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The Sun Also Rises [SUN ALSO RISES] [Compact Disc] CD-ROM – October 31, 2006
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- ASIN : B008N3D1UC
- Publisher : Simon&SchusterAudio (October 31, 2006)
- Language : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #7,523,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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They travel from Paris to Spain and back again. They mainly drink and eat a lot. They also mock each other frequently and overuse words like “daunting” and “ironical” in their conversations. They enjoy the fiesta in Pamplona. During the fiesta, they watch the running of the bulls and a few bullfights. During the bullfights, Lady Brett Ashley becomes smitten with the bullfighter Romero. They run off together, but it doesn’t last. This story is pretty much a soap opera set against the backdrop of post-WWI Europe.
Because of its setting and its focus on what Gertrude Stein described as the “lost generation” of American expatriates living hedonistically in Europe after the Great War, this novel—Hemingway’s first—has been called one of the greatest works of American literature ever written. I do not necessarily agree, perhaps because of Hemingway’s trademark stark writing style and simple sentence structure, which I have attempted to reproduce in this review. It can get annoying, can’t it?
Lady Ashley is my favorite female character in all of literature. She is real, uncompromising, and yet a mystery to the very end. She is a siren with a heart or maybe without a heart?
Hemingway, unlike such great authors as Lawrence, Proust, Dickens, Tolstoy and Fitzgerald, could describe a scene, a setting, using half the words that these wonderful writers would use and yet be as poignant and vivid as any writer I have ever read. His descriptions of the bull fights at Pamplona and the fiesta are chilling and as splendid as anything I have had the pleasure to read.
Tomorrow, July 2, marks the day Hemingway died. He once said, "The only thing a person takes with him when he dies, is what he left behind" and in his case he left behind brilliant novels and masterful short stories that never fail to amaze and astonish me.
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Enough of that. The problem with Hemingway is he began his writing career in the 1920s when anti-Semitism and the use of the N word were acceptable, if not respectable. To be fair to Hemingway, in this novel the N word is only used when a character recounts a sympathetic anecdote about an African American boxer in dire straits in Vienna. However, the anti-Semitism is rife among several characters, and although the narrator is friends with Robert Cohn, the Jew in the novel, and is not overtly anti-Semitic himself, he doesn’t challenge the anti-Semitism of the other characters, which is a way of implying that it’s “OK”.
This problem isn’t unique to Hemingway, and if we burned all the books that contain offensive references to women, Jews, gay people, Black people, an Amazon warehouseful of literature would go up in smoke. Yes, there are bits of this novel that make me wince, but I’ve found that’s the case with a great many books from this era, particularly American books. I read The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon a couple of years ago, after seeing both films a dozen times, and the novels both came out as surprisingly homophobic. Only after reading the novels did I detect traces of homophobia in the films (it had all gone over my head previously).
The novel is about a group of American, English and Scottish ex-pats living in Paris in the 1920s. They are the “lost generation” who survived the Great War and are trying to rebuild their lives in exile with copious amounts of alcohol. It’s summer and they all decide to go down to Pamplona, Spain, for the fiesta. The narrator Jake Barnes and his mate Bill go first. They’re mad on fishing and bullfighting, so they go down to Spain and fish for trout for a few days and organise tickets for the bullfights that form the main attraction of the fiesta. The others come down later: the aristocratic Englishwoman, Lady Brett Ashley, and her Scottish fiancé, Mike Campbell, and the misfit, Robert Cohn, who has ditched his partner because he’s fallen for Brett. The fiesta presents opportunities for more drinking even than Paris, followed by conflict and violence as the group disintegrates.
For me, there are two things that save Hemingway from the pyre: first, that over time his politics improved and he was on the right side of history in the Spanish Civil War and the Cuban Revolution. The second is the quality of his writing. All the stuff about hunting, fishing and bullfighting might seem overly macho and distasteful today, but it’s the way Hemingway writes about these things. His style seems so simple and direct – sometimes “manly” in the worst sense of the word – but underneath there is pounding emotion. This passage refers to a bull goring a bystander as it’s taken to the bullring. Later, a matador kills it in the ring and presents its ear to the novel’s heroine, Brett Ashley, who slept with him the previous night and the night after the bullfight:
“The bull who killed Vicente Girones 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.”
One of the most remarkable things about this novel is that we have an impotent male narrator (result of a war wound) and a heroine who sleeps with three different men in the novel (one is her fiancé, the other two aren’t). Sexual power transferred from male to female. Difficult to explain for a writer who’s often dismissed as a misogynist. There’s no condemnation of Brett and you’re left with the feeling that she’s going to go on doing what she enjoys, whereas in too many novels by men women who like sex come to a bad end.
Here’s another example where the narrator and his companions are watching a dance at a fiesta:
“In front of us on a clear part of the street a company of boys were dancing. The steps were very intricate and their faces were intent and concentrated. They all looked down while they danced. Their rope-soled shoes tapped and spatted on the pavement. The toes touched. The balls of the feet touched. Then the music broke wildly and the step was finished and they were all dancing up the street.”
The artistry here is in what’s not said. We don’t have a detailed description of what they were wearing or the moves of the dance. Hemingway focuses on their faces and feet, and even with my limited imagination I can see those dancers in front of me now.
So, despite my misgivings about the N word and the anti-Semitism, I’m giving this book five stars. If you think you’ll be offended, don’t buy it; but if you want to see what made Hemingway such a brilliant story teller, take a punt.
The Sun Also Rises is nothing but rich-alcoholics-get-bored-with-Paris-so-go-off-to-a-fiesta-in-Spain-for-a-week-to-get-drunk-there-instead. They mostly do nothing but drink alcohol of various types and expenses of which Hemingway will inform you like any decent, decadent, wealthy alcoholic would. They eat when they get hungry, sleep when they feel they need to and watch a few bull fights; about which, Hemingway is rather keen to portray to the world that the local Spanish know him to be an “officianado”, and that everyone must accept that it’s the height of art and wonder to brutalise animals for the entertainment of drunks.
Oh, and there’s lots of pathetic drunken arguments with pathetic drunken people arguing about other drunken people, or about people who won’t get drunk with them — with a good dose of antisemitism thrown in, which was only necessary if Hemingway was eager to portray his antisemitic credentials to the world as it bought absolutely nothing whatsoever to the actual story.
Blah, blah, blah…
…mostly, it’s all just typical drunken alcoholic boring twaddle written down through the haze of a hangover the next morning.
And now i can’t be bothered to write another word about Hemingway ever again, and i certainly won’t be reading any of his other books. I gave him a chance and he failed miserably — but failing miserably is what alcoholics do best.
I read it all, but it was a struggle. Unpleasant, shallow, entitled people drink too much and complain a lot in Paris. Then they go to Spain- rinse and repeat. Nothing else happens.
This is not a good book - it is boring and uneventful with unlikeable characters.
One of the most important pieces of Twentieth Century literature? No. The basis of Hemingway's stellar reputation? No. Is he better than his peer F. Scott Fitzgerald? No.
I found the writing style of Hemingway better than I had remembered. The short staccato sentences with lots of fast dialogue interspersed with rather good short descriptive passages is very engaging and makes for good pace. Hemingway is very clever at constructing dialogue between drunken friends and capturing the increasing malice as they slowly drift out of control. The writing was certainly a revolution in style and subject matter in its day and does clearly mark the beginning of the modern novel. It does not matter that the story of ‘The Sun Also Rises’ is almost completed reportage of one of many trips Hemingway made to Pamplona, this time in 1925 with a group of friends who became easily identifiable characters in his book. The Biblical title refers to the fact that the world ‘keeps on turning’ as events come and go. This is a good read and stands the test of time.
Copies of this novel are quite difficult to obtain and although this Penguin imprint (Arrow Books) is adequate it is rather cheap and cheerful and small in size.