i’m probably unfairly biased towards hemingway due to his uniquely sage writing advice, to which i’ll be forever indebted. the power of persuasion might also have a factor here, this work being a pulitzer prize winner and contributing to hemingway’s nobel prize win. widely regarded as one of the greatest works of literature and praised as a modern classic, it’s easy to be swayed by such glowing remarks. i picked up this short novel knowing its reputation; who knows what i might have made of it if i’d simply come across it in a slushpile. then again, all the adulation had given me great expectations, yet the novel did not disappoint.
this was a very enjoyable read, with a surprising amount of action and tension, and deeply moving on many levels. there’s something beautifully sad about the old man’s valiant struggle and his spectacular failure, as well as something remarkably touching about his relationship with the boy who cares for him. aside from hemingway’s repetitive use of ‘and’ (too much, i would say, if i were his editor), along with a few minor typos, the prose has hemingway’s characteristic cleanness – a refreshing, artistic brevity. it’s easy to overcomplicate the interpretation (“it’s really an allegorical commentary on moby dick! on christianity! on life!”); however, i think ultimately the story is simple and the writing is simple, and in that purity lies its genius.
- instructions for reading: this short novel is best read in one sitting – somewhere cozy, perhaps by a fireplace – accompanied by a tall glass of red wine.