Fascination With A Farewell To Arms
July 23, 2012 2 Comments
PART I (Book Review)
First published in 1929, this classic novel by Ernest Hemingway continues in active publication with a new version being released this month. The newest edition includes 47 alternate endings and additional notes from the original manuscripts. The version I read is from a 1957 reprint, and was checked out through the Yakima Valley Libraries. Some call this book the “definitive” novel of World War I. Who am I to argue?
This book is also notable for bringing financial independence to Hemingway, allowing him to be an author for the rest of his life. Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons (now an imprint of Simon & Schuster), the book is a perennial favorite in schools and libraries across the nation. (I only read one Hemingway book in all my years of schooling, and this one was not it!)
Hemingway had a background in journalism, and developed a style of writing known for its understatement, and directness. Some modern critics call him a misogynist and homophobe. Critics in his own time included his own parents, who reportedly described Hemingway’s work as “filth.” A few swear words are censored with dashes, and have never been altered from the original printing. My opinion is that Hemingway’s work offers a pristine style, not commonly found among novelists. Perhaps that is why he earned both a Pulitzer Prize (1953 for “The Old Man and the Sea” and a Nobel Prize (1954 for “The Old Man and the Sea” as well as influence on contemporary style).
The main character, American Frederic Henry, signs up as an ambulance driver in the Italian army during World War I. A tragic love story develops with Catherine Barkley, a British nurse.
This novel is dark. By dark, I mean bleak. Really bleak. Capturing attitudes common among the “lost generation,” characters openly question whether the war will ever end, why they are fighting, and whether it would be better to admit defeat in order to end the war.
Hemingway fans will surely be interested in the newest book with alternate endings. I recommend checking out the original book. It is a remarkably easy read, considering it is shelved in the classics section. Chapters are only two to three thousand words, with a total length running over three hundred pages.
I will add some additional thoughts on how this book endures in our modern culture later this week.
- ‘A Farewell to Arms’ With Hemingway’s Alternate Endings (nytimes.com)
- Ernest Hemingway wrote 47 endings to A Farewell To Arms (telegraph.co.uk)