FIESTA: THE SUN ALSO RISES, Ernest Hemingway
(finished reading on 08/12/2012 )
Continuing to indulge my Spain-love, I decided – instead of reading a novel in Spanish (not ready for that yet) – to read a novel about Spain. I’m a genius.
I’m ashamed to say, until the point at which I picked up this book and began reading it, I thought Hemingway was British and basically someone else entirely. I have been very happy to be enlightened. I found the novel really funny; clever and irreverent, which I wasn’t expecting for a book written in 1925. Stylistically too, it felt very modern, not simply Modernist.
The novel is constructed in three sections, the first showing life in the cafes of Paris in the 1920s, the second consists of descriptions of a fishing trip in the Pyrenees and the excitement of the Pamplona festival in Spain, then there is final, concluding section. I now know that Hemingway is well-known for his spare writing style and restrained description, which became known as The Iceberg Theory (or ‘the theory of omission’), named for Hemingway. Apparently, Hemingway believed the true meaning of a piece of writing should not be superficially evident, as meaning is layered and elusive, often lying below the surface.
This combination of a hearty structure with high-style really appeals to me and this sentence struck me as particularly neatly and beautifully summing up (though not too overtly), the themes of death and love (and concurrently, power and lust) through the metaphor of a bullfight:
Romero [the bullfighter] had the old thing, the holding of his purity of line through the maximum of exposure, while he dominated the bull by making him realize he was unattainable, while he prepared him for the killing.
By coincidence, I also recently read Old School by Tobias Wolff, where an anticipated visit by Hemingway to the school of the novel’s title is used as the central plot device. The main characters’ reverence of him comprises the narrative of the novel, as well as the backdrop to their development and maturation. After having read Fiesta I can see how Hemingway was the perfect choice for such a literary device.