The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway is another book that I read in high school that made little sense to me. The reason, no contextual knowledge to connect the novel to in any meaningful way. All that I recalled about the book was bull fighting, drinking and the eating of boiled eggs. Ironically, the book can be summed up, in the most simple terms, as being about bull fighting and imbibing heartily, to say the least. I’m not sure where the boiled egg imagery came from, although I think the characters do eat chicken embryos once or twice during the course of their adventures.
Hemingway, like Fitzgerald and Joyce, was an author whose work reflected life. He was an expatriate that moved to Paris, after serving in WWI in the early 1920s. He spent his time with other inteligencia such as Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and Ezra Pound. Hemingway spent hours having lively, stimulating discussions in Parisian cafes and logged in many hours wandering the streets of Paris completely intoxicated. The Sun Also Rises was not a big stretch from his everyday existence.
The novel focuses on several friends, most of whom served in WWI, who post war spend their time with no real meaningful purpose besides drinking, dancing and traveling about Europe (which, trust me, I have no objection to…..sign me up!) The band of less than merry characters consists of Jake Barnes (who I think of as Hemingway, minus the impotency), Brett Ashley (the love interest of every male that crosses her path, including Jake Barnes), Bill Gorton (a friend from New York who has come to join Jake on a fishing trip to Spain), Richard Cohn (a novelist, who surprisingly meets with success) and Mike Campbell (surely the chief imbiber of the group and fiancé of Brett Ashley). They meet with each other in Paris, some stay, some go and they all eventually end up in Pamplona at the “Running of the Bulls”.
I did like the book, which I didn’t necessarily expect to. Hemingway, unlike Fitzgerald, is one of those authors people have mixed feeling about. Some people think he is brilliant and some…. Well…. some people just don’t. I was emotionally involved with the protagonist, Jake Barnes and wanted to see what would become of him. The relationship between he and his friend Bill Gorton is by far the highlight of the book, often humorous and very tangible. The other characters, especially Brett Ashley, are somewhat annoying in their narcissism and self destructiveness, but I suppose are necessary as contrasting personalities, which this novel is heavily based.
I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone, except maybe recovering alcoholics, it is disturbing how the characters are hell bent on destroying their livers and yet it still makes the reader want to go out and get a drink. I read it in a couple days and found an appreciation for Hemingway. I will also be reading “A Farewell to Arms” next, as I have the tendency to stick with an author before I move on to other books on the list. I am very interested to see some other opinions on Hemingway, so fire away.