Pamplona. Bull running. San Fermin festival. All through the eyes of Hemingway.
I couldn’t imagine anything better. Especially considering I have been to the very festival and places described in The Sun Also Rises.
It felt as though I was walking hand in hand with the man himself as he traversed the seedy underbelly of cafe life and jazz bars in Paris, the Pyrenees and then Pamplona with his affluent group of friends.
Whether its describing the bulls being unloaded from the corals, sparing with bull fighters, fly fishing in the Spanish countryside or drinking himself silly in Paris’s Montmartre quarter, Hemingway somehow makes everything sound autobiographical.
Of all the authors who I’ve come to meet on this epic literature journey, Hemingway has been the most honest. The most unashamedly real. Making his novels completely relatable.
Whether it’s matter of factly describing an anecdote or interchange between men and women, or probing into the lead characters own flaws, he somehow effortlessly makes you feel you are there in the room. As much a part of the story as the wine and gin they drink.
The simplicity of the prose is deceptive. This is a man who believes less is more and makes the smallest sentence deliver the biggest punch.
The story centers around Jake Barnes—a man whose war wound has made him impotent—and the promiscuous divorcée Lady Brett Ashley. Rather than choose a lead female who is either an old nag or an eligible young woman looking for marriage, Hemingway decides upon a vivacious divorcee who is experiencing sexual liberation and independence in post war Paris and not shy in making the most of it. She is not two-dimensional, but five or even six dimensional. Hemingway paints her in so many ways you aren’t sure at any one time if you like her, loathe or are inspired by her.
Yet again, like so many books in this top 100 list, the plot revolves around those with money and the misery they find themselves swimming in as they struggle to make their hopeless and vain existence meaningful.
Brett who even has a male name, embodies the modern woman, leaving broken men in her wake, including Jake who can never consummate his love with her. There is a sense of irony in this, that as one woman finally secures the freedom and power she craves and the men in her life become weaker.
In fact, Brett may be the first cougar to be put into writing. She captures the ardour of a 19-year-old spanish bull fighter in the middle of the festival and romances him into her bed. An impressive feat for any woman. But a divorcee in the 1920’s? I tip my hat to you dear lady..
In the end, what is left is a book with dominated by cougars, bullfighting, sangria, love triangles and debauchery. Could there be a more winning combination?
I doubt it, unless of course Hemingway was to read the story aloud to me himself. That will just have to be relegated to my day dreams. I girl can hope can’t she?