The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

the sun also risesMasculinity, machismo and matadors…

 

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

When I started looking for the Great American Novel, I expected to be inundated with people telling me I must read Hemingway. Oddly, rather the reverse happened – the general consensus seemed to be I should skip him. So obviously I grabbed the first chance I could to find out why…

Written in 1926, Hemingway’s characters are part of the ‘lost generation’ – those young people so emotionally damaged by WW1 that they are left drifting and purposeless, leading lives of dissolute recklessness. We first meet our narrator, Jake Barnes, in Paris, where he works as a journalist. Jake and Lady Brett Ashley love one another, but Jake has been left impotent by a war injury, and Brett is not the kind of woman who could be happy in a relationship that didn’t offer her sexual fulfilment. So Brett embarks on a string of sexual adventures, usually with friends of Jake’s, while Jake drinks. And drinks. And drinks. Actually, so does Brett. And by about a third of the way through the book, I was toying with the idea of knocking back three bottles of wine, a couple of brandies, and an absinthe or two myself. (But then the ‘lost generation’ usually has that effect on me – privileged, feckless wasters living off Daddy’s money, and blaming their dissipated lifestyles on the war. Poor ex-soldiers, of course, just had to go home, get a job and get on with things – they couldn’t afford to get ‘lost’ in Paris or Spain. Poverty is such a great sat-nav.)

“This is a good place,” he said.
“There’s a lot of liquor,” I agreed.

When Paris begins to run low on alcohol, Jake and a loose group of friends and acquaintances, including Brett and her fiancé, make their way to Pamplona in Spain for the annual bull-fighting fiesta. There is a lot of alcohol available in Spain, of all different kinds, and this, together with the fact that every man in the party has either slept with Brett or wants to, leads to lots of macho posturing – not unlike the more formalised posturing that takes place between the matador and the bull. Surprisingly enough, Lady Brett seems to quite like matadors…

Painting by Miki de Goodaboom www.artmajeur.com
Painting by Miki de Goodaboom
http://www.artmajeur.com

Hemingway’s writing style is an odd mix of sometimes overly simplistic prose with occasional passages of real beauty. Some of the dialogue is mind-numbingly trite – repetitive and dull – and he gets fixated on details from time to time, like how much a bottle of wine cost or what each person ate. I tired very quickly of the endless descriptions of binge-drinking and drunken quarrelling. But some of the descriptions are excellent – the dusty journey to Pamplona, the passengers met by chance en route all merge to become a strikingly vivid picture of a particular place and time. As they all sit around drinking in Pamplona, I felt I could see the various cafés and bars clearly, almost smell them. The interactions between the ex-pats and the natives are brilliantly portrayed, particularly the growing disapproval from the real aficionados when Brett’s behaviour begins to threaten the traditions of the bullfight. And as for the arena itself, I found I was unexpectedly fascinated by his depiction of the rituals around the running of the bulls and the bullfighting.

The bull who killed Vicente Gironés was named Bocanegra, was Number 118 of the bull-breeding establishment of Sanchez Taberno, and was killed by Pedro Romero as the third bull of that same afternoon. His ear was cut by popular acclamation and given to Pedro Romero, who, in turn, gave it to Brett, who wrapped it in a handkerchief belonging to myself, and left both ear and handkerchief, along with a number of Muratti cigarette-stubs, shoved far back in the drawer of the bed-table that stood beside her bed in the Hotel Montoya, in Pamplona.

Ernest Hemingway with friends (and alcohol), during the July 1925 trip to Spain that inspired The Sun Also Rises
Ernest Hemingway with friends (and alcohol), during the July 1925 trip to Spain that inspired The Sun Also Rises

The same patchiness applies to the characterisation. I’m not at all sure what he was trying to achieve with Lady Brett’s character – but I’m pretty sure he didn’t achieve it. She didn’t come over as a real person to me at all. Her permanent drunkenness and ridiculously promiscuous behaviour may have made many men want to sleep with her, but the idea that they all fell in love with her was a stretch too far. I felt as if she was a puppet rather than a character, her behaviour merely a device to provide reasons for strains and tensions to develop amongst the group of men.

I’m sure screeds have been written about the blatant anti-Semitism in the book and I must say I wasn’t overwhelmingly thrilled by his stereotyping of his Scottish character either. But honestly both characterisations seemed to me more like lazy regurgitations of racial caricatures than any kind of active racism, and it was the 1920s, so no doubt they seem more shocking to us now than they would have been then. In fact, I wasn’t at all sure that he wasn’t attempting to gently ridicule the prevailing anti-Semitism of his time – but if that was his intention, by leaving it ambiguous, again I feel he failed.

Painting credited to 'Matador Painter'
Painting credited to ‘Matador Painter’

However, I feel we get to know Jake well and some of the others come over as fairly well-rounded. There is a good deal of subtlety in the way he slowly reveals Jake to us as the most resilient of them all – the one who is physically damaged, but with the most emotional strength in the end. The whole ‘there’s more than one way to be masculine’ message may seem obvious in retrospect but it’s actually fed through in a gradual and almost understated way, and I felt I only really saw what Hemingway was doing as I looked back at the book after finishing.

Everything was fresh and cool and damp in the early morning. Nurses in uniform and in peasant costume walked under the trees with children. The Spanish children were beautiful. Some bootlblacks sat together under a tree talking to a soldier. The soldier had only one arm. The tide was in and there was a good breeze and a surf on the beach.

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway

I’m going to confess that in the end the book impressed me considerably more than I expected. Despite my many criticisms, I found it an absorbing read that drew me into the world Hemingway was describing and made it a believable one; and my appreciation for it actually grew in the few days after I had finished reading it. I feel that it needs to be approached like an impressionist painting – when you’re close enough to see the detail it all looks a bit messy and it’s hard to make out the picture. But stand back a bit and the details recede – the constant descriptions of drunkenness, the repetitiveness, the banality of the dialogue – and the picture that emerges of a damaged man metaphorically rising from the ashes through a kind of examination of maleness is really quite compelling after all.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Scribner.

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51 thoughts on “The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

  1. You have summed up most of what I feel about Hemmingway – glad I read him when I was young enough glide over what makes him hard going to an adult, but not really inspired to reread him. Though I must confess that “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was my favourite American novel until I was in my late teens. To quote the Prof., a stellar review!

    • Thank you, BUS! I really expected to dislike it so the fact that he sucked me in despite my resistance was pretty impressive. I may have to add ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ to the list…

  2. Whoo–oo Hemingway! Way to go. Yes, he makes some of it
    “boring, oppressive, obnoxious” because that life *was* boring,
    oppressive, obnoxious. Great one to check off those good-
    reading lists! Loved your review.

      • As far as his novels go, The Sun Also Rises is my fav Ernesto one. It got the big treatment in my modern american lit classes at Berkeley in the late 60s. It is a novel that begins the great work of the 20th century, namely defining how we went astray. Or in the terms of the novel, how the lost gen crowd got lost. I do disagree with the reviewer about Brett, for me she is one of the most vivid women in literature. As for the anti-semitic motif, I always thought Robert Cohn was a jerk because he was a jerk, not because he happened to be Jewish. I didn’t make much of that myself, maybe I needed to but I didn’t. Another book I enjoyed is the bullfight one, Death in the Afternoon. I was a real aficionado of the bullfight at the time, it’s non-fiction but still wonderfully written.
        For me though, I think Hemingway really comes alive in the short stories. I read them all the time for their clean lines. One of my profs said, Hemingway brought the body into modern fiction. Probably true, though I would add D.H. Lawrence too, albeit from a more philosophical pov. Hemingway’s service in the war probably helped developed those insights. I’d start with the odious man-woman-gone-south story, The Short Happy Life of Francis McComber. Hemingway for me is not all that wrapped up in male testosterone/bullfighting/war stuff, a lot of his writing is wrestling out how men and women are together. Has to be one of the nastier marriage tales out there.

        I wish you guys would take up The Garden of Eden….for me this becomes the most enigmatic of his novels, because the subject matter is so extremely unexpected. From war and hunting and manly men to…..a women’s confusing sexual identity? Lord have mercy! Amazing what Hem had on his brain at the end of his life!

        • I still haven’t got around to reading any of his other books yet – For Whom the Bell Tolls is next up, but I have no idea when I’ll actually get to it. Thanks for the recommendations – I’ll bear them in mind for after For Whom…

          It’s just me, by the way – I’m the sole reviewer on the blog, and it’s just an amateur site where I express my own opinions of the books I read rather than doing any kind of serious analysis… 🙂

  3. It is a Stellar Review, for sure! When FEF is thrilled with a book, no one can write a more engaging or interesting review! I must admit, the bull fighting is definitely of interest. From what you said, the characters maybe remind me of the characters from The Great Gatsby. Is that terribly off?

    I loved the part when you said, “And drinks. And drinks…” *laughs* A little ripio there! Sort of. It makes this professor want to slap the characters and have them wake up from their dream-like state of mind!

    The author looks so severe.

    • Woohoohoo! Two stellars – and yours has Capital Letters. Thank you, C-W-W! Indeedy-deed re Gatsby – very perceptive! In fact, at one point my review made that comparison, but it was getting to the stage where the review was longer than the book, so it had to go. But yes, the characters were very like Tom and Daisy, but there was no Gatsby equivalent. I think you’d like the stuff about the bullfighting…

      *laughing lots* Sometimes we do think alike – ‘cos I really wanted to slap them too!

      I think he’s a bit lovely…

      • *smiles bigly* You noticed that! A wonder. Oh, it wasn’t that long! (Personally, I wouldn’t mind if you’d kept that in. Your reviews are better reads than most of the books I read! *laughs*)

        Yes, Gatsby was my favorite. A pity he wasn’t included. *smiles proudly*

        Yes! And bang them over the head!

        You do not! Do you? You can’t!!!!

        • Of course! And I think that’s the first time I’ve had capitals… *preens proudly* Haha! I think most of my readers were probably begging for it to stop after about paragraph 2! (Awwww! Thanks, C-W-W! *wonders what a blushing Woola would look like* But I think maybe we should try to get you reading better books…)

          Indeed – and I think that’s probably why I thought this was a very good book but Gatsby was a great one – there needs to be at least one character you’re really rooting for.

          I do! Dark hair, lovely intense eyes, beautifully strong eyebrows – if I was photoshopping him I’d maybe reduce the width of his jaw just a touch, give him a more modern hairdo and perhaps just the hint of a wicked smile and he’d fall pretty much into ‘perfect man’ category. Don’t you agree?

          • It is, too, I think. Plus Bus loved it lots! Nah! I’m sure everyone loved it. (I bet he turns purple. You sure you don’t want to write–at all?)

            Yes, I agree. Even if it’s a Thark, like me.

            I do not, dadblameit! Don’t you like lighter hair better?

            • (Hmm…not sure that would be a good look…but maybe it would be cute. Write what? A book? Haha! I must admit the idea of poor C-W-W feeling forced to read it is a great temptation to my gnomish side… perhaps I should write one all about romance and dancing with a Darby-esque hero…)

              Tchah! Look, you can’t be a Thark – I’m sorry, but it’s not possible! Think how silly I’d feel dancing the cotillion with a 14-ft green partner with four arms…

              I think you know me well enough to know I’m not too pernickety in my tastes! *vinks vickedly* But Darby, Rafa, Georgie (pre-grey days) – what makes you think I prefer lighter hair?

            • Well, as long as the Darby hero fights, swears, smokes, and is mean to the ladies, I’m fine with that!

              *triumphant laugh* And that’s the very reason why we can’t dance!

              *laughs* Persnickety, you mean! That’s true…I can’t think of one of your…friends without dark hair!

            • *laughing lots* I’ll see what I can do, and I’ll try to keep it to under 800 pages…

              Good try, sir! But if necessary I shall wear very, very, very high heels!!

              HahahaHA!! I cannot believe that you quirky Americans have added an ‘s’ into pernickety!! And yet it would seem you have!! Why?? You just have to be different, don’t you…

            • I wouldn’t mind a long FEF book! I like long books…really, I think I do.

              There’s no heels that high! No one wears heels anymore!

              Hmm! I can’t imagine saying it without an ‘s’. You sure you’re not the ones who took it out?

            • Then I shall start writing immediately – say, a thousand words a day – should be able to let you have the first 150,000 words by Christmas…hopefully I’ll have thought of a plot by then! Yes, you must like long books – that’s why you can’t bear to give up on BH!

              I didn’t know you did fashion advice! You should do a column on that on PL Reporter! Perhaps you could advise me on what’s new in ballgowns this season?

              Quite sure! Just another example of colonial rebellion, if you ask me…

            • *laughing lots* Wow! You’ll be…impressive if you can write that much! 150k? *gulps* I might drown. Perhaps you should break it down a bit? Yes, I’m still reading BH. *proud smile* I bet BUS is proud of me!

              Well, ladies are going without ball gowns. They’re out of style, I hear.

              But, can you rebel when there’s nothing to rebel against?

            • Well, to make it easier I’ll send you a chapter a week – the first chapter is entitled ‘Dancing the cotillion’. What would you like for chapter 2? You are? I bet she is! And so’s FF…

              *shocked face* Whaaaat??? Why, that’s…well…I’m flabbergasted!!

              Ooh-er! That’s a bit mean…about England. I like it! *chuckles rebelliously*

            • How about, “Death by the Cotillion”. I think that would be a splendid follow up chapter, don’t you? I am! *smiles proudly* Oh, that makes me so happy.

              Yes, I fear dresses have gone out. Just pants and a t-shirt are in now.

              *laughing lots* I’m sorry! It was dreadfully wicked of me.

            • It would! And I was planning just such a thing, but the plot depended on the hero being smothered by the heroine’s ballgown. Just won’t be the same if she’s wearing pants(!) and a t-shirt. So the new chapter heading is Death of Elegance’.

  4. That is one fabulous review o FF and thanks also for the wonderful visuals

    It’s funny, I’m still in re-reading some earlier Graham Greene mode and also keep falling over casual and gut-punching anti-Semitism. It does rather make you see that we have moved some way on as racism as such an unthinking bedrock in literature would I’m sure not go unchallenged today. I’m not saying racism doesn’t exist, but there is more general awareness of it

    • Thanks, m’dear! Aren’t the paintings wonderful? I was going to post pictures of actual bullfights but when I looked at them, I found I simply couldn’t. Hemingway may have made it sound almost like an artform in itself, but i fear that isn’t the story the photos tell. But there are so many paintings inspired by the whole thing…

      Yes, sometimes I can overlook fairly easily, like in this one, and other times, like Kipling, I just can’t. I suspect it’s not the stereotyping that bothers me as the superiority. Kipling always makes it so clear that the white (English) man is better than everyone else. But in this one, Hemingway didn’t have much good to say about any of the races he encountered, except perhaps the Spanish, so I felt that he wasn’t really singling out the Jewish character – it’s just that the holocaust has left us all much more sensitive to anti-jewish comments than, for example, anti-Scots, French, English, American, Martian…

  5. FictionFan – I think you capture Hemingway’s style quite effectively. And I agree that it’s quite hard to take the ‘-isms’ in this novel. Still, If you can stomach those, I think it does show us the thinking of an era and a group of people.The ‘lost generation’ certainly gets a thoughtful treatment here, in my opinion.

    • Thanks, Margot! I was more impressed by it than I anticipated, though more in retrospect than while reading. I think it’s one of those ones where you have to see the end result before you can actually assess the journey…

  6. I had to read ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ for ‘O’Level when I was far too young to encounter Hemingway and as a consequence I have never gone back to him. I have read fiction about him as there has been something of a fashion for writing about his wives recently. Perhaps because they are all told from the woman’s point of view they have left me even less inclined to read his fiction but maybe I should get over that and give at least one of his novels a try.

    • Yes, it’s mainly because of his reputation that I’ve never been able to bring myself to read him before now, but I felt I couldn’t really try to learn more about American fiction without at least sampling Hemingway. And, as you can tell, he managed to overcome my resistance – it was touch and go for a while but he caught me in the end. I might even try another one sometime…

  7. Great review! I’ve been thinking lately that I really should read some Hemingway, I was going to try Farewell to Arms or For Whom the Bell Tolls. I’ve found his macho image off-putting in the past so I’ve never got round to reading his novels. Your review of The Sun Also Rises has helped me understand the conflicting things you hear about Hemingway, so big thanks!

    • Thanks! 🙂 Yes, I’ve always been put off by his image too, and the book is definitely on the macho side of fiction. But I was impressed enough to want to read more so For Whom the Bell Tolls is now on my TBR…hope we both enjoy it!

  8. One of my favorite books of all time. The style (which contribues to the banality of the dialogue I think — such that it “should” seem more important than it is…) I liked. Even though Hemingway seemed a cad, and always felt this particular work reflected his personality, and life, better than anything else. I could never read his other books. But I loved this one.

    • Really? Though I can see why – definitely made a much bigger impression on me than I was expecting. I prefer the lusher, more poetically crafted style of Gatsby, for example, but I did like the way Hemingway could show something significant with just a word or two – half a sentence. I do try not to be influenced by a writer’s life, when I can, because I suspect I’d hate most of them if I knew much about them, but I admit that’s what’s put me off reading Hemigway before now! I think I’ll probably read For Whom the Bell Tolls sometime…

  9. Yes, I don’t like M&Ms and when you added that third M, it sent it into the realm of really don’t like. I have read some of this book and could not get past all of the “imperfections” you highlight. They are not interesting imperfections unless you’re using them psychoanalyze the author. And it really doesn’t take long to do that. I decided long ago that Hemingway just wasn’t for me.

    • Yes, I can understand that – for a good long time I was snorting and grumbling and thinking about chucking it in. And then somehow he got to me – I think it was the journey to Pamplona and the peasants drinking from the wineskins and the dust. And then the bullfighting, which I was totally expecting to hate, but ended up rather admiring his restraint in the telling of it and concentration on the rituals rather than the bloodiness. I developed an appreciation for this one book, but I’m still not sure whether I appreciate him as a writer (if that makes any sense). So looks like I’ll have to read another…

  10. Very interesting! My Mom and I have been having an extended conversation about Hemingway for several months now. I haven’t been able to get any closure…. I left my copy of “Farewell to Arms” at the doctor’s office!!! 😦

  11. Another brilliant review. I’ve never felt the need to read Hemingway having distaste for his character. I have to admit that I do like books where you get more on reflection than you do when reading the book and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    • Thanks, Cleo! Yes, that’s what’s always put me off too, but I’m glad the GAN quest thing made me decide to take a chance. Still don’t know if I’m a Hemingway ‘fan’ exactly – but I’ll probably try another one…

    • Thanks! Yes, the book was very much of its time, but I found that he managed to draw me in to it anyway. Outdated attitudes are always a problem in ‘classics’, I suppose. 🙂

  12. I was leafing through your selections of the best books you had read in the last year, and I was pleased to see that you listed this one. This is one of my favorite American novels. Now, I have not read it in a while, so I do not have the precise recall that I would like to have to comment on it. But I do remember its essence quite well.

    The problem with the anti-semitism here is that it is deeper than say, Fitzgerald’s stereotype of Meyer Wolfsheim in “Gatsby.” Robert Cohn is simply “not one of them.” He lacks the macho code, or perhaps what Hemingway called “grace.” He is a fine boxer, but he is a bully in that regard; he keeps knocking the bullfighter down, but the bullfighter (who has grace, in Hemingway’s perception), keeps getting up; so that while Cohn wins the fight, he ultimately loses. Cohn sleeps with Brett Ashley, like the rest of them, but he handles it gracelessly, being jealous and pushy. So he is contrasted with the other characters, who while not admirable, have a certain code, a way to act, which Cohn is shown not to have. Now, I will say that some feel that Cohn is simply portrayed by Hemingway as an outsider, and that he has sympathy for the character. I don’t get that sense, but it is a possilble way to look at it. Putting all of that aside for the moment this still is a a great novel.

    I think that whatever one ultimately thinks of Hemingway as a writer, all of his best attributes are exhibited in his book. His prose style, often criticized or parodied later on, is perfect for the story he wants to tell. There is a sense of numbness in this book; an almost deliberate attempt by the characters not to feel, lest they be overcome by the sense of horror that they experienced firsthand in WWI. Now they feel that they cannot go home. They know that they cannot really make the Old World their own. So they go through the days; trying to appreciate fleeting moments of beauty in nature; they fish; they see the bulls run; they drink. All of this serves as a brief anodyne for pain, and to ward off an existential, perhaps suicidal, despair. So the terse, declarative prose well expresses the essence of the characters, and the way they are going through life. One step at at time; on and on; enjoy what you can; don’t expect much of anythng beyond that.

    Jake is of course both literally and figuratively impotent. He basically acts as almost a pimp for Brett Ashley; he feels that it is the best he can do for her under the circumstances. But he despises himself for it, and he hates her for it as well. But he trudges on. What I liked was that the scenes where Jake and his friend Bill seemed to enjoy themselves for brief periods, as when viewing nature or fishing, had this relentless undercurrent of hopelessness. You try to behave in a manly way; you follow the “code,” but you know that you are just filling time; that something vital in you was destroyed by the war experience. That is the pervasive feeling I had when reading this book; and it was very effectively rendered. And the last line of the book is unforgettable.

    This book has unfortunately lost some lustre with the years, which is a shame. I think that some of the writers whose stars have perhaps risen in contrast, never wrote a book nearly as good as this one, maybe because they lacked the subject matter or the period to give it power. Or maybe they did not have Hemingway’s early ability. RIchard Ford, Cormac McCarthy (I noted that you gave one of his books a high mark as well; I have only read one of his, “Blood Meridian,” and while I found it poetric, I also found it tedious, absent much of a plot, and ostentatiously grim and lurid), Raymond Carver, never evoked the indelible effect of “The Sun Also Rises.” I was gratified and impressed that you not only chose to read this novel, but that you liked it so much.

    • Hmm… I take your point about the anti-semitism, but I feel a little about that word as you do about misogyny – it’s an accusation that gets hurled too easily in my opinion. I was startled in this one to read Hemingway’s stereotyping of Scottishness – not startled that he did it (everyone does), but startled that, while reams are written about his anti-semitism, no-one ever seems to comment on his racial stereotyping of other groups. There’s something, no doubt a hangover from the Holocaust, that makes people focus on anti-semitism as if it’s different from other racial or religious bias – I don’t feel that. I’d prefer to talk about racism in general rather than have special cases that suggest one form of racism is somehow worse than others – or the reverse, that some are more acceptable than others. I myself was accused of anti-semitism for saying that I thought Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery was dire – it appears we have reached the stage where we can’t even criticise someone’s writing without being labelled anti-semitic. I’m still unconvinced that Hemingway’s portrayal of a lot of his characters was anything more than lazy racial stereotyping – hardly admirable, but hardly unique, and of its time.

      I did like the book though, as I said in my review, more in retrospect than while reading. I found much of the writing mind-numbingly banal, interspersed with some passages of beauty. Several people have said yes, but he was trying to show how mind-numbingly banal life was, so I guess that’s how it’s taught in the US. But my personal view has always been that the purpose of literature must be first and foremost to engage the reader – otherwise the message will be lost. This is an argument I have been having since University days – I don’t care if a book is saying something profound – if it’s dull to the point of unreadability it could be explaining the meaning of life and no-one will be listening. This one missed falling over the unreadability cliff for me, but there were places where it teetered perilously close to the edge. However, there were other places where he created images that will stay with me, and managed to say something meaningful about the feckless self-obsessed wasters of the ‘lost’ generation, so overall I forgave him for the tedium of the rest… 😉

  13. I appreciate the efforts you make to reply to posts, even my longer ones! With regard to the anti-semitism issue, the first time I read the book, it did not bother me much; the second time, more so, but I still very much liked the book. I should give you a “touche” with regard to the misogyny comment; it is true that I think that this term pervades current criticism, and is a cheap way to damn or ostracize a work; literally threatening authors who need to earn a living with a real risk if they ever create a negative female character, or show one as more vacuous or aquisitive then the critic might like. But I will admit that since I am not a woman, I obviously see it from a different perspective. People are generally more acutely sensitive to their own identities, as one would surely expect.

    I don’t think that Hemingway’s treatment of his character Robert Cohn is so bad, not when compared to other works. But then maybe I would be letting him off too lightly that way. The unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust were led up to by almost two millennia of relentless anti-semitism in Europe. It didn’t just spring up out of nowhere in 1932. So all of it takes on a darker hue in that context; and it is one of the most important reasons why Jewish people are acutely aware of it. In America, there has certainly been anti-semitism, but in general much less than in Europe. (BTW, did you read Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America?,” which deals with these issues? I guess I could peruse the blog to answer the question. It was a chilling novel, so well rendered. It was the first novel of Roth’s that I ever wanted to read, and I was surprised at how well done, how serious and intelligent it was). I would strongly feel that your critique of Umberto Eco’s work should in no possible way subject you to being called anti-semitic, because I am sure that you are not, nor did your criticism even have anything to do with his religion. I didn’t even know he was Jewish! 🙂 And no one should be subjected to such an attack just because they didn’t like a particular work or author.

    Back to the more significant aspects of “The Sun Also Rises,” I didn’t much like the professor who taught the 20th century novels course, so I didn’t attend the classes, just read the books, took the final, and got the “A.” 🙂 So I don’t know how he taught it. That was my own critical interpretation. I had not read any Hemingway novel to that point, and I was very impressed at how the simple, declarative sentences and unembellished descriptions enhanced the evocation of Jake Barnes going through the days, trying to make what he could of them, or to feel that he was living up to some code which gave his life some value. Now I do not disagree with your general sense of “Lost Generation” self-indulgence. This was the one book which actually made me sympathize with one of them, even a fictional one. I somehow got on the track of buying a dozen or so first-hand or fairly contemporaneous accounts of the scene in Paris in the 1920’s, and there was of course all sorts of posing, and self-indulgence, and artistic pretension among these people. So you are likely correct in your general assessment of them.

    Maybe Hemingway was sort of lucky with this first book; maybe his style just fit the story, or it was fresher then. I thought the style actually enhanced the substance, but I would not have wanted to have read another like it. It is bemusing to me that Raymond Carver gets such raves, when he even outdoes Hemingway in minimalism. I read one of his short story collections, and very much liked one story, “A Small, Good Thing,” which was touching. Most of the rest of them were interminable, even at three pages or so. Recitation of minimal actions, like going to the cupboard, getting a glass, filling the glass with water, sitting back down. People seem to think that this is the greatest thing. Maybe I need to read more of them, I may be missing something–but I seriously do not think so. At least Hemingway is able to imply some greater meaning to the actions he describes.

    • I think it’s the ease with which these terms are used to cover a whole range of issues from minor to major – it devalues them. For me, misogyny and sexism are two very different things. I tend to use the term misogyny when women are there solely as sexual objects for the use or fantasies of men. Here’s one that I would call misogynistic (though I note I didn’t,) https://fictionfanblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/the-midas-murders-by-pieter-aspe/ In situations where a woman is shown as a ’50s style housewife, warming her husband’s slippers, or as an airhead romantic lead, then I might cry sexist but not misogynist – and I’m more likely to cry neither if the book was written before the ’60s. And the same applies to anti-semitism – I think racial stereotyping is very different from the kind of race hatred that led to the Holocaust and to use the term to cover both makes differentiation almost impossible. I’m not saying racial stereotyping is OK, but it’s pretty much universal, not exclusive to Jews. And race hatred has been applied to many races or religious groups, and still is.

      I think I did read The Plot Against America when I went through a Roth phase many moons ago, but I don’t remember it very vividly – pre reviewing days – one of the reasons I review being my inability to remember books unless I write something about them.

      I’ll probably read For Whom the Bell Tolls at some point, but to be honest mainly because I feel I should. I think what I’m really saying with regards to The Sun… is that I recognise its worth more than I actually enjoyed it. But some parts of it – specifically the bus ride to Pamplona and the bullfighting rituals – were very well done and outweighed the banality of so much of the rest.

      I guess it’s being European that makes me think of the lost generation as feckless wasters. Only the rich could afford to get lost. After two horrendous wars on our own continent, the poor people just had to get on with their lives – rebuild and work, or starve, which of course many did during and after each war. Widows, of whom there were millions, had to work and bring their children up as best they could, and many of the men who survived didn’t have the luxury of going home – they were already home, where they were fighting. Even the Brits, being an uninvaded island, were a little removed from the horrors, but the men just had to get on with rebuilding the bombed infrastructure. I admire the men who came home and rebuilt their countries, twice, far more than the ones who spent Daddy’s money getting drunk and bemoaning their lots. But I’m biased – one of them was my father, who fought for six years in WW2 and still found his way home. Oops! I warned you I’m a political animal, didn’t I? 😉

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