As I was really struggling with English writing during my PhD, one of my supervisors suggested that I read Hemingway so as to learn how to write short sentences and simple language. I went to the library pick one of his novels but never got time to read as literature review was already killing my whole time and energy.
Well, six years plus after, I got myself to read Hemingway. Out of fun and a burning desire to be a creative fiction writer. Since there are so many fiction novels out there I carefully pick what to read. So Hemingway, a classic novelist, is an obvious priority but his novel – Fiesta- in particular – was more tempting due to one of its settings- Paris. There’s something about this city that brings out a writer in somebody. Even Hemingway moved from Chicago to Paris where he settled and built his own writing career. We all know that he made it.
In Fiesta, Hemingway brings about to the reader the experience of a group of foreign male friends -Americans and British (you may call them expatriates) living in Paris trying to make it as writers. The novel focuses on their social lives, which reflect the mixture of their home cultures and Paris culture through which they are trying to live. Noticeably, is the presence of close women (and female friends/lovers) in the lives of these men. The sensitivities and complications of having female “friend(s)” among male friends is vivid in the story line. Indeed, whether one notices it or not, Hemingway is implicitly underscoring the power of a female presence among men. In my reflections on a number of fictions, I’ve boldly highlighted this implicit power of women hidden in their perceived weaknesses -examples here and here… and it’s impressive to again see this in Hemingway’s narrative. Brett, who was Jake’s friend created lots of tension and fights between two of Jake’s friends- Mike and Cohn. Brett attracted attention and generated jealous between the two chaps. More interestingly, it’s how Brett had an audacity of moving on with a new crush- a a famous bullfighter known as Romero in Spain (where the male friends together with her had all gone for a bullfighting fiesta). Funnily, after the fiesta and all fiesting vibe that ensued she ended up in problems, Jake had to bear all the costs and went to help her out. Hemingway (who is character Jake- I believe) captured this implicit power of a female friend:
“…send a girl off with one man. Introduce her to another to go off with him. Now go and bring her back. And sign the wire with love…” p. 210
But reflecting objectively on the novel, Hemingway has lots of lessons for men towards handling women. Such a lesson is captured well in the below (quoted) paragraph illustrating Romero handling and balancing his career and love:
“…Pedro Romero had his greatness. He loved bullfighting,…and he loved Brett. Everything of which he could control the locality he did in front of her all that afternoon (i.e. while bullfighting). Never once did he look up. He made it stronger that way, and did it for himself, too, as well as for her. Because he did not look up to ask if it pleased he did it all for himself inside, and it strengthened him, and yet he did it for her, too. But he did not do it for her at any loss to himself…” p. 187
Like other fictions, the novel reflects much of Hemingway’s real life. If you are a familiar with his background, you can see it in the novel. In fact, in presenting character Jake, Hemingway uses ‘first person’. This makes the novel personal and relational. It is like Hemingway explaining to you the story himself on one to one basis. I hope that (in his real life) him (Jake) and his female friend (Brett) ended up dating as the novel leaves the reader curious….as I quote:
“….as the (taxi) driver started up the street. I settled back. Brett moved close to me. We sat close against each other. I put my arm around her and she rested against me comfortably…’Oh, Jake’ Brett said ‘we could have had such a damned good time together.’… ‘Yes.’ I said. ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
That was the end of the novel! Men who are reading this can probably help me understand Jake’s response…was it a polite No?
Well, going back six years ago all stressed on whether I’ll ever manage to write a coherent Thesis or not, I now think my supervisor (as always) had a very valid and excellent suggestion. Reading Hemingway would have obviously helped me to understand the power of using simple language in explaining complicated arguments in a way that anybody can understand. But more importantly, may be, would have been a healthy digress and break from tough academic literature that often makes the world very dark and cold to students. Fiction is the way of life- it makes the world brighter! #KyekuLovinIt.