a timeless and unforgettable classic (1927), one of the few books readable from age 15-85. one can read this book a dozen times and never tire of it. Paris, 1924. incidentally--"all the characters do is sit around in cafes and talk to each other." -- kid in my english iiia class, oh so many years ago.
okay, just wanted to get that out of the way, for its amusement value, and for, in fact, a surprisingly well-informed criticism. this book is
dialogue heavy, and a semi-educated fifteen year old's take does in fact capture one facet of a masterpiece--no work being entirely immune from criticism, but in its one way a remarkable homage as well since a 1990s teenager did not find this 1927 book 'old-fashioned,' 'stuffy' or 'inscrutable.' compare this, after all, to Edith Wharton or Henry James (admitted James is a little earlier in time), but even E. M. Forster; Hemingway is modern. he is how we talk today. he is Dashell Hammett and Mythic River and the 1950s even before the time. isn't it remarkable how quickly readable and contemporary this book sounds, when, after all, E.M. Forster just three years earlier is saying:
Were there worlds beyond which they could never touch, or did all that is possible enter their consciousness? They could not tell. . . . Perhaps life is a mystery, not a muddle. . . . Perhaps the hundred Indias which fuss and squabble so tiresomely are one, and the universe they mirror is one. They had not the apparatus for judging.
"But the horses didn't want it-they swerved apart; the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices, 'No, not yet,' and the sky said, 'No, not there.'"
now Forster is a Cambridge graduate in the world's greatest empire, and Hemingway is a cub reporter from Illinois, but still, the affected, stilted quality of british prose versus the direct, straightforward Hemingway is telling. so is the fact that we talk like Hemingway today. some of this is merely America supplanting the British Empire, but some of this is an increasingly democratic sensibility in the world, and some of this is just 'history.' capital H...
this book was brilliant in many ways... i admit to being a little tired in book 3 (spain), but whether you just read the first half or you consider the work as a whole, it's clearly timeless, set the tone for a generation and a generation going to paris. if today, there is something 'uncool' about being an expat in Paris (as opposed to being a bangkok, mumbai or moscow expat== these locations being truly 'dangerous' in the way that paris in 1924 was), then that is no points off for the work that defined the 'lost expats abroad' genre, and did so with the quintessential femme fatale, Lady Brett Ashley.
(not precisely the same movie, but same actress, anyway...)
maybe this is the brilliant moment of hemingway's prose-creation. with the reason for Jake barnes's inability never outright stated, the work fulfills Hemingway's 'ice-berg' theory of writing to its highest degree.
Heminway's dialogue heavy prose, (said to be very american at the time), but with terse, newspaper/telegraph-like sentences, creates a distinct sensibility and powerful mood piece. 5/5 and instant classic
finally, wins points for:
#expat mood (what, ninety years before Lost in Translation?)
#defines 'cool' (in both Ashley and in the tastes of these particular expats)
#pace is perfect