Friday, February 01, 2008

A Farewell to Arms

I'd forgotten how amazing Hemingway's sparse writing really is. I listened to most of this book on a trip to Idaho last weekend and quickly finished what was left over the other night. Previous to this I had read The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea, along with some other short stories, but for me this was the most emotional and most affecting. Perhaps because of its artful combination of war and romance and the way it all tumbles toward the desperate conclusion. I learned a bit more about human connection (and disconnection). I am including three exerpts I really liked.

Henry and Catherine on bravery:

"They won't get us," I said. "Because you're too brave. Nothing ever happens to the brave."
"They die of course."
"But only once."
"I don't know. Who said that?"
"The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one?"
"Of course. Who said it?"
"I don't know."
"He was probably a coward," she said. "He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave. The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he's intelligent. He simply doesn't mention them."
"I don't know. Its hard to see inside the head of the brave."
"Yes. Thats how they keep it that way."

Henry and the Priest regarding war:

"You cannot believe how it has been. Except that you have been there and you know how it can be. Many people have realized the war this summer. Officers whom I thought could never realize it realize it now."
"It is in defeat that we become Christian."
"The Austrians are Christians--except for the Bosnians."

"I don't mean technically Christian. I mean like Our Lord."
He said nothing.
"We are all gentler now because we are beaten. How would Our Lord have been if Peter had rescued him in the Garden?"

Henry's reverie about love, loneliness and the killing world:

"Often a man wishes to be alone and a girl wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. It has only happened to me like that once. I have been alone while I was with many girls and that is the way that you can be most lonely. But we were never lonely and never afraid when we were together...If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."

1 comment:

Nick said...


This is my favorite Hemmingway novel. I've read it, and listened to it on tape. The ending blew me away. I hope you've converted to books on tape-- pure gold!