Monday, January 26, 2015

Hemingway the First

Book #1 in my year of Hemingway is complete, although I probably should have worked my way up to this title instead of starting with it.  Biographical info on Papa H. tells me that this book is based on Hemingway’s own experience in the Italian campaigns during WWI.  It was during this time that he met and fell in love with a nurse named Agnes.  I suspect she may be the subject in question in The Paris Wife, the novel that initiated this whole project.  I figured I needed to understand Hemingway and his thirst for love, danger, as well as his addiction to heartbreak and pain in order to understand that novel. 
Farewell follows the war career of expat, Frederic Henry serving in the ambulance corps of the Italian army.  The novel is broken into five books – five long chapters?  five novellas? Call them what you like. The first section covers Fredric’s army career including being wounded by a mortar shell.  In a Milan hospital, he meets and gets a little frisky with his nurse, Catherine.  The remaining chapters take us through their relationship – the calms and the storms all leading to a devastating end.

You can always count on the happy times in a Hemingway novel to exist just a beat away from great sorrow.  Maybe I’m going about this all wrong, Maybe I should be reading a solid Hemingway biography, rather than reading his novels.  I am not sorry I read this book, but doing so made me wonder who the Hemingway’s of today are.  Over the years, I have demoted myself to reading works that hover near the equator between literary and pop.  I have enjoyed both, but returning to more classic works occasionally cement for me how terrifying and inspiring the written word can be.

What's next?  I haven't picked anything out yet, but  I am two Chet and Bernie books behind so that may be a good place to start.

Thanks for stopping by.