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A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

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A tale of love during the First World War. The narrator is an ambulance officer in the Italian army who falls in love with an English nurse and, while he recovering from an injury caused by a shell, their relationship develops.



When she falls pregnant and he is involved in a messy retreat; he decides to desert. They make their way to Switzerland where their child will be born.

This is a simple tale well told with some insights into war and love and is marvelously of its time.

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Farewell to Arms is a great novel. It easily makes it into my top 100.

The last chapter is almost unbearably moving, when Lt Henry visits Catherine Barclay in the maternity ward, where she's at death's door in a vain attempt to give birth to his illegitimate child. Both know the end is nigh. The midwife is stroppy, as I remember, silently disapproving of the liason. Catherine wishes her lover well with other girls, but makes him promise never to do 'the things that we did together.' Then he declines a lift from a charitable doctor and returns to his hotel in the rain. A slow sad fade out that leaves the reader limp and devastated

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I've been thinking about reading this novel. Is it like The Sun Also Rises at all? That one really makes me want to read more Hemingway.


Not too much like it in theme or setting, though both employ the bleak throwaway Hemingway prose style to effect. A Farewell to Arms is set in WW1 in Italy, and is sober and melancholy. Compared to The Sun Also Rises it's drab and sad, has not a great deal to celebrate except heroic reticence and buddy-communing in suffering. Love conquers all, except death is the message.

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Most of the following came from a terrific website I forgot to bookmark. I give them credit and they did a great job of explaining THE SUN ALSO RISES


Set in Paris and Spain shortly after the end of World War I, The Sun Also Rises, for many the finest of Hemingway's longer works, is frequently described as a novel that captures the mood of an age. Its publication in 1926 forever identified the author with a generation and, even today, it is difficult, if not impossible for many readers and critics to consider Hemingway's works without drawing on the wealth of biographical information available on the now-famous expatriate artists of the 1920s.


Centered around Jake and Brett's doomed love affair, the novel portrays the disillusionment and shift in values that resulted from the wartime experiences shared by a generation ... the historical context of the novel explains that the end of the war signaled the end of a 20yr period during which the stable values of 1900 had eroded: "home, family, church, and country no longer gave the moral support that Hemingway's generation grew up with. The old values — honor, duty, love—no longer rang true." ...this loss of promise after the war led to the wasteland atmosphere evident in the works of THE LOST GENERATION. The heartbreakiang story of Jake and Brett are is a majoy element since Jake lost his genitals in the war and though he desires Brett they can never be a couple. Brett characterizes the aimlessness and enui tht settled on so many ex-pats who stayed in Europe after the war and one of Hemingway's treatment of her is very mysogenistic. Sun Also Rises is frequently read as a record of the "Lost Generation," a term attributed to Gertrude Stein that refers to the aimless and damaged youth who survived the war. Although many critics have recognized that such an interpretation is limiting and that to read Hemingway's novel as a "paean to the lost generation" is, to miss the point badly, Stein's epigraph continues to influence many readers' imaginations.


A frequently discussed aspect of Hemingway's work is his suggestive writing style. When The Sun Also Rises first appeared, it was, Wagner-Martin explains, considered a "new manifesto of modernist style and was praised for its dialogue and its terse, objective presentation of characters." The modemist method was understatement, "a seemingly objective way of presenting the hard scene or image." There was "no sentiment, no didactism, no leading the reader." This understated style, and the narrator's apparent toughness of attitude, can sometimes conceal pain, emotion, and desire.


A typical example of this understated style is Jake's attempt, late in the novel, to justify Mike's drunken and, at times, vicious behavior towards Robert Cohn. Jake tells Brett that Cohn's presence in Pamplona has been hard on Mike, mainly because he is Jewish and as in so many other writings of Hemingway his anti-semitism stands out like a red flag.


A most complicated and important story written in language US readers were not familiar with. But Hemingway's experience as a newspaper man trained him to write short sentences, don't use obscure or extra-long words, get to the point ... and all of his work reflects this style. Hemingway also had a personal code that begins to emerge in the novel ... GRACE UNDER PRESSURE regardless of what teh pressure was: pain, loss, grief, etc.

Hemingway was many things to many people and he had a chameleonesque personality ... he was not a nice man most of the time and he never lost his prejudices.


Never teh less his talent and teh breadth of work in addition to his prose style make him a MASTER.

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Hi all,


I have not read these books yet, but I have recently finished The Old Man and the Sea and, in terms of plot structure and narrative, thought it was pretty much perfect.


A very fitting recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature.


I have to say though, that my early attempts to engage with Hemingway's work were thawted by the (deceptive) simplicity of the writing style, and his use of repetition, which I found strange (and now find lyric and beautiful). Thinking about it, I guess that my early difficulties were the result of my early love of magic realism, with its lusher prose and denser narrartive style. It's good to know I may be moving outside the box I constructed for myself!


I have included an extract below to try and show hat I have been talking about:


"The line rose slowly and steadily and then the surface of the ocean bulged ahead of the boat and the fish came out. He came out unendingly and water poured from his sides. He was bright in the sun and his head and back were dark purple and in the sun the stripes on his side showed wide and a light lavender. His sword was as long as a baseball bat and tapered like a rapier and he rose his full length from the water and then re-entered it. smoothly, like a diver and the old man saw the great scythe-blade of his tail go under and the line commenced to race out."


The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway



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If the term 'modern classic' means anything at all, then A Farewell to Arms is one. The stark and simple prose is essentially 'modern' as is the reticence of the author who allows character and situation to make their point as if the author were absent, or merely presenting. This draws the reader in and makes him/her as it were part of the action. Of course Hemingway has had an enormous influence on writers, both here and in America,and many imitators. But as with Joyce, the imitators only succeed in pointing up the value of their progenitor.


I also like Hemingway's short stories, especially the Nick Adams ones - often mere snapshots, rather than 'slices of life,' but memorable. You never quite forget 'The Battler' or 'My Old Man.'

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I've read this, the Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls and his short stories and I still can't decide if I like Hemingway.


They're easy to read, well paced stories, not too demanding but dealing with the human condition. Still something is missing for me. I don't know what it is but some important part of the literary jigsaw of his work isn't there for me. I connect enough with the characters to finish the books but they don't stay with me as the characters of Steinbeck do.

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