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The Sun Also Rises (aka Fiesta)

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megustaleer 15th February 2011, 09:13 AM


from wikipedia:

The Sun Also Rises is a 1926 novel by Ernest Hemingway. It was his first novel and is considered a treatise of the post-WWI generation, dubbed the Lost Generation by Gertrude Stein....


...Based on Hemingway's own trip to Spain in 1925, the plot follows a group of expatriates from Paris to the Festival of Fermín in Pamplona. The main characters are Jake Barnes, whose war wound has made him impotent, and divorcee Brett Ashley, whom he loves. Brett's recent affair with Robert Cohn causes Jake to be upset and break off his friendship with Cohn; and her seduction of the 19-year-old matador Romero causes Jake to lose his good reputation among the Spaniards in Pamplona. The novel's setting in the cafe life of Paris and the Pamplona festival was unique, as was the spare style Hemingway employed.


I nearly discarded this book after a couple of chapters, as I really did not like any of the characters portrayed in it. These young people, living a hedonistic life in the Paris of what we now refer to as ‘The Roaring Twenties’ appeared superficial, purposeless and unfulfilled. The adjective ‘brittle’, often used of this between-the-wars generation, kept coming to my mind - they are hard, yet fragile.


However, before I put the book back on the shelf the protagonists move to Spain, and there the atmosphere changed - even though the characters did not.

It is known that Hemingway loved Spain, and in particular the bullfight, and demonstrating this is clearly a major feature of the book . The preparation and the build-up of excitement in a Spanish village during the days of Fiesta, leading to the culminating feast, and the firecrackers (still a feature of Spanish communal celebration) is wonderfully evoked.

The most detailed and dramatic scenes are those of the bullfights themselves, and of the dedication of the most talented matadors. Here the book really comes alive, and whatever you think of bullfighting as a sport or entertainment, these are the highlight of the book. Hemingway’s love of the corrida, and of the Spanish people, is very evident.


The title under which the first English edition was published - Fiesta - captures the spirit of the central ‘Spanish’ passages, but the original American title (a quote from Ecclesiastes):

What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose

does sum up the overall message as I read it, the futility of human endeavour - certainly as viewed by that generation.



Calliope 15th February 2011, 08:37 PM


I'm so glad you stuck with it, Meg. This is my favourite Hemingway novel and one of my favourite novels of all time (even though I studied it in American lit at uni, and not many novels survived that!).


I know exactly what you mean by brittle, too, although that's not a word I had thought to used myself. Brett is very, very fragile (despite her masculine name) and I think that's one further was that the masculine characters are injured (I want to say weakened, but that's not the right word, even though Jake is both injured and weakened) by their war experiences.


I hate sentimentalism in novels and I think that's why the last line in this one brings a tear to my eye. It's the way real emotion is, thrumming beneath the surface of the words the way it thrums beneath real life,




“Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”

Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”


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  • 3 weeks later...

Fiesta was probably the first Hemingway I'd ever read and from then on he became the gold standard against whom other novelists had to be measured. That oversimplifies of course; it leaves Faulkner, Proust, Dickens and Henry James as also-rans, which is nonsense. No, what I loved about Hemingway was the ease with which he draws the reader in, making the central character a friend and confidante, one whom you as reader trust and believe in, a simple honest Joe telling it like it is. I know this is characterstic of much American fiction - the 'innocent eye' and all that and can seem reductive of the complexity of life.


Jake Barnes and his companions recapture for me the spirit of the lost generation. They don't trust anything that can't be proved on the pulses - like their author - nothing flowery, no showing off (eg matador show-boating). no intellectualisation in a world where booze is an honest man's only legitimate escape, for he cannot take refuge in lies and must grab hold of his pleasure such as it is where he can. Preferably in Spain. Well, it's not the Spain we know, but it lives in the memory of Jake and co and any Hemingway reader.

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  • 2 years later...

I really liked this book.  At first I noticed its similarities to one of my favorite short stories also written by him "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" but as the story went on I got over it.


I can't put my finger on what I liked best about it but it is just so well written, so descriptive yet to the point.  I can picture myself sitting across from these people in the cafe or fishing with the guys its just so vivid.


I think I will definitely try more Hemingway after reading this novel.

Edited by Biochemisty-n-Classics
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I enjoyed it for the most part but found Jake rather distant as a narrator. I believe that's where the Iceberg theory comes in and while it does help to keep the plot going, I never really felt like Jake was a real person; he felt like a conduit though which the story ran but had no personality of his own. I found a lot of the Spain stuff rather repetitive and uninteresting but my main gripe was Brett. So many times in books, there's an awful character with virtually no redeeming features who other characters adore and it's so frustrating because at no point does the writer make it clear why. Brett comes into that category for me. Hemingway describes her as beautiful and then assumes that's good enough for us. That's why everyone is in love with her. Um... okay.


I found it hard to like her. I found it hard to like a lot of them. But yeah, it was a good read overall.

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