Monday, October 1, 2012

"A Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemingway

"Papa" Hemingway writing
 I didn't start reading Hemingway until I was in college, which was probably good, as I don't think I was ready for him any earlier than that. I really liked the movie City of Angels (1998), in which Hemingway's memoir A Moveable Feast played a crucial role, so one summer I looked for the book at the local library. They didn't have it, so I got The Sun Also Rises instead. I remember I chose that one because the title comes from the book of Ecclesiastes, my favorite book in the Old Testament.

Ever since, I've been a Hemingway fan. Over the last decade, I've been slowly working my way through his works. It's been a while since I've read any of his novels, so when the book I was hoping to read wasn't in at the library a couple weeks ago, I picked up A Farewell to Arms. I started reading it a couple days after we came home from the birth center, and like most Hemingway, it was a quick read. (I only get a few minutes a day to read right now, so anything I finish in less than a month feels quick these days.)

Hemingway in uniform
A Farewell to Arms, as you may know, was inspired by Hemingway's own experiences during WWI. If you've ever seen the movie In Love and War (1996), you know something about them. Like Hemingway, the protagonist in Farewell is an American driving an ambulance in Italy. Like Hemingway, he gets wounded and falls in love with a nurse while recuperating. Unlike Hemingway, he deserts from the Italian army and runs away with the nurse.

Much has been written, said, and argued about Hemingway's "iceberg theory" of writing -- he tried to record the outward motions of his characters and let most of the emotions ride below the surface, unwritten yet tangible. It's a style that I dig, but not everyone does. Still, if you've never read him and would like to, Farewell is a good place to start, as it's more accessible than The Old Man and the Sea, more engaging than The Sun Also Rises, but not as long as For Whom the Bell Tolls.

(Originally posted on The Huggermugger Blog on Mar. 11, 2010.)

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