Yet, it was a fulfilling one that did offer me some insight into a great American author, not to mention some excellent reads, which made it all worth while.
My final Hemingway novel, For Whom The Bell Tolls, is certainly not a cheery book for this time of year as it takes place in Spain during their Civil War in the late 1930s, which was well known to Hemingway as he was a war corespondent over there during that period.
Most of the story is told through the eyes of Robert Jordan, an American who has joined the fight against the fascist forces overrunning the country. Jordan is sent to work with a group of guerilla fighters on a mission to blow up a bridge that could be crucial in an upcoming battle.
As he meets up with the group lead by the laconic Pablo, Jordan slowly yet surely bonds with them all and in particular with Maria, a young woman who is still recovering from the horrors of war. As the time grows near for the attack, tensions rise, loyalties are questioned and dreams for the future become just that, dreams and nothing more:
The book has been made into a film more than once; the best known version being the 1943 one starring Gary Cooper as Jordan and Ingrid Bergman as Maria that won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for co-star Katina Paxinou.
I don't know if I will see that movie anytime soon but if they do a remake, I think Quentin Tarantino should write and direct. A good portion of this story involves intense conversations with occasional bouts of violence, a trope that he's dead familiar with.
Frankly, I'm surprised that Tarantino hasn't done any Hemingway adaptations as both he and Ernest do share a deep interest in exploring interpersonal relationships that go awry along with a taste for juicy monologues and the verbal profane. Maybe someone should pass a copy of the book over to Tarantino, just to see if he'll be inspired to make his mark on such material:
Hemingway met up with the woman who was to be his third wife,Martha Gellhorn, during his time in Spain and it's no coincidence that the book is dedicated to her.
Also not a coincidence that the two main women in this novel are two of the strongest females that Hemingway ever wrote. Pilar, the woman who stands at Pablo's side(and at times, way ahead of him) is a formidable person in her own right.
She's tough and cynical, yet has a soft spot in her heart for the likes of Jordan, Maria and even Pablo when he goes back and forth between loyalties.
One of the most powerful portions of the book is when Pilar relates to Jordan an account of Pablo and company wiping out fascist sympathizers in a small town. That whole story would make a movie unto itself,as she tells it with true feeling and precise detail.
Maria may appear to be a shrinking violet at first but as Jordan gets to know her better, her inner core of strength is revealed. Her love for Jordan is fierce, reminding me of a certain gal from Game of Thrones who would be just as quick to tell Robert Jordan that he knows nothing:
So, my Year with Hemingway is done and in conclusion, my overall impression of him is that of a man conflicted in both life and art. Granted, that doesn't excuse any of his faults yet his work does showcase what was best in him, which is more that most people are able to leave behind them.
I do have another reading project lined up for 2017(it's much less intense) and I'll take part in a blog tour and/or a readathon along the way, to be sure. One thing that I feel confident in saying as both this year and my reading time with Hemingway ends is that despite whatever the world throws in our path, we can face it together with a good book by our side.
As part of this project, I've had fun matching up songs to the books and this number from Les Miserables entitled "The Red and The Black" fits FWTBT like a glove to me. The song,sung by a number of characters, illustrates well the push-pull between romantic love and love for a cause, themes that ring throughout the book. Hopefully, this time next year, there will be less of angry men and that we will see the night that ends at last: