I read Hemingway in one fell swoop, almost entirely. These more-known books are re-invented after many years, those less known for the first time. As a very young man and a very novice writer honestly Hemingway I hated – and today I see that I was quite right, but not all right.
The debunking, when it came, came hard
First of all, lesser-known books are quite rightly less known. Some of them read with simple embarrassment. “Wyspa na Golfsztromie” – heavy, monstrously boring plywood of motifs, something on the border of autoparodii. “Behind the river, in the shadow of trees” – a tearful old man, in which Italian teenagers love each other. “Green Hills of Africa” - chronicle of murdering all possible species of African fauna, hardworking of lionesses, zebras, rhinoceroses. In this last work, the so-called “problematic work” also captivates. The main conflict stems from the fact that Ernest’s friend shot a larger animal than Ernest. Ernest’s unhappiness grows. The fight hangs in the air. The situation is softened by a reminder: “Let’s act like white people!”. Literally.
In moral terms, Ernest is not the strongest even in his best books. Everywhere, the same colonialism (or even racism), everywhere murdering everything that moves (indifferent – running, swimming or flying), everywhere disgusting sexism. Someone once made a fun graphical juxtaposition of the deceased in all of Shakespeare’s plays. You could also make a jumble of idiots (often dumb) in Hemingway’s novels. Of course, there are also idiots in Ernest, but always with one exception – the main character, stylized as the author himself. Women are, at Hemingway, idiots without any exception. Generally: a woman is a ball, a rod and a shotgun.
Suddenly, though, there has been an academic revival in Hemingway studies
Also, these famous Hemingway morals are not convincing after all these years. “Man is not created for defeat.” Well, what else is a human being created for? “Man can be destroyed, but not beat.” Seriously? And he writes it Hemingway in the mid-twentieth century, when it was already more or less clear – and many books have already been written about it – that a man can be destroyed, one can defeat: everything can be done with a human being.
And yet – despite all antipathy – when I started writing, I imagined that I would become someone like Hemingway. That I can get a little bit in the attic in Paris, and I drive around Africa a bit. That at the right time I will argue with Gertrude Stein that my next wives will lose my manuscripts on the trains. That maybe I will read something there, but mostly he boxed. That I would be a “life” writer, not a “library” writer. Only later did I find out that these tuberculosis libraries are usually much closer to life than those boxers and hunters, although the latter have to offer in terms of purely artistic much more than they themselves admit to.
Because Hemingway is and remains a point of reference – someone who can be defended successfully, only some elements in this puzzle must be rearranged. I do not know if Hemingway was a good writer, but he was certainly an outstanding theoretician of literature. Absolutely brilliant is the idea that the story is like an iceberg, which only a few percent protrudes from the sea surface – and only a few percent goes to paper.
Hemingway’s charisma and good looks had made life easy for him
Perhaps that is why Hemingway’s stories are much better than his novels. In the first, Hemingway does not write everything he knows, but in the latter he serves us with an iceberg, diligently extending above the surface. The moral of reading the collected works of Hemingway is so and that the novel must be written only when the subject taken into the workshop can no longer be tangled in the story. In nine cases out of ten can be done.
From Hemingway, the Sensualist you can learn countless very useful writing tricks. Even if you never start a story from the first sentence, only – more or less – from the fourth and three previous throw it in the trash. Or that the novels should be arranged like sets of stories, and the stories should be written as if they were great epic novels. And above all, in the writing of prose there are tricks at all, some techniques – that you do not just do it from left to right, that you have to have an idea and then stick to it consistently.
Writing dubiously morally, but technically convincing. Rather, the theory of literature than literature. Contrary to the declarations of Hemingway himself – rather a collection of figures than people, with one main figure of Ernest himself in the center. Literature that can be destroyed, but not defeated.