Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Club and Hemingway

Tonight we discussed "As You Like It" and other summer reads among our members. But I wanted to blog about last month's book club, which I missed, but I've kept reading "For Whom the Bell Tolls." I suppose everyone should read Hemingway at some point. He joined the Kansas City Star as a report at age 17 and then volunteered with the Red Cross during World War I (severely wounded in Italy). By 1921, he had moved to Paris and rowdied with a group of expat authors who all wanted to write the Great American Novel. He also partly lived and wrote in Key West (Captain and I toured his home during our honeymoon) and Cuba.
I've always admired the poem which forms the title of his novel:
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; 
every man is a peece of the Continent
a part of the maine
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea
Europe is the lesse, 
as well as if aPromontorie were,
as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; 
any mans death diminishes me
because I am involved in Mankinde
And therefore never send to know 
for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. (John Donne, 1624)
Thoughts of death most certainly are on the minds of all the soldiers/main characters in the book. This is an intense story that focuses on Jordan, an American fighting with the anti-fascist guerillas in Spain, who falls in love with Maria during his dynamiter mission. He is constantly weighing his chances at death or suicide. Jordan wants to avoid suicide, partly because his father committed suicide and he views it as cowardly. And partly because he wants to "live in the moment" with Maria, whose love gives him hope and renews his courage. "I suppose it is possible to live as full a life in seventy hours as in seventy years," Jordan thinks to himself. Unfortunately, Hemmingway himself committed suicide 21 years later (and his father had also committed suicide).

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