photo by nacrowe
i always found it interesting when watching films related to warfare that seemingly 99% of them portray such as a glamorous activity. dont get me wrong, i understand the necessity for armed conflict and i am fully aware that there is a sense of camaraderie that comes from it. i also understand the potential for honor and valor in safeguarding your fellow soldier and the importance of securing specific mission objectives. i get all that. but on a fundamental level, the act of organized destruction by state actors is something to be avoided, not celebrated. if only for the suffering and death that follows, most often for those to whom only unfortunate circumstance has rendered them culpable. i've seen the repercussions of such in locales such as KOSOVO, CAMBODIA, NIGERIA, BOSNIA, CYPRUS, VIETNAM and elsewhere and the consequences are the same. nothing good comes from wanton suffering.
and that is why on some foundational level, famed 20th century REALIST writer ERNEST HEMINGWAY understood such and incorporated it into his famed WWI novel A FAREWELL TO ARMS (SCRIBNER, 1929). this novel is centered around the love affair between an ambulance driver and a nurse who meet and ultimately fall in love during his recuperation. in typical biographical fashion, this scenario plays on a similar experience HEMINGWAY himself experience during WWI in ITALY. spoiler alert: the nurse and her child pass away at the close of the book and the driver is isolated, both in terms of the physical loss of his potential family, but also emotionally and spiritually depleted. its a great metaphor for the real consequences of war, as there are never real winners. war is inherently pyrrhic by nature as it leaves everyone morally and spiritually barren.
and i cant think of an exception. i cant come up with an armed conflict that has not extracted a severe cost in capital and the more precious commodity of human suffering. maybe someone out there can? for me A FAREWELL TO ARMS is a seminal expression of that primal understanding that armed conflict is a necessary yet consequential activity that deserves a respect not paid when seen through the rose-colored lenses of warmongers and profiteers who perpetuate propaganda in the films we watch and news we consume. deciding on conflict as a course of corrective action is a sacred decision that leaves no one unblemished and ennobled. by falling into it we descend into its own deceptive logic and nobody is the better for it.
stating anything else would be a deception. a lie and a big one at that. and us AMERICANS, we love our big lies.
it's funny. there's a lot about writer ERNEST HEMINGWAY that i don't like or identify with; his killing of animals for sport, macho sense of white privilege, womanizing, etc. that being said he was of his time for better or worse.
but for my money for a 30 period from the 1920s through to the 1950s he was one of the most adventurous both in terms of his wanderlust and his editing. yes i said it. when i think of what i like about HEMINGWAY, its his ability to showcase complex psychology using concise declarative sentences with minimal superfluous decorations like fancy adjectives and obscure references. in essence, the opposite of my writing style.
i am aware that this style came about from his time as a journalist both stateside and abroad as a war correspondent for the KANSAS CITY STAR during the spanish civil war of the 1930s. he is a case study in economy. to say the most with the least. its not minimal in the sense of a WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS poem where he is playing with the form itself, for HEMINGWAY i believe he was more interested in the conveying a thought like a straight line to the heart. in a way its kind of a similar ethos to punk rock, three chords and the truth except with him its a subject, verb, object and a typewriter.
i've read and taught HERMAN MELVILLE's MOBY DICK (1851) in my prior life as a secondary english teacher. what's intellectually stimulating about it is its breadth of knowledge about nearly every aspect of whaling in northeast america in the late 18th century. it's encyclopedic. the exercise in reading that book, beside its volume, is trying to surmise which religious, cultural, economic, political allusion to attach to a given part of the narrative. several times the actual plot works on several of these levels simultaneously, which gives the book depth. so basically MOBY DICK is both massive in terms of its breadth and depth.
HEMINGWAY isn't interested in that with THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (1952). to me the plot is more of a rorschach test where you can enjoy it for whatever you want it to be. the biblical story of job, sure. a treatise on the hardships related to aging, absolutely. an expression of HEMINGWAY'S depleted vitality and interest in life, maybe. to me HEMINGWAY presents something to project onto, as apart to MELVILLE where it feels more like an endurance test, like a marathon. love them both, but i feel the superior trick is to view the reader as an equal partner in the creation of meaning through the written word.
this was HEMINGWAY's calling card and gift as a writer. respecting his reader.