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“Time marches on”

September 26, 2007

I finally read For Whom the Bell Tolls.  It’s been on my vague list of things i want to read someday for a long time, but i never felt strongly enough about it to buy it new, and in 5 or so years i’ve only seen it at a used bookstore once (so i bought it, of course).  It’s not, i would say, your typical Hemingway.  Stylistically, that is.  I mean, it is about (the Spansh Civil) war, and has a Hemingwayesque main character and is vaguely autobiographical.  But it is much more introspective, and the writing style is unusual

For one thing, it’s 4 or 500 pages and spans 4 days.  But rather than being a catalogue of what’s going on, it is largely the thoughts of Robert Jordan, and sometimes of the other characters.  That’s rather unusual for Hemingway.  But it reads well, to me.  Let us note that i can’t fucking stand “stream of conciousness” writing (a la Joyce or Faulkner).  But this is much more concrete.  It is thought processes, following a train of thought (rather than, say, every synapse that fires).  So there is perhaps some jumping around, but it is basically coherent.  The interesting exception to this is the sex scenes.  Which are nothing risque (at least, not now), just enough that you know what’s going on, but sometimes when it happens the narrative will be inside his head at the time, and it gets off-track, muddled, repetative.  A good effect, i thought.

It also reads as though all of the dialogue is translated from some backwoods dialect of spanish, or perhaps all from the vosotros form.  It is all “thee”and “thou” and some direct translation – “don’t molest me” – rather than translation for concept (where “molest” would be “bother”).  I think it is simply written that way to clearly differentiate the “spanish” (which is, of course, primarily in english so we know what’s going on) from the actual english that the story is written in.  There is also a lot of offensive material sort of edited out – “obscenity your bridge.”  Presumably just because it would have been too offensive, pehaps unpublishable, otherwise.  I’m not sure.  There is also some obscenity (“milk”)Guernica that is either a direct translation that means nothing in english, or altered so that it is not offensive.  It makes for interesting reading, particularly when people have cursing fits.

On to Harry Potter.

Lady Brett
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” – Metallica

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