Teach a man to fish

The Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway

I don’t need to tell anyone what a great book this is, I’m sure. It’s actually the first Hemingway I’ve read and was a great introduction. The prose is plain yet full of endless layers of meaning.

On one level this was a tough book for me to read. You see, I have this thing about fish: a profound dislike, repulsion even. So the story of a fisherman necessarily included details that frankly reviled me.

It was also slow to grab me (relatively; I mean, the whole book’s barely 100 pages long). Even though I knew from reputation that it’s a very simple story, I couldn’t help feeling, ‘Is this really it? Is there no more to it?’ But once the old man goes out to sea that feeling passed and I was captivated.

Hemingway’s ability to voice the old man’s every thought and emotion is astounding. This is a poor man, living a tough life that is nearing its end and his thoughts do meander to religion, death, the meaning of life and the beauty of nature, but always in just the right tone, staying clear of anything touchy feely or intellectual. The old man is very matter of fact and quickly snaps himself out of flights of fancy or memory trips. Only one incident from his past is described in any detail and this is because the old man draws on the memory to give him strength.

I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t get this book, or wouldn’t agree with the millions who rate it as one of the greatest novels ever written. I needn’t have worried and will definitely read more from my Hemingway boxset in the future.

First published in 1952. Specifically cited when Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

See also: review by Marie of Little Interpretations.

One Comment

  1. Posted May 3, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for the link.

    I’m pleased to hear that I wasn’t the only one who thought: “Is there no more to it?” I also found the subject matter slighlty off putting: the fishing jargon was a bit lost on me.

    But it is a fascinating story, beautifully told. I can’t wait to read it again as I suspect It’ll reveal a new meaning to me each time.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Lonely reflections | Nose in a book on November 4, 2010 at 7:50 am

    […] of the collection didn’t live up to its beginnings. This was a real shame after I recently read and enjoyed The Old Man and the Sea and looked forward to delving into more of Hemingway’s […]

  2. […] continue reading through my Hemingway box set but so far The Old Man and the Sea is still the high point for […]

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