Year of Hemingway: Old Man and the Sea

Published in 1952, "The Old Man and the Sea", Hemingway's most famous novel was also his last. It seems fitting to finish my journey through his works with this short novel.  It wasn't the first time I read this book this year. I've read it twice before. Once very early on, maybe in my teens, then again a few years earlier and now this year as an almost old man myself. I cannot recall what it meant to me earlier. I don't remember being very impressed ever though. Nor was I this time. It is a good book but it is not Hemingway's best work, even though it is generally regarded as just that. I'd give that title to the brilliant "For Whom The Bell Tolls". That's the one book one should read if that's the only Hemingway book one gets to read and frankly, not sure others are needed. Though, I'd also recommend "A Moveable Feast", if anyone has a special affection for any foreign place, like I have for Paris, or its idea anyway.

If you leave aside any suggested religious undertones of the "The Old Man and the Sea", it is a nice little adventure story that puts an old, frail man, Santiago, against the might of ocean and also against a mighty beast of a fish, a giant 18-feet marlin. You must also leave aside the plausibility which is really for the first time in a Hemingway book.

Reading Hemingway was an interesting and enriching experience. While Hemingway is much known for his precise, quick, unflowerly language, this aspect was mostly lost on me. What I derived from his stories and his style, specially in his portrayal of men (the only gender he portrays), I saw American West, I saw Hollywood, I saw Dirty Harry. I saw his strong influence in any popular 20th century and early 21st century hero. "A Strong, Silent Type", as Tony Soprano would put it. A guy who does his duty, above all else and where "duty" is not defined by pre-conceived social norms but by their own code, something that viewers understand, identify with and stand behind while the characters in the stories mostly pretend to not get it. Why, Hemingway's characters are a definition of 'Man' that has existed for years and has been finally challenged and usurped only in the last decade or so where the generally accepted definition of a man has shifted from a code hero to that of an awkward, man-child, self-centered, buffoon who confusingly flounders his way around the world mostly ceding control to others and looking for escapes and finding mostly in food and drink.

I will missing Hemingway's code hero.

Other Hemingway books from this year.