Dan Sandman

28: Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway

In Autobiography, Books, Non-Fiction on 11/07/2014 at 12:00 pm

Green Hills of Africa by Ernest HemingwayDespite it often being said that Ernest Hemingway wrote short sentences, this was not always the case. For example, there is at least one sentence in this book that lasts for an entire page. I think what people mean is that Hemingway used short sentences as one potential writing tool.  This certainly is true with his dialogue, and his short sentences do bring a realistic quality to his speech. Think about it, we don’t often speak in essay form. Perhaps the trick to writing well is variation. Music is probably the same.

This book, listed under Travel/Autobiography, is about men shooting and killing wild animals. Published in 1935, it is unconcerned with conservation or extinction. To the people in the book, shooting and killing is a competitive sport, men must be men and take their rightful place at the top of the food chain. The men in Green Hills of Africa compete against their peers, compete against the elements, and compete against wild animals. With their guns, their glasses, their whiskey, and their books, these men are out for the hunt. A dead rhino is to be skinned and its head collected as a trophy. This is not a place for womanly sentiment, nor is it a place for racial equality. Hemingway’s depiction of a game hunt is predictable yet actually – I must confess – quite exciting. It’s a violent, somewhat alcoholic, man’s world. All that matters is the strength of the wind, the feel of the gun, and the moment when a man looks death straight in the eye. Hemingway really was adept at maintaining a macho and heroic image. I can picture the khaki, elephant gun and the facial hair.

I had fun reading this book. Mostly I read it whilst walking around Primrose Hill, finding a bench when I needed to. At the height of a good English summer it is possible to do such things, although there’s always a chance it will rain. Unlike Hemingway, I have never killed a kudu or tried to learn Swahili. This is good, as I have no intention of hunting game in Tanzania. However, with a flick of the imagination, I have been guided there by a story.

And a good story goes a long way.


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