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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hemingway in Translation

I recently reread (in Spanish) Ernest Hemingway’s Fiesta, or The Sun Also Rises as it’s called in English. I actually prefer the Spanish title as it is more accurate and much less pretentious.  Hemingway translates well into Spanish, especially his books which take place in Spain. His books can be found everywhere here in Spain and at reasonable prices.  As I have said many times, books translated into Spanish are generally easier to read than those written by Spanish writers. Hemingway is a breeze since his style is so simple. I barely touched a dictionary through this short novel.

I can’t remember exactly when I read this book for the first time, probably sometime during my lost final year of high school when I was a terrible student. The only thing that saved me was the fact that I read a lot on my own. Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Dickens, and Vonnegut were my favorites.  Now that I think of it, I read Fiesta earlier, when I was 15 because I remember that I thought that for the first time I had read a book for adults. The theme of this book was simply different than anything I had read before. Just what this theme is still escapes me, however, but I’ve always had a soft spot for this book, horrible anti-Semitism and boorish drunk behavior aside.

Chapter 12 was my favorite then and now. It was also probably about 100% responsible for the fact that I now speak French and Spanish and live in Spain. When I first read this I was living in the Midwest and had never traveled anywhere. The Paris and Spain described in the book were, to me, like Disneyland must be for some (spoiled) children, or Mecca for Muslims. These were places that I just had to see with my own eyes. The only other time that I have been so totally consumed by a place in books was for the Low Country of South Carolina described in Pat Conroy’s novels.

I never much cared for fishing, both as a kid and as an adult, but I was thoroughly mesmerized by this passage of the trout fishing expedition that Jake and Bill take in the Pyrenees. As a young boy from the center of the USA I hardly knew what wine was, but I knew that a bottle of wine taken from a cold mountain stream and drunk on a warm day must surely be as close to heaven as any liquid can be.  I should write a chapter about mountain biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains of Washington and skinny dipping with a gorgeous woman—it sure beats fishing.     


  1. For me, Hemmingway's better books pointed to the idea of living a life filled with adventure and living abroad; I dropped out of IU in 1982 because I didn't want to follow through with the American Dream, whatever the fuck that was. I didn't see my future as some schlub working in a huge corporation and buying a house in the 'burbs with my wife and 2.5 kids. Hemmingway's work poisoned me to that notion forever.

    When I came from Germany to visit you in Greece in 1986 I'd say we both had pretty much taken to heart such a premise. I still have my journal from that trip and all the wisdom you imparted on me during it. My friends and I spent the next three years in Europe following John Scheck's sage advice. We even tossed back a few while toasting your name.

  2. Toasting me but ultimately toasting Hemingway.


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