Hemingway – For Whom the Bell Tolls – a Reprise

I just finished reading the entire novel.  My copy was printed by Scribner.  It’s a 471 page paperback book of the usual proportions.  I took a day off from reading to work on some other projects I have going and then, last night, I completed the book while listening to Areosmith and Rammstein. Great coupling it turned out to be.

This story is about Robert Jordan, an American professor of Spanish who takes a sabbatical in Spain and gets involved in the revolution as Franco tries to take over Spain for the Communists.  I don’t know much about that war because it was in the late 30s – the US had not become involved in WW II at that time.

Robert Jordan is used as a “dynamiter” – he blows things up.  Things like bridges and trains that are useful to the Communist but not to the revolution.  He is quite successful until he joins up with a group of guerillas in the mountains.  He is sent there to blow up a bridge – nothing more.  He meets a girl, he meets a coward, and he meets people determined to win the war.

Hemingway wrote a powerful story.  His words were fairly minimal when he describes people and places, but he fills them out using the characters – how they feel and behave and think about who and what is around them.

There is a lot of emotion in this book, bravery, cowardice, stress, sorrow and much more, twined around the scenes of action that are caught in vignettes.  These short scenes are more than a drawn out scene would be – in my humble opinion.

This story is more than just about the war, more than just about Robert Jordan and his exploits, and Hemingway shows us all these things with style and wit and grace; he doesn’t shove ideals or morals or anything else down our throats.  He lets us come away with what we want.

The end of the story is something else.  I look forward to reading more of Hemingway’s novels.  I can’t say this novel ended in true Hemingway style because I don’t know what his style of ending is yet.

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever read his short works and wants to see enjoy a longer piece.  He remains, a master of prose, even in this venue.

That’s all folks, see you on the flipside.  Don’t forget your towel and sonic screwdriver!

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