Rediscovering Hemingway By NICHOLAS TRANDAHL
I was in Mrs. Sharkey’s high school Novels class, my senior year I believe, when I read my first work of Ernest Hemingway’s. It was The Old Man and the Sea, a staple in most high schools from what I understand. You’ve likely read it and thus I won’t go into the deeds of Santiago overmuch but for to say that his struggle against the marlin, and the sharks that came later, his misfortune and his reputation was epic in scope and made quite the impression on me. It was as much a lesson in determination as it was one of frustration, as much a lesson in hopelessness as it was one of success.
But then, that was that. I said goodbye to Hemingway as I delved further and further into tales of fantasy from J.R.R. Tolkien and a horde of other authors far too expansive to list, poetry from the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson, and writers that I grew an intense passion for after reaching adulthood, writers such as Henry David Thoreau, H.P. Lovecraft, and William Butler Yeats. The down-to-earth adventure and metaphorical themes of the 20th Century writer didn’t pull to me as the works of fantasy, naturalism and sorrow did.
Only a year or so ago, I watched the HBO movie ‘Hemingway & Gellhorn’. I’m not one to let movies and film influence what I read and write, but that movie did indeed encourage me quietly and unassumingly do a little further browsing into the action-packed tumultuous life of Ernest Hemingway. The fact the he committed suicide (as so many members of his ancestry and lineage had done) instilled in me some sort of link, a connection. He and I both served in foreign conflicts in the military and suffered as a result (he physically and I, mentally and emotionally), we both write for a living as authors and in journalism (though I compare my works not with his, make no mistake. I am no Ernest Hemingway), and we both dealt with suicidal ideation (him being unfortunately successful and myself, fortunately, not succeeding in killing myself on the other side of this conflicted globe). A likeness was seemingly developed on my part concerning he and I.
And so now is the time.
I ordered my first Hemingway novel, in paperback because I fear that he’d not approve of downloading his works on my Kindle. This will be the first that I’ve ever owned, the second that I’ve ever read, and I am very excited. Whilst looking around for my perfect re-introduction to Ernest Hemingway (my mouth actually watering at the prospect of getting a new good book), I came across Islands in the Stream. I’ve never heard of it, but something about it pulled at me, pulled at my soul.
Let’s just see what happens.
My Introduction to Hemingway: The Old Man and The Sea
I finally read an Ernest Hemingway book. I know. It’s surprising that I’ve gone my entire life up until now (even obtaining a Creative Writing degree) and I’m just now finishing up a Hemingway story for the first time. But hey, I just completed the book and I’ve got a lot to say.
Since The Old Man and the Sea is considered a classic tale and has won a Pulitzer Prize and earned Hemingway the Nobel Prize in Literature, I won’t title this post a “review”. Think of it as just my opinion. But wait, isn’t that what a review is? Ha! Anyway, let’s get to business.
This book was the thinnest paperback that I’ve ever read in my life, yet it took me several weeks to finish reading. After 3 whole renewals of this book at my local library, I finished it at last! To be honest, this story wasn’t a page-turner for me, at least not at first. This is not to insult one of the greats. Perhaps I’m just so accustomed to story types totally different than this one. It just had a slow start for me. The final pages were what captured my attention the most.
To sum things up, the story is about an old man and the sea (just like the title says). This old man is a fisherman in Cuba. He has not been so lucky with catching fish. He lives in a shack and frequently goes fishing with a young boy. But one day the old man goes on a journey alone. He has a lot to prove to himself and to his community. Long story short, the old man spends quite a few days out on the sea. After a significantly long time he hooks a fish, a big fish. It’s a big, pretty marlin on his line and he labors long and hard before capturing it. The old man has sailed extremely far from land (too far for comfort in my opinion). After he catches this fish, he begins that long sail home and has to fight off various sharks who are biting at this unbelievably huge, beautiful fish. He uses a knife and oars to fight at the sharks, but in the end the old man is defeated. By the time he makes it back home (bloody and bruised) there is nothing left of his precious fish but a skeleton.
It was quite interesting to read how this old, frail man kept his strength for days with minimal nutrition. It really shows his determination. This book was an easy read. The wording is simple to follow. It just took me a while to get into it. I have no idea why my introduction to Ernest Hemingway is just now happening, but I’m glad I’ve gotten started. I plan to check out more Hemingway in the future!
FIGURES OF SPEECH
1.There are many examples of symbolism in the novella. These include; the marlin (Santiago’s alter-ego); the dreams of lions (Santiago’s lost youth); the sharks (destructive elements in nature); the mast (symbolic of the cross); and Santiago himself (Christ figure).
2.Santiago compares the sea to a woman.
“…..she is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel…He always thought of her as feminine [la mar] and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them.”
Santiago compares the sea to a woman.“…..she is kind and very beautiful.But she can be so cruel…He always thought of her as
feminine [la mar] and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because
she could not help them.”
About The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea was published 1952 after the bleakest ten years in Hemingway’s literary career. His last major work, Across the River and into the Trees, was condemned as unintentional self-parody, and people began to think that Hemingway had exhausted his store of ideas.
Santiago’s story was originally conceived as part of a larger work, including material that later appeared in Islands in the Stream. This larger work, which Hemingway referred to as “The Sea Book,” was proving difficult, and when Hemingway received positive reviews of the Santiago story, known then as “The Sea in Being,” he decided to allow it to be published independently. He wrote to publisher Charles Scribner in October 1951, “This is the prose that I have been working for all my life that should read easily and simply and seem short and yet have all the dimensions of the visible world and the world of man’s spirit. It is as good prose as I can write as of now.”
The Old Man and the Sea, published in its entirety in one edition of Life magazine, was an instant success. In two days the September 1st edition of Life sold 5,300,000 copies and the book version sold 153,000. The novella soared to the top of the best-seller list and remained there for six months. At first, critical reception was warm. Many hailed it as Hemingway’s best work, and no less than William Faulkner said, “Time may show it to be the best single piece of any of us, I mean his and my contemporaries.” Others, however, complained of artificiality in the characterization and excess sentimentality. Despite these detractors, The Old Man and the Sea was awarded the 1953 Pulitizer Prize and American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Award of Merit Medal for the Novel and played a significant role in Hemingway’s selection for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.
For the first fifteen or so years after its publication, critical response remained largely positive. Since the mid-60’s, however, the work has received sustained attacks from realist critics who decry the novella’s unrealistic or simply incorrect elements, e.g. the alleged eight rows of teeth in the mako’s mouth or the position of the star Riegel. Through the 1970’s the book became less and less the subject of serious literary criticism, and the view of the book as embarrassingly narcissistic, psychologically simplistic, and overly sentimental became more and more entrenched. While The Old Man and the Sea is popularly beloved and assigned reading for students in the US and around the world, critical opinion places it among Hemingway’s less significant works.
The last novel Ernest Hemingway saw published, The Old Man and the Sea has proved itself to be one of the enduring works of American fiction. It is the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his supreme ordeal: a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Using the simple, powerful language of a fable, Hemingway takes the timeless themes of courage in the face of defeat and personal triumph won from loss and transforms them into a magnificent twentieth-century classic.
He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first
forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely
and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish
the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry
either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and,
furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.
The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun
brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the
deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless
Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.
“Santiago,” the boy said to him as they climbed the bank from where the skiff was hauled up. “I could go with you again. We’ve made some
The old man had taught the boy to fish and the boy loved him.
“No,” the old man said. “You’re with a lucky boat. Stay with them.”
“But remember how you went eighty-seven days without fish and then we caught big ones every day for three weeks.”
“I remember,” the old man said. “I know you did not leave me because you doubted.”
“It was papa made me leave. I am a boy and I must obey him.”
“I know,” the old man said. “It is quite normal.”
“He hasn’t much faith.”
“No,” the old man said. “But we have. Haven’t we?”
“Yes,” the boy said. “Can I offer you a beer on the Terrace and then we’ll take the stuff home.”
“Why not?” the old man said. “Between fishermen.”
They sat on the Terrace and many of the fishermen made fun of the old man and he was not angry. Others, of the older fishermen, looked
at him and were sad. But they did not show it and they spoke politely about the current and the depths they had drifted their lines at and
the steady good weather and of what they had seen. The successful fishermen of that day were already in and had butchered their marlin
out and carried them laid full length across two planks, with two men staggering at the end of each plank, to the fish house where they
waited for the ice truck to carry them to the market in Havana. Those who had caught sharks had taken them to the shark factory on the
other side of the cove where they were hoisted on a block and tackle, their livers removed, their fins cut off and their hides skinned out
and their flesh cut into strips for salting.
When the wind was in the east a smell came across the harbour from the shark factory; but today there was only the faint edge of the
odour because the wind had backed into the north and then dropped off and it was pleasant and sunny on the Terrace.
“Santiago,” the boy said.
“Yes,” the old man said. He was holding his glass and thinking of many years ago.
“Can I go out to get sardines for you for tomorrow?”
“No. Go and play baseball. I can still row and Rogelio will throw the net.”
“I would like to go. If I cannot fish with you, I would like to serve in some way.”
“You bought me a beer,” the old man said. “You are already a man.”
“How old was I when you first took me in a boat?”
“Five and you nearly were killed when I brought the fish in too green and he nearly tore the boat to pieces. Can you remember?”
“I can remember the tail slapping and banging and the thwart breaking and the noise of the clubbing. I can remember you throwing me into
the bow where the wet coiled lines were and feeling the whole boat shiver and the noise of you clubbing him like chopping a tree down
and the sweet blood smell all over me.”
“Can you really remember that or did I just tell it to you?”
“I remember everything from when we first went together.”
The old man looked at him with his sun-burned, confident loving eyes.
“If you were my boy I’d take you out and gamble,” he said. “But you are your father’s and your mother’s and you are in a lucky boat.”
“May I get the sardines? I know where I can get four baits too.”
“I have mine left from today. I put them in salt in the box.”
“Let me get four fresh ones.”
“One,” the old man said. His hope and his confidence had never gone. But now they were freshening as when the breeze rises.
“Two,” the boy said.
“Two,” the old man agreed. “You didn’t steal them?”
“I would,” the boy said. “But I bought these.”
“Thank you,” the old man said. He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it
was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride.
“Tomorrow is going to be a good day with this current,” he said.
“Where are you going?” the boy asked.
“Far out to come in when the wind shifts. I want to be out before it is light.”
“I’ll try to get him to work far out,” the boy said. “Then if you hook something truly big we can come to your aid.”
“He does not like to work too far out.”
“No,” the boy said. “But I will see something that he cannot see such as a bird working and get him to come out after dolphin.”
“Are his eyes that bad?”
“He is almost blind.”
“It is strange,” the old man said. “He never went turtle-ing. That is what kills the eyes.”
“But you went turtle-ing for years off the Mosquito Coast and your eyes are good.”
“I am a strange old man.”
“But are you strong enough now for a truly big fish?”
“I think so. And there are many tricks.”
ERNEST HEMINGWAY: A STORYTELLER’S LEGACY BY MEGAN FLOYD DESNOYERS
…….In January 1951 Hemingway began to write a story that had been ripening in his head since he first heard it in 1935. It was the story of an old “Cuban fisherman who fought a swordfish for four days and four nights only to lose it to sharks.” (75) In 1936 Hemingway outlined the story “On the Blue Water” in Esquire. It would become the novella The Old Man and the Sea. The old man “knew he was going far out and he left the smell of the land behind and rowed out into the clean early morning smell of the ocean.” (76) After a monumental struggle, he catches his giant fish, lashes it to his skiff, but sharks eat it on the way back to Havana. It was the ultimate story of “simple strength of character, deeper than his will. Hemingway seemed,” Scribner felt, “to admire that in a man more than any other quality.” (77)
Hemingway felt it was “the best I can write ever for all of my life.” It is “an epilogue to all my writing and what I have learned, or tried to learn, while writing and trying to live. It will destroy the school of criticism that claims I can write about nothing except myself and my own experiences.” (78)
Hemingway was amazed at how quickly and clearly he was able to write the story. At twenty-six, he had done the first draft of The Sun Also Rises in six weeks; at twice that age he completed The Old Man and the Sea in eight weeks. But he had had to rewrite his first novel completely. He had learned enough in twenty-five years so that he did not have to rewrite The Old Man and the Sea at all. (79) He wrote a thousand words a day for sixteen days, (80) a remarkable feat for someone who had written his editor Maxwell Perkins in 1944: “Charlie’s [Scribner’s, Sr.] ridiculing of my daily word count was because he did not understand me or writing especially well nor know how happy one felt to have put down properly 422 words as you wanted them to be. And days of 1200 or 2700 were something that made you happier than you could believe.” (81)
The Old Man and the Sea was published in Life, was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and was successful worldwide. At this point the celebrity really took off. He was a genuine public personality. “The appetite for information about him was unquenchable: Periodicals aimed at every level of readership regularly reported his opinions and personal activities; the saga of his life was recounted in magazines ranging from the New Yorker to Life to True; newspaper columnists as dissimilar as Joseph Alsop and Leonard Lyons often discussed him in their columns.” (82) People could not get enough information about him. Tourists and reporters appeared at the Finca, and readers from all over the world wrote him at the rate of eighty or ninety letters a day. (83)
Despite this success, the hurting time continued. Hemingway’s mother had died; Mary’s father died; Pauline died at fifty-six of an undiagnosed tumor. Hemingway’s word counts and notebook jottings were supplemented and, to a certain extent, supplanted by his lists of what he ate, his weight, blood pressure, and medication. In 1954 he won the Nobel Prize for literature, but he was too ill to accept it in person. He was recovering from his injuries from the two African plane crashes and his other medical problems. Loneliness was overwhelming him. “There is no lonelier man,” he wrote in a discarded draft of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “than the writer when he is writing except the suicide. Nor is there any happier, nor more exhausted man when he has written well. If he has written well everything that is him has gone into the writing and he faces another morning when he must do it again. There is always another morning and another morning.” (84)
After hospitalization for extreme nervous depression, two suicide threats, and electric shock treatments, there were no more mornings. In July 1961, after his release from the Mayo Clinic, Hemingway committed suicide by shooting himself in the forehead with a shotgun in his home in Ketchum. During the funeral, Gregory thought, “I hope it’s peaceful finally . . . because nobody ever dreamed of, or longed for, or experienced, less peace than he. He wrote of that longing all his life, in words as simple and as complicated as autumn and as spring.” (85) Hemingway was “first and foremost a storyteller,” Scribner said in a fitting epilogue. “Throughout his career as a writer from his first by-lined stories as a reporter to the time of his death, Hemingway never forgot that books were written to be read.” (86
Jan 13,2002-Hemingway’s ‘Old Man’ dies in Cuba
The Old Man and the Sea charts triumph over adversity
The Cuban fisherman who was the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and The Sea, has died at the age of 104.
|Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same colour as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated|
|Hemingway’s description of The Old Man|
Gregorio Fuentes was the captain of Hemingway’s boat Pilar during the years that Hemingway lived in Cuba, and he developed a strong friendship with the author.
It is thought that Hemingway modelled the central character of his Nobel prize-winning 1952 novel on Fuentes.
“Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same colour as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated,” Hemingway wrote of the The Old Man.
The classic novel tells the tale of an old Cuban fisherman’s colossal struggle to catch the perfect fish.
The climax of the book is a gruelling three-day battle with a marlin that he has hooked.
|Hemingway’s love of the outdoors featured in much of his work|
He eventually loses the fish to sharks, but the physical suffering he endures is portrayed as a spiritual triumph of integration with the world around him.
In reality, Fuentes was Hemingway’s captain and cook for nearly 30 years, steering his ship and preparing his favourite cocktails.
He died in the house he had always lived in as he was preparing to go to church. He had been suffering from cancer.
The fisherman was born on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands in 1897. He was travelling to Cuba when his father, who was a ship’s cook, died on board.
Fuentes, then only six years old, was taken in by other Canary island migrants.
He met Hemingway in 1928, and in 1930s the celebrated author hired Fuentes to look after his boat.
Fuentes recalled the moment when Hemingway finally returned to the United States in 1960, a year before he committed suicide.
“Take care of yourself as you have known how,” he recalled the author as saying.
The fisherman later donated Pilar to the Cuban Government.
It is displayed outside Hemingway’s former home on the outskirts of Havana.
In recent years, Fuentes had become something of a tourist attraction in the village of Cojimar, east of Havana, where he lived most of his long life.
2002=Hemingway’s ‘Old Man’ dies aged 104 in Cuba
By Andrew Cawthorne
COJIMAR, Cuba, (Reuters) – Gregorio Fuentes, the weather-beaten captain of U.S. novelist Ernest Hemingway’s boat in Cuba and
inspiration for “The Old Man And The Sea,” died Sunday aged 104 in the fishing village of Cojimar.
“He was a symbol of Cuban fishing and of human brotherhood, thanks to all of his years of friendship with Hemingway,” a friend,
Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, who runs Havana’s Hemingway International Nautical Club, told Reuters.
Born on July 11, 1897, Fuentes became captain of Hemingway’s boat “Pilar” at the end of the 1930s when the U.S. author lived on
the Caribbean island. The American developed a strong bond of friendship with Fuentes, who as well as steering Hemingway’s boat
also prepared his favorite cocktails.
In recent times, Fuentes had become something of a tourist magnet in Cojimar, just east of Cuba’s coastal capital Havana, where he
once used to embark on marlin-fishing trips with the adventure-loving Hemingway. Foreign journalists could usually get an
interview in exchange for a bottle of rum.
“My grandfather was loved by everyone,” his granddaughter, America Aguas Fuentes, told Reuters outside Gregorio Fuentes’
simple house in Cojimar. “He used to really enjoy recounting stories, especially about the wonderful times he had with
Hemingway, whom he always carried with him in his mind.”
Fuentes died at his home Sunday morning and was buried at a cemetery in the nearby village of Guanabacoa in the afternoon,
friends said. Although still lucid, he was suffering various ailments associated with old age.
“He was a humble man of the people, who showed great mastery in the arts of the sea and left a legacy of friendship which is an
example to us all,” Escrich added.
Hemingway’s Nobel prize-winning 1952 masterpiece modeled its central character, and his colossal struggle to bring in the fish of
his life, on Fuentes. “The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck,” Hemingway wrote in his opening
description of the fisherman.
“EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM WAS OLD” – HEMINGWAY
“The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords.
But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert.
“Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated,”
Last November, the writer’s niece, Hilary Hemingway, presented the International Game Fish Association’s (IGFA) ”Captain” award
to the cigar-smoking Fuentes at the Havana yacht marina named after her uncle.
“I’m delighted. It’s a very important prize for my people,” Cuba’s most famous mariner said then after joining the IGFA’s exclusive
club of 197 “Captains.” “I would like to honor a great fisherman,” Hilary Hemingway said in her speech giving the prize.
Of late, Fuentes, whose local fame was also based on his survival of several hurricanes at sea, was said to have been getting tired of
the tourists flocking to his door and frequently expressed nostalgia for his heyday with Hemingway.
“Since he died, life hasn’t been the same for me and I haven’t been fishing like the old days,” Fuentes, his blotched and craggy face
shaded by a cap marked “Captain”, said in a recent interview with Reuters.
Hemingway, who left Cuba for good after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, shot and killed himself in 1961.
Fuentes was born in the Canary Islands, but his parents emigrated to Cuba when he was a young boy.
Reuters/Variety REUTERS (2002)
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