When Papa writes, the world reads. Hemingway’s classic about the Spanish Civil War needs no introduction, being one of the preeminent novels of its era to deal with a war that was a harbinger of the much larger European theatre of war. The writing is solid, covering Robert Jordan’s mission in an absorbing fashion. Remember, Hemingway covered the war firsthand, and as such, nothing beats being there for authenticity of narrative. Jordan’s involvement in the Spanish war as a dynamiter might be construed as a sign of things to come, vis a vis America’s involvement in Latin American wars in the second half of the century.
The writing is exemplary and showcases Jordan’s love for Maria against his attraction for the formidable Pilar. The Spaniards are shown to be terse folk, a little worried about the ramifications of the bridge and being hunted to death in the hills, but on the whole behind the task of flushing out the brutal Fascists. The Fascists are portrayed using the usual literary devices of overhead planes and armoured tanks to convey far-off omnipotence. The Republicans are shown to be equally brutal in some cases, especially in the recounting of the death-flails in the plaza above the river. Hemingway succeeds in shining a ray of light on one slender facet of the war, in illuminating the lives and characters of a few people in a confused and angry time. You can’t help but feel for Maria and for Robert Jordan, especially when the song of hate keens within him. Not reading this book is simply not an option.
With that ringing endorsement, I leave you with the poem the book got its title from.
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 a Promontorie 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.