assemble.
Then again, in “Sun Also Rises” the characters really don’t do anything except circle Brett Ashley, drink, and attack one another - Faulkner’s characters do way more than that.
To be a great writer, you can’t just write men. You have to be able to write “real” women, too.
I think the real-life E.H. didn’t like women much. That point might be arguable. But he sure couldn’t write them.
And it all started with a woman named Duff Twysden.I think there would have been a successful Hemingway without Duff Twysden. There was "In Our Time" (1925) before "The Sun Also Rises" (1926).
He was going to be a "great" (everyone forever will argue the use/merit/applicability of that word) named Ernest Hemingway with or without Duff Twysden.
Yes, Zelda disliked Hemingway and Hemingway disliked Zelda. He eviserates both Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald in “A Moveable Feast” as well as Gertrude and Alice. Despite that, it is a beautiful book (a love letter to his first wife, Hadley) and one of my very favorites.
Fitzgerald disliked Duff Twysden and I must say from her photographs, I don’t get it, either.
PAPA Hard cold days of reality Has surely taken toll on thee You saw the smoke and flash of war You shared your drinks with rich and poor You wrote your books of blood and gore You wrote them on a foreign shore But now you taste the lands of myth Your ticket was a L.C.Smith A double barreled ....no return How can you watch your bridges burn?
I am still very impressed with his style. It is a narration full of perceptions instead of conclusions. He doesn't even say the word "war".
In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.
The plain was rich with crops; there were many orchards of fruit trees and beyond the plain the mountains were brown and bare. There was fighting in the mountains and at night we could see the flashes from the artillery. In the dark it was like summer lightning, but the nights were cool and there was not the feeling of a storm coming.
Sometimes in the dark we heard the troops marching under the window and guns going past pulled by motor-tractors. There was much traffic at night and many mules on the roads with boxes of ammunition on each side of their pack-saddles and gray motor trucks that carried men, and other trucks with loads covered with canvas that moved slower in the traffic. There were big guns too that passed in the day drawn by tractors, the long barrels of the guns covered with green branches and green leafy branches and vines laid over the tractors. To the north we could look across a valley and see a forest of chestnut trees and behind it another mountain on this side of the river. There was fighting for that mountain too, but it was not successful, and in the fall when the rains came the leaves all fell from the chestnut trees and the branches were bare and the trunks black with rain. The vineyards were thin and bare-branched too and all the country wet and brown and dead with the autumn. There were mists over the river and clouds on the mountain and the trucks splashed mud on the road and the troops were muddy and wet in their capes; their rifles were wet and under their capes the two leather cartridge-boxes on the front of the belts, gray leather boxes heavy with the packs of clips of thin, long 6.5 mm. cartridges, bulged forward under the capes so that the men, passing on the road, marched as though they were six months gone with child.
There were small gray motor cars that passed going very fast; usually there was an officer on the seat with the driver and more officers in the back seat. They splashed more mud than the camions even and if one of the officers in the back was very small and sitting between two generals, he himself so small that you could not see his face but only the top of his cap and his narrow back, and if the car went especially fast it was probably the King. He lived in Udine and came out in this way nearly every day to see how things were going, and things went very badly.
At the start of the winter came the permanent rain and with the rain came the cholera. But it was checked and in the end only seven thousand died of it in the army.
Sorry for the long post.
I have to say, though, I have problems with Fitzgerald, who I believe was the consummate puke-rich-boy-leftist-looking-down-his-nose-at-the-middle-class-little-people.
Of course, Hemingway was into “socialist realism”. See the end of For Whom The Bell Tolls.
Thank you for the post as EH is perhaps my favorite author. I must say, however, that I do not find Myers article empathetic or particularly enlightening. A great book on Heminway is Rose Marie Burwell’s book about his Posthumous (post war) novels. A very different picture of EH emerges. I actually happen to favor his later novels.
>>He was going to be a “great” (everyone forever will argue the use/merit/applicability of that word) named Ernest Hemingway with or without Duff Twysden.
I’m not sure. “In Our Time” was more of a cleverly put together collection of short stories. He didn’t write a cohesive novel until “Sun Also Rises” and was also a little intimidated that he was surrounded by a bunch of published novelists that praised his talent, yet he had never written a novel.
It was Duff and her rejection of him sexually (mostly because of Hadley) and her infatuation with the bullfight that got him to seriously sit down and crank out thousands of words per day. After a few suggestions from F.S. Fitz and Scribner’s, he had a really well written novel. After that he didn’t need any validation.
“Death in the Afternoon” is my favorite.
Fitzgerald was almost completely apolitical. I don’t know where you get the left wing stuff. Really silly. He was attacked in Hollywood in the 1930s because of his lack of political interest.
He was hardly rich as a youth. That is the whole point of his writings and life: he admired, hated and longed to be a part of the wealthy elite. He always felt he was outside looking in. He became quite wealthy through incredibly hard work but blew it all on booze, high living and institutions for his invalid wife.
Hemingway was far more political, far more left-wing than FSF ever was.
Maybe you should actually try reading something he wrote. You’re probably basing your opinions about him by movies made from his books in the 70s. Don’t trust that.
In my opinion, Hemingway was:
The definitive American writer of the 20th century.
A piece of shit as a husband, father, and friend.
Exceptionally courageous, but a coward in the end (suicide).
A great, big, conflicted, imperfect, tortured, asshole of a genius.