43. ‘Short Stories’ by Ernest Hemingway

89c5301f657ec-fullMy only previous experience of Hemingway was a tatty hardback copy of The Old Man and the Sea, so when I spotted a (relatively) cheap Folio Edition of his short stories in a secondhand bookshop, I had to get it. I’ve been reading it on and off throughout the year, but recently I sat down and blasted the second half in one go.

At first I was a little unsure about Hemingway’s style. It felt quite sparse and the characters seemed to come across a little mechanical and emotionless. But the more I read the more effective his writing seemed to be – Hemingway portrays his characters’ feelings quite subtly, so that they run through the whole story and the reader comes away with a sense of melancholy, or nostalgia, or gentle tragedy.

The stories are mostly about men, usually in some sort of relationship with nature: there are men fishing, skiing, hunting on safari and bull-fighting. I think my favourite stories were the ones about bull-fighting; I loved reading about characters at the ends of their careers, putting their lives in danger to hold onto their former glory.

I also loved the simple freedom of many of the stories. The ones that follow the recurring character Nick show him alone in nature, fishing for enough food to live on and free to travel as he pleases. Of course, these contrast strongly with the war stories, and having the two different types in one collection makes the juxtaposition even more striking.

This is a beautiful collection for a beginner to Hemingway, the master of writing compelling snapshots of people’s lives. I would particularly recommend the stories, ‘A Way You’ll Never Be’ and ‘Cat in the Rain’.

My favourite quote from the collection is currently written up on my whiteboard, as my inspiration for completing NaNoWriMo:

“Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either. Maybe you could never write them, and that was why you put them off and delayed the starting. Well he would never know, now.”

If you liked my review, why not read the book and let me know what you think?

What do you think?

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