Monday, July 13, 2009
A Farewell to Arms
At the moment, I am sitting at the foot of my bed with my beloved Hemingway novel, A Farewell to Arms and am missing my friends Frederick Henry or Tenente (Lieutenant) as he is referred to mostly, Catherine, Rinaldi, the Priest and poor Aymo as well as countless others that I have grown fond of over this past week. A Farewell to Arms on the surface seems like a “mans, man” type of novel where the men suck down brandy, wine and vermouth, suffer countless war injuries and suck it all up to “this is a grand war isn’t it?” and carry on with common conversations about woman, the weather and the war.
Though the war, and the love affair between Tenente and Catherine are foremost, I can’t help but melt at the eloquence in which Hemingway personifies night and day. Hemingway gives so much life to these moments as if they too are mere characters in the story. He does so in A Farewell to Arms and in The Sun Also Rises. It’s a continuous theme throughout both novels and I wonder why this is so. In both novels time is really irrelevant. Characters come and go, meet here and there and carry on with their day-to-day lives with little mention of the days of the weeks. Both stories collide against one season after the next and are sometimes the only “time” references to indicate the vast period of time that has gone by. Hemingway impressively waxes poetic the brief moments in time -- the times when day turns to night and vice versa -- it is in these times, that emotions run high and when, after an endless series of drinking this and that, laughing and bullshitting, characters are able to sit in silence and reflect. Sometimes these reflections are painful while others, bittersweet. Here are a few brilliant excerpts that I found:
From The Sun Also Rises:
“It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.”
“But I could not sleep. There is no reason why because it is dark you should look at things differently from when it is light.”
From A Farewell to Arms, this passage is the loveliest sequence of sleep and then awakening that I’ve ever read.
“I know that the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist, and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started. But with Catherine there was almost no difference in the night except that it was an even better time.”
“I remember waking in the morning. Catherine was asleep and the sunlight was coming through the window. The rain had stopped and I stepped out of bed and across the floor to the window. Down below were the gardens, bare now but beautifully regular, the gravel paths, the trees, the stone wall by the lake and the lake in the sunlight with the mountains beyond. I stood at the window looking out and when I turned away I saw Catherine was awake and watching me.”
And also from A Farewell to Arms:
“I might become very devout,” I said, “Anyway, I will pray for you.”
“I had always expected to become devout. All my family died very devout. But somehow it does not come.”
“It’s too early.”
“Maybe it is too late. Perhaps I have outlived my religious feeling.”
“My own comes only at night.”
Now I must say good-night and tomorrow begin anew. Tomorrow I will begin For Whom the Bell Tolls. I hope I’ll enjoy it as much as the last two.