Sunday, July 2, 2017

Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises [1926]

Ernest Hemingway, in his mesmeric first novel, provided, on one hand, the quintessential thematic and tonal template for the post-WWI generation that Gertrude Stein had memorably defined as the “Lost Generation”, while also, on the other, a striking introduction to the style of sparse and minimalist prose, referred to as “Iceberg Theory”, which had its roots in the author’s experience in newspaper reportage and would go on to define his oeuvre. Though perhaps not as well-known as some of his more famous works, this roman à clef, based out of the author’s own experiences as an expatriate American in the fascinating melting pot of 1920s Paris and his love for bullfighting, is considered by many as possibly his greatest work. The book is divided into 3 parts – the exhilarating 1st part marvelously set the tone for the book with its dizzying depiction of Parisian cafés, watering holes and zeitgeist, while also introducing us to the tale’s narrator Jake Barnes – an American working as a journalist in the French capital, his hard-drinking, carefree and idiosyncratic friends, and Lady Brett Ashley, an alluring, bewitching, bored, free-spirited, impulsive and undecipherable twice-divorced femme fatale whose charms have deeply enmeshed many, including the author’s alter-ego Jake; in the frenetic and beautifully chaotic 2nd part, the setting shifted to the Spanish town of Pamplona where the revelry and carnivalesque atmosphere of fiesta provided the perfect backdrop to the gradually increasing emotional turmoil and simmering sexual tension within the group of men (Jake and his buddies, and the fiesta’s highly reckoned 19-year old matador too) on account of their love for the enigmatic Brett; the 3rd chapter, crisscrossing across French and Spanish countryside and ending in Madrid, and with the group having largely dispersed, provided a quietly melancholic finale to the magnificent novel. Powerful, compelling, fiercely unsentimental, and disarming in its “less is more” narrative, the book remains as memorable in its evocation of a specific time and place, as it does in the universality of its relevance.

Author: Ernest Hemingway
Genre: Drama/Roman a Clef/Buddy Novel
Language: English
Country: US

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