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Librarian s note An alternate cover edition can be found hereInErnest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from the good fight , For Whom the Bell Tolls The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal In his portrayal of Jordan s love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo s last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway surpasses his achievement in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to create a work at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving and wise If the function of a writer is to reveal reality, Maxwell Perkins wrote to Hemingway after reading the manuscript, no one ever so completely performed it Greater in power, broader in scope, and intensely emotional than any of the author s previous works, it stands as one of the best war novels of all time Suffice it to say, I am not a Hemingway fan. Ok, before I commit the sacrilege of dismissing this classic, permit me to establish my Hemingway bona fides I have read and loved just about everything else he wrote, and have taught Sun Also Rises, Farewell to Arms, and many short stories, and had a blast doing it I ve read Carlos Baker s classic bio, and numerous critical articles on H I ve made the pilgrimage to Key West and taken pictures of his study and the hordes of 6 toed cats I dig Papa, ok But I can not stand this book I should Ok, before I commit the sacrilege of dismissing this classic, permit me to establish my Hemingway bona fides I have read and loved just about everything else he wrote, and have taught Sun Also Rises, Farewell to Arms, and many short stories, and had a blast doing it I ve read Carlos Baker s classic bio, and numerous critical articles on H I ve made the pilgrimage to Key West and taken pictures of his study and the hordes of 6 toed cats I dig Papa, ok But I can not stand this book I should say up front that I ve never been able to tolerate it long enough to finish it twice First time was nearly 30 years ago, and as a fairly recently discharged Army troop,I took up this book with much anticipation and excitement I couldn t get past about half way through I found the prose so incredibly flat and dull as to be soporific and, yes, I fully understand and appreciate H s famous Iceberg Principle of writing the thing left unsaid etc The problem wasn t the thing left unsaid the problem was too many things said, and in a very boring fashion How could a book with such a dramatic plot be so dull, I wondered in shock It s all in the language, or lack thereof I have a theory that great short story writers often don t make great, or even good, novelists, because the voice and style that works so well in the shorter genre just doesn t translate to the longer one John Cheever, case in point IB Singer, to a lesser extent Now, of course, H did write great novels this just isn t one of them Take away the language in H s novels, and what are you left with borderline juvenile adventures and fantasies, or at best, semi journalistic accounts.Compare the opening of Bells with the opening of Farewell to Arms be honest and tell me if you hear even one faint echo of the magical rhythm of that famous opening in Bells anywhere, not just the beginning And the dialogue, sweet jesus, joseph and mary, I ve heard corporate phone recordings withintonation and human warmth.A few months ago, our book club selected this novel At first, I kept my opinions to myself and hoped I would have a different response reading this time I readily acknowledge that my reading tastes have evolved matured, I hope significantly over the years, and maybe I just had a tin ear 30 years ago Not the case I couldn t even get beyond the first 6 pgs this time That flat voice was duller than ever Waterboarding would betolerable than reading 400 pages of this stuff, I thought I ve choked down some mediocre books before for the sake of fulfilling my civic duty as a long standing member of our book club, but I couldn t do it this time.This is not to suggest that the rest of you are wrong I have a dear friend who s readgreat literature than I can remember, and he loves this book, and expresses great shock when I tell him how much I hate it But there it is Robert Jordan sits on the pine needle floor of the pine forest, the scent of pine drifting through the pine trees which surround him Gazing through the pines he sees a mountain which reminds him of a breast It is domed, like a breast, but without a nipple, unlike a breast The breastness of the mountain is superb If only it was covered in pine needles and pine trees and had the scent of pine wafting around it Then Robert would truly be happy For Whom the Bell Tolls is allegedly a novel by Robert Jordan sits on the pine needle floor of the pine forest, the scent of pine drifting through the pine trees which surround him Gazing through the pines he sees a mountain which reminds him of a breast It is domed, like a breast, but without a nipple, unlike a breast The breastness of the mountain is superb If only it was covered in pine needles and pine trees and had the scent of pine wafting around it Then Robert would truly be happy For Whom the Bell Tolls is allegedly a novel by Ernest Hemingway Set during the Spanish Civil War, it is a story about an American dynamiter who is attempting to blow up a bridge in order to counteract Franco s forces Our main character, Robert Jordan, who is essentially a bad haircut personified, might win the title of most boring protagonist to ever appear in print Robert spends most of his time sitting on the forest floor and thinking about breasts Poor Robert, his life really stinks When he isn t thinking about boobs, he goes off on fifty page long flashbacks to his life before the war when he was a young American in Madrid, cornering young girls at house parties and telling them how Kid A is actually the connoisseurs choice when it comes to Radiohead albums but he has a soft spot for Pablo Honey What Robert needs is a feminine foil A woman who can really stand up to him and someone the reader can truly get behind So Papa Hemingway shits out Maria, a woman so badly written that the only thing I can remember about her is that her nipples point upwards Possibly the most lamentable aspect of Maria s character is the fact that she was raped by a group of fascists, a tragic backstory that Hemingway glosses over into order to talk about what a fantastic rack she has.Hemingway s prose has always been an easy target I would never, ever stoop so low In fact, I will say thank god for Hemingway s prose If For Whom the Bell Tolls was actually written at a literacy level higher than that of a kindergartener then it would genuinely be unreadable On top of that, Hemingway makes the frankly strange decision to self censor all of the obscenities throughout the novel What the fuck becomes what the muck and so on Hilariously, he also often substitutes obscenities with the word obscenity So there are genuinely moments in this novel where characters say what the obscenity are you doing and go obscenity yourself My advice to all of you is to stay well away from this mess There s nothing to see here folks If you are interested in a book on the Spanish Civil War, read Orwell s Homage to Catalonia If you want a good book about a bridge, and hey who doesn t, read Willa Cather s Alexander s Bridge God, for whom the bell tolls It tolls for me 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 John Donne Robert Capa s iconic 1936 photo of a falling soldier.Between 1936 1939 a war ha 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 John Donne Robert Capa s iconic 1936 photo of a falling soldier.Between 1936 1939 a war happened in Spain The world refers to it as the Spanish Civil War, but to the citizens of Spain it is called The Civil War It was a war for control of the soul of a country It was fought between the Republicans, who were democratically elected and the Nationalists, a Fascist group wanting to overthrow the government Most people were not aware at the time, but really this Civil War was a precursor, a warming pan for World War Two The Soviet Union and a coalition of other future allies who stayed behind the scenes provided help and advice for the Republicans Germany and Italy provided support for the Nationalists There were international brigades formed up of volunteers from all over the world who came to Spain to fight against fascism They lost Francisco Franco, leader of the Nationalists, was the dictator of Spain until his death in 1975 Ernest Hemingway went to Spain as a war correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance and was hoping to find some great material for a book The dialogue is written in an archaic style implying that it is the most correct translation from the Spanish The thees and thous are distracting and certainly added some ponderousness to a book that was set in the 1930s not the 1630s Hemingway in Spain.Robert Jordan is an American who has been trained to be a dynamiter He joins a band of gypsy freedom fighters up in the hills of Sierra de Guadarrama with orders to blow a bridge that may or may not be important The chances of survival are slender because they are too few and the timeline too tight He meets Maria who has been saved by the band from the Fascists who had tortured and raped her He falls head over heels in loveI loved you when I saw you today and I loved you always though I have never seen you beforeIt could be the added tension of facing certain death coupled with her very real vulnerability that made him protective and lustful for her Their relationship quickly goes medieval with her begging him for ways to help him shining his shoes, pouring him wine, mending his clothes, or fetching him something to eat She is constantly insecure about her appearance because the Fascists had cut off her hair and she only had a stubble grown back The relationship is built on the most shallow grounds It is difficult to conceive that it would have survived a move back into a regular life But did thee feel the earth move I m not sure if this is where the concept of sex being cosmic originated, but it certainly provided some eye rolling moments for this reader Especially when the gypsy witch Pilar tells Maria that she will only feel the earth move three times in her lifetime Why three times It is not known, but Pilar is most certain it can only happen three times There is a 1943 movie starring Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper.Jordan s relationship with the rest of the band is one of uncertainty and shifting alliances He certainly is stepping on the toes of the original leader Pablo who used to be a man of great courage, but had lost his desire to want to kill or be killed He is considered a coward or in my opinion maybe he d just had his belly full of it He commits an act of treason in an attempt to save the band, but decides in the final moment to come back and help In some ways he is the most interesting character in the book A man who is evolved past mindlessness and wantsreason for blowing a bridge or killing people than just to follow orders The best scene in the book is the death of a band of guerrillas who are lead by El Sordo They are trapped on a hill by the Nationalists and it is some of the most compelling writing in the book as the action shifts between Jordan s band who want to help, but know it is suicide to help, and the band on the hill wondering if help will arrive Courage is something Hemingway respects and cowardice is something he worries about The potential of experiencing his own bout of cowardice or finding it in others is a theme of his life Jordan s father had committed suicide, an act of cowardice as far as Jordan was concerned He is worried that he will be captured and would be forced to kill himself like his father It puts into question his whole feelings about his father and the way he died I found myself wincing as I was reading these passages seeing Hemingway s own mind so glaringly revealed Hemingway s father killed himself, as did his sister and brother The curse continued into another generation with the suicide of his granddaughter Margaux If Hemingway felt the way Jordan did I believe he did I do wonder if he finally forgave his own father when he became the mechanism of his own death or did he maybe blame his father for cursing the family with suicidal thoughts Hemingway posing with his favorite shogun Later he used it to end his life.I read this book as a teenager and was suitably impressed with Hemingway at the time I d read The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms and enjoyed them I approached For Whom the Bell Tolls convinced I would love it as well Rereading it now, at this point in my life was a struggle The story is actually very simple, but this is a book that has fallen in a barrel of water and been bloated beyond recognition Hemingway is famous for his concise sentences and for the precision of his plots, but in this novel he certainly moves away from both of those concepts There is a wonderful short novel here hidden behind too much ink The plot actually becomes tedious and repetitive Words I thought I would never use to describe a Hemingway novel I can t begin to convey how disappointed I felt It makes me fearful to read others of his books that I have such fine memories of reading This book was very popular and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize