2010. 103. A Farewell to Arms

“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.”

 A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway

          Oh, Papa, what am I going to do about you? Is there a writer that I find more slippery than Hemingway? I love half of his stuff (that would be the short stories, The Sun Also Rises, and parts of For Whom the Bell Tolls) and hate the other half (that would be The Old Man and the Sea, the public persona, the other half of For Whom the Bell Tolls, and well, this book). I don’t know what to say, other than I guess life is complicated, and that I think I’ve read enough Hemingway for a while.

          This one should have been right in my wheelhouse (which is a phrase I think I use everytime I want to say that I am interested in World War One), but my God, did I find it a slog.  I get it, war is hell, and you love Catherine and it is Oh! So! Spare! and bleak, and it is the kind of book that should have touched me, but the way its written is so distancing and masculine and unemotional that it just ended up leaving me cold. 

       BUT, to be perfectly fair (and in keeping with the theme that I love some Hemingway), there were a couple of passages that knocked my socks off, and I will quote one of them below.

“I did not say anything.  I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain.  We had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through, and had read them, on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards and Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it.”

pg. 184-85 (of the Scribner’s Edition I bought at the used bookstore).  I mean, exactly and wow, and if the whole book was like this, damn.

Categories:  Fiction, Modern Library Top 100

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017