“An Expat's Ennui...”A novel of dispassionate decadence, Hemingway’s roman à clef portrays a sense of ennui that is as relevant today as it was in the Roaring Twenties.
A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.
Topics: World War 1, 1920s, Semi-Autobiographical, Lost Generation, American Author, Spain, Expat Life, Bullfighting, War, Love, Sexuality, Male Author, Modernism, Spare, Poignant, and Ennui
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Perhaps I'm being too harsh here. I did enjoy Hemingway's simple style, and the descriptions of the festival at Pamplona are excellent, particularly of the bull fighting towards the end. But at the end of the day, what we have here are men who drink too much, who hate other men because they all desire the same woman, and that one woman is selfish, superficial and someone who uses men only for her ends. I found it very difficult to sympathize with any of them. Robert Cohn may very well be a petty man who is egotistical, but the characters constantly demean him not for these negative qualities but for his Jewish ethnicity. Michael Campbell is a drunken gentlemen prone to fits of rage and rants, but no one stands up to him and calls him out on it. Jake Barnes stands at the center of all of this, and while he seems to have more redeeming qualities than the rest, he also goes along with the childish antics of his friends and engages in foul behavior even when he is aware of its foulness. He is anti-Semitic towards Cohn like all the others and cannot find the inner strength to tear himself away from the poison that is Lady Brett Ashley. Brett Ashley is possibly the worst offender of them all, as she consistently does damage to everyone around her, seems to be aware of this damage, and simply chooses to ignore it as it does not serve her own selfish ends. If there was anything redeeming of the way these characters carry on, it is this: none of them, perhaps save Ashley, get what they want in the end.
My rating reflects the fact that I don't like the characters and I especially hated the anti-Semitic theme with regards to Cohn. But I will not dispute that it is a valuable book and it is written well. I think if anyone were searching for a novel that shows the fruits of pursuing a life of selfishness, depravity and above all drunkenness (I'm not entirely sure the characters were ever sober), this would be it. But don't expect to find characters you can empathize with, because they simply aren't here.more