Dan Sandman

47: Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

In Adventure, Books, Fiction on 20/11/2015 at 12:00 pm

Fiesta by Ernest HemingwayErnest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) created confident and unsentimental works of fiction, drawing on his autobiographical experiences. In particular, he had a talent for naturalistic dialogue and an observant eye for detail. To his credit, his work has a fierce authenticity to it, combining travel writing with non plot driven storytelling. Against these great literary achievements, lie the macho characters, who frequently use racial slurs and behave in an anti-Semitic manner. On top of this, they often view woman with a problematic lack of understanding and suffer from seriously debilitating drink problems.

Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises (1927) begins in the bars of bohemian Paris and ends up at a Spanish fiesta, via a Spanish fishing adventure. It is a drinking novel, where men who have fought in the war are constantly ‘getting tight’ and fighting. Hemingway was a bull fighting aficionado, a word which derives from the Spanish word for passion. This becomes very clear when we come across detailed analysis of the violent sport, for example in chapter 18. Hemingway was also an expert on drunken behaviour, having probably been what we might refer to as an alcoholic. At the age of sixty one, he blew his head off with a shotgun.

Of course, biographical knowledge is an important tool we can use to understand a writer’s artistic output, especially when so much of it is based on the artist’s life. Yet to focus on Hemingway’s life story too much would be to serve him an injustice. What separates Hemingway from the drunks that he writes about is his mastery of the English language, in particular his ear for the way real people talk. Many writers are able to bring to life vivid foreign landscapes, but to accurately mimic the speech patterns we use is something else completely. Reading this début novel is like actually being alive during the 1920s.

Outstanding.

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