Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Reading a Hemingway


 Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee." 
-For Whom the Bells Toll

My first brush with Hemingway came before it should have. I picked up The Old Man and the Sea from the old neighbourhood bookshop (the kind that still wraps them up in brown paper). I was ten. Fair enough, I understood very little. But there was a haunting sense of melancholy that did make a lasting impression on me.

My next was For Whom the Bells Toll. I was more matured and more receptive when I read it, and boy, did I love it! I loved the fragmented style of narration, which jelled so well with my own thoughts. I loved how there was a certain kind of innocence juxtaposed with violence. And I loved how you could live a lifetime in three days.

Another was Indian Camp. Short, simple, and again the juxtaposition of innocence and violence.

The latest is A Farewell  to Arms. Brutal, realistic, tragic. It has the lyrical quality that life achieves without needing music and rhyming words.

The reason I keep re-reading Hemingway is the way he portrays everything without either sugar-coating or demonizing them. He doesn't need to. He stays true to the colours. He calls the bluff on hypocrisy and lets mundane things show their grandeur through mundaneness itself.

People are battered, broken, destroyed. And yet they move on, they survive, they allow their cynical selves to hope again. And that, is life in its full glory.

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