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am 16. Juli 2000
One of the most striking features of this novel is the bland superficiality of the characters. I found that I did not particularly like any of them, and that dampened my appreciation of the story.
The book is about a sort of competition for the lady Brett Ashley. She enjoys using men as her playtoys and delights in their chase after her. The persona from whose point of view the story is told is Jake Barnes. The rest of the characters are unremarkable and are mostly only memorable for their blandness.
We go from France to the bullfighting performances in Spain & there are fascinating allusions to the matador / bull relationship being akin to courtship and sexual intercourse between a man and woman. Images of impotence and castration abound and are made all the more significant as Jake can no longer sexually "perform" due to a wartime injury.
This book is certainly not for everyone. I am glad I read it & would recommend it as an important 20th century literary work (even though I did not especially enjoy it myself). It is not so different from the apathetic landscape of T.S. Eliot's poem "The Wasteland"; a world in which it is thought that feeling nothing at all is preferable to feeling pain. But nothing could be more horrifying than a notion such as that....
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am 10. Januar 2000
This was the most recent selection of my book club. I don't think I had read it before.
It's a hard read. Nothing much happens, and the characters, except for Robert Cohn, are so repellant that it's hard to care about them. If you don't care about characters, you don't care what happens to them. The only character with any dimension is Robert Cohn, the idealistic outsider trying to get into the crowd and rebuffed at every turn.
Hemingway's famous short choppy adjective-free style doesn't work well on dialogue because that's not how most people talk, so it's rather stilted, which contributes to the sense that you don't really know what the characters are about.
However, in his defense, I must say that his narrative descriptions are superb. One would think that descriptions require adjectives, and here he does use them sparingly. So his style works beautifully as he describes the bus trip into Spain, the wonderful fishing expedition, and the bullfights. It's in those passages that the characters involved in them come to life - they are interested in something outside themselves, something other than when they can have their next drink, and it humanizes them. They aren't quite so one-dimensional in those passages.
I know this was Hemingway's first big success, and probably gave an accurate portrayal of the ex-pat life of that time, but if this were all I knew of him, I would not be tempted to read others of his works. Fortunately, I have done so and enjoyed them much more.
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am 14. Dezember 1999
This book works less along the lines of the inner self, but more along the lines of mob psychology. The main character, Jake Barnes, and a group of his friends spend their holiday in Spain. Their time there is filled with bull fights, nights of drunken revelry, suppressed love, despair, and the overwhelming tone of reality: That life is really no laughing matter. This book is a sort of lesson on what happens if a person lives life in gluttony, taking the easy way out. There is more to life than the party, and Hemingway beautifully reders this in the novel. On the other hand, one can look at this story as being a "book about nothing". As one reads this book, the reader never really knows what the main idea is about. The story is essentially about a group of tourists having a good time in Spain. There is no real conflict except for the odd momentary drunken brawl. The message Hemingway wishes to present is at the end of the story, hanging precariously. The reader never really knows what the book was supposed to be about in the first place. Nevertheless, this book is a good read, and well worth buying. It's development is written in a style different than most other books, but that is why Ernest Hemingway is such a unique author. And, that is really what saves this book for the 3-star review.
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am 12. Juli 2000
I agree with the remarks of the reviewer a few spaces down- this could have been a wonderful short story or novella. I also kept wondering where the story was. Now, if you've read my review of The Great Gatsby, you know that I do not demand a "plot" so to speak, but still... I was left wondering where the beginning and the end were, and what they signified.
I did enjoy the descriptions of Spain and bullfighting (I read this on a couple of hot days on my hammock with a few Coronas:) The descriptions of the bullfights, in addition to being vivid, are accurate. If anyone has ever read the works of Prosper Merimee (colomba, carmen), specifically his Lettres d'Espagne-- Les Courses de Taureaux, you will enjoy the passages in Spain in Hemingway's book.
After I had finished reading and had time to digest what had occurred, I felt better about The Sun Also Rises, but I still feel the need to read it again. One thing that has always bothered me about Hemingway, however, was his anti-Semitism...
By the way, can anyone fully explain the meaning of the title?
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am 2. Mai 1999
This book does an excellent job of portraying the "Lost Generation," but what else? It is in no shape or form a lousy book, but by the same token it's not even close to deemed as a classic. It's a basic story with simple symbolism. If this book was written by "Joe Shmoe" and not Hemingway, it wouldn't be anywhere near as popular. I recommend "For Whom the Bell Tolls." This is a true classic...
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am 7. Juli 2000
This didn't particularly impress me while reading it, then surprisingly left me with a deep sense of tragedy afterwards. The core of the novel - Jake Barnes' love for the self-destructive Brett Ashley - was very strong and subtle. It provoked sympathy and sadness. One could imagine them carrying on the way they were for the rest of their days, and that was rather depressing.
I would also read this for the era and atmosphere evoked - the frantic bullfighting fiesta in 1920s Spain - as well as the hedonistic yet jaded perspective through which it was experienced. As for faults, I found certain protracted descriptions difficult to plow through (a consistent problem with Hemingway). This book dipped into 'boring' territory now and then.
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am 20. Juli 2000
This book with its austere prose style is good read, and it's clear to me that Hemmingway, then 27 years old, shows tremendous talent. The scenes involving the fishing and the bullfighting are very evocative, and the dialogue interesting. The understatement or non-statement (Hemmingway's iceberg approach to writing) works very well in this, his first book that brought him to national attention. In that regard, the horrors of World War I constitute those parts of the iceberg that lie beneath the water, and influence the emptiness of the social life that is above. The "what might have been" conversation between Jake and Brett (who both love each other, but who both know the hopelessness of that love) at the end of the book is particularly touching.
Notwithstanding the above, none of the characters have much for the reader to be attracted to. A constant never-ending stream of alcohol seems to flow through the book. It's incredible that people can drink as much as the principal characters in the book do. Then there's Brett, the 34 year old woman, who has Jake loving her (and she loves him), is engaged to Mike, has an affair with Robert Cohn (who also loves her), and in the end, seemingly out of the blue, takes off and seduces the 19 year old bullfighter, Pedro Romero. Try to figure that out.
Also, I want to comment on what I consider to be an uncomfortable excess of anti-semitic sentiment in this book. Consider this exchange between Jake and Bill about Brett on p. 230 of the paperback Scribner edition (1954).
--"She hasn't any money with her?" I asked --"I shouldn't think so. She never has any money. She gets five hundred quid a year and pays three hundred and fifty of it in interest to Jews." --"I supppose they get it at the source," said Bill. --"Quite. They're not really Jews. We just call them Jews. They're Scotsmen, I believe."
Of course, the heart of the anti-semitism in this book is the way the characters relate to Robert Cohn. Some of it can be chalked up to jealousy, particularly as Cohn had had an affair with Brett, and Jake, who loves Brett, is sexually crippled because of his war injuries. But almost all of the principal characters, not just Jake, take pleasure in continually deriding Cohn's Jewishness to his face, to each other, or just in their mental, often alcohol-induced lucubrations. The references occur all too often throughout the book, e.g., there's Jake, saying that Cohn had a "hard, Jewish, stubborn streak," p. 10, Bill [on Cohn] at p. 162, "[h]e's got this Jewish superiority so strong that he thinks the only emotion he'll get out of the fight will be being bored" and Mike, "Take that sad Jewish face away, p. 177 . . . etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I realize that times change. I don't believe we should judge books from an earlier generation by today's standards of political correctness. Nonetheless, the characters in this book are often mean-spirited, and excessively anti-semetic without, in my view, an adequately compensating literary justification (which in the context of the holocaust to come a mere decade latter, should give pause). For whatever it's worth, in A Moveable Feast (a description of his life in Paris in the 1920s), the most generous portrait in that book is to the renowned poet (though fascist sympathizer) Ezra Pound.
Perhaps, World War I had gutted the soul, and that explains the Gertrude Stein quote, that Hemmingway uses to preface the book, "You are all a lost generation." But maybe the excuse is too easy.
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am 18. Februar 1999
Maybe I would have gotten more out of this in an English class, with some supplemental analysis of historical context and autobiographical reference. I'll assume this is a fairly accurate portrait of Europe between the wars and the dissipated doings of an expatriate leisure class. It vividly captures an endless party milieu in Paris and Spain at fiesta time. Beyond that, I didn't find it very rewarding in either plot or character development. A group of friends eat and drink and screw around, and seldom reveal any sincere or recognizably human feelings as they speak in dirt-simple declarative sentences to one another. The central relationship between Jake and Brett is intriguingly problematic (his impotence from a war wound is implied), but thinly realized. Overall, a fine evocation of a time and place, but otherwise pretty lightweight.
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am 11. Januar 1999
Because if you do, you won't be able to stop laughing. I made the serious, serious mistake of reading Boston's November 29, 1998 review before I read the book, and so when I finally did read it I noted every time "drink," "wine," "bottle," "bar," "cafe," "coffee," "breakfast," "lunch," "dinner" and their variations appeared, and son of a gun if they really weren't on almost every page. Every time I came across one of the words I'd start laughing, making it very difficult to concentrate on the book, which is mainly an extended low-level whine about how screwed up everyone was after the Great War.
Seriously, Hemingway shows some flashes of brilliance, but ironically for me they didn't occur with style or even theme, but rather with extremely vivid, stripped down descriptions of the Spanish countryside and such activities as fishing and bullfighting. If you want to read the book for that, you're not going to be disappointed. But if you're expecting action and character development, por el amor de Dios, look elsewhere.
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am 7. Januar 1999
This book is over-rated. The story is emotionally painful to follow, and the characters are very difficult to sympathize with. HOWEVER, Hemingway is one of the greatest authors america has produced, and rather than formulating any opinion before reading the book, I encourage readers to give Hemingway a chance. Also a bonus from this book is that F Scott Fitgerald did most of the editing...you can see his style at work.
I've been told that this book is exceedinly, almost scarily autobiographical. The characters aren't very likable, but the situations and the plot evolution are fairly realistic. Not Hemigway's best, but not his worst either.
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