Saturday, 7 August 2010

A Farewell To Arms

A semi-autobiographical novel by Ernest Hemingway written in 1929 at 30 years old. Hemingway served (volunteered) in the Italian army as an ambulance driver during World War 1 when he was about 19.

What I liked about this book, was the writing style. I'd only read a novella by Hemingway before. It's quite a simplistic prose, doesn't have a lot of commas, none of the 'flowery' type of writing that a lot of authors seem to use. It's still good writing, very effective, he doesn't waste a word. Because these events happened to some extent in Hemingway's life you cannot really make negative criticism about the book. It's great how he doesn't glorify anything. The book is honest, raw, bitter emotion. Real man's stuff. He drinks loads, too.

There are a lot of good, strong characters in this book, mainly a lot of his army comrades. They're not cliched which was surprising as well. After WW1 around this time people were able to write novels based on experiences during it, just thought there'd be no chance of getting way from that. Very interesting how it's set in Italy as well. Admittedly the dialogue between him and his lover was annoying, like something out of Casablanca. Guess I'm ignorant. It still annoyed me up till the very end, but I did accept it.

I really enjoyed reading this, as I haven't really read "war books" before. Luckily this wasn't one of those 'profound' heroic kind of tales. It is a tragedy, and I think that it's very powerful in that regard. I cannot help but feel similarities to Slaughterhouse Five due to its simplistic prose and the way its very blunt and direct about certain scenes that are very emotional. I think that really helps novels based in war. You can feel how broken the author and main character is if they write it like that. How a man would actually be able to go through tragic events like wartime romance and then write a novel based on it is remarkable, so that alone and knowing the author's history really helps to appreciate it.

Here's what Bukowski said about Hemingway in Ham On Rye, and sums up what I'm trying to say a lot better:
"What a thrill! He knew how to lay down a line. It was a joy. Words weren't dull, words were things that could make your mind hum. If you read them and let yourself feel the magic, you could live without pain, with hope, no matter what happened to you. Too grim, too serious. A good writer, fine sentence. But for him, life was always total war. He never let go, he never danced."

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