70 Days With Hemingway And Me

Every Novel, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Oh, Ernie, I Failed Ye! Let Me Buy Ye An Absinthe to Make it Up to Ye!

July 15th, 2009 · 1 Comment · For Whom the Bell Tolls, For Whom the Bell Tolls (Movie)

Arturo Fuente and AbsintheOne of the things I had hoped would come of my trip through the psyche of one Ernest Miller Hemingway was a better understanding of myself.

Lo and behold! It worked.

I’ve discovered I have less time than I thought I had. I couldn’t finish For Whom the Bell Tolls. I couldn’t even get half-way through. Not even when I had a week to do it.

I failed ye, Ernie.

It’s not that I didn’t try. (Or maybe it is. I don’t know.) I had the week from hell. So many unexpected people popped into my life. A few odd turns of event. Stuff happened. I was constantly in react mode. Busy. Pissed off. Pressed for time. So it’s not like I didn’t enjoy the book. On the contrary, it is a very good book, perhaps my favorite to date of the Hemingway canon.

As I read, I could see Gary Cooper as Robert Jordan, the war-time demolitions expert assigned to blow a bridge, and Ingrid Bergman as Maria, the gypsy girl with the close-cropped hair. I can’t wait to see the movie version of this book.

Yes, this is another book about a war. It’s another book about wine and absinthe, about women and men, about killing and philosophizing about killing. What I haven’t figured out, though, is why the characters — from the hills of Spain — speak in Elizabethan English:

“How art thou called?” he asked. Pablo looked at him quickly wh en he heard the tone of his voice. Then he got up and walked away.

“Maria. And thee?

“Roberto. Have you been long in the mountains?”

Or this example:

“There are seven men and a corporal,” Anselmo said close to his ear. “I informed myself from the gypsy.”

“We will go now as soon as he is quiet,” Robert Johnson said. “We are too close.”

“Hast thou see what thou needest?”

“Yes. All that I need.”

Maybe old Spaniards during the war talked like that. How should I know? I wasn’t there. But it seemed odd and incongruous.

I’ll return to this book in the next few days. I had many thoughts while reading it. I know because I nearly filled 5-6 pages in the white legal pad I keep beside me for just that purpose.

But I’m learning as I read.

About Ernest Hemingway, for sure.

But about me as well.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Paul

    I’m pretty sure that Roberto, who was a teacher of Spanish, was using the polite or formal way of addressing others, “usted” instead of “tu”, and hemingway was reflecting this clearly as a literal translation of the Spanish conversation.

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