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In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from "the good fight," For Whom the Bell Tolls. The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of Jordan's love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo's last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway surpasses his achievement in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to create a work at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving and wise. "If the function of a writer is to reveal reality," Maxwell Perkins wrote to Hemingway after reading the manuscript, "no one ever so completely performed it." Greater in power, broader in scope, and more intensely emotional than any of the author's previous works, it stands as one of the best war novels of all time.

Topics: Revolution, 1930s, Gritty, Love, American Author, Spain, Haunting, Spanish Civil War, War, Death, Male Author, and Modernism

Published: Scribner on Jul 25, 2002
ISBN: 9780743237178
List price: $11.99
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An american signs up for the Spanish civil war to help the communist cause. The bigger issue is his growing relationship with the local underground and how that impacts his duty to his commanders. A lot of war and honor bullshit that just doesn't fly anymore today given the blind faith we americans gave our commander in chief in Iraq. Time to wake up and question what you're doing rather than believe you need to follow blindly. I guess you can say Hemingway is dated here.read more
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In 1937 at the peak of the Spanish Civil War with the guerrillas fighting against the Facist government in Spain, Robert Jordan meets with a group of guerrillas.Jordan is a dynamiter who had been sent to blow up a bridge.With the men who make up the freedom fighters a man named Pablo appears to be in charge. However, it is his wife Pilar who is the real force behind the group. Pilar is Spanish for pillar and is a symbol for the rock steadfastedness of the group. Amidst the talk of killing, we follow Robert and a young woman named Maria who are drawn to each other. This mixture of love and war is a significant juxtaposition used by the author. With the tender moments of these two characters it is as though this may be one thing the guerrillas are fighting for. The government's totalarism attitude cannot tell them what to do and that gypsies like Rafael, foreigners like the American Jordan and women like Pilar and Maria can all work and live together as equals.Hemingway is a master of dialogue. We don't just read the words but are transported to the Spanish mountainside and are listening to the scenes such as Pilar and Pablo discussing a matador that Pablo had seen.The story mixes historical fact and speculative fiction in a most entertaining manner. The reader will feel that they have read a work of extroardinary literary significance in this novel.read more
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This is such a good book. This was my first Hemingway book and I swear he has to be one of the best writers of all time. He is, at least in my opinion. I love his writing, even though there are many people who think it is kinda slow and too descriptive. I love it that way and I'll certainly read other books of his.read more
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This is my third experience with Hemingway, and while I fully expect to complete the entire Hemingway collection, I can't quite find it within myself to award five stars to any of the works I've read to date. In each of the novels (The Sun Also Rises and Farewell to Arms being the other two) I've been entranced at times by the hauntingly beautiful writing, however there have been periods where the story drags, where the almost stream of consciousness style grinds the action to a halt. Not long enough to kill the story, but enough to impact the overall reading experience.This novel is set in Spain, during the Spanish Civil War, the idealogical precursor to the Fascist/Communist clash soon to come on the Eastern Front of World War II. The story primarily involves American Spanish professor and converted Republican partisan, Robert Jordan and the 72 hours he spends with an anti-fascist partisan force in the hours preceding a Republican offensive.The characters crafted by Hemingway are fascinating, most specifically the partisan leaders Pablo and Pilar. The interaction between the rebels and with Jordan are spellbinding. The character of Pilar is especially haunting and her story of the execution of the fascists (a/k/a prominent citizens) in her small Spanish village is some of the best and most captivating writing I've ever read.Unfortunately, in my opinion, this 470 page novel is about 100 pages too long, as it is interspersed with periods of inaction, punctuated by stream of consciousness meanderings, which admittedly many may find enjoyable.Some may find the style of language irritating (Thee, Thou, Thy mother, etc.) but I found this to be a minor issue. More problematic to me is what I can only guess is the censorship (either self censorship in light of the times or editorial censorship) whereby all instances of profanity or coarse language is omitted and replaced by bizarre alternatives. For example, these beauties from the mouth of Pablo, "I obscenity in the milk of all," and "Go and obscenity thyself." I find it hard to believe that Hemingway actually wrote this, and if not (or even if he did), these bizarre omissions cannot be rectified.Despite these minor complaints, this is an extremely educational piece of work, both from the standpoint of literature and for the insight it provides for an extremely important and interesting period of world history. Highly recommended.read more
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The best of Hemingway's works. Here is Hemingway's writing in all of its economical beauty. read more
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Hemingway's famously terse style is well suited to this story of derring do in the Spanish Civil War. I found myself cursing like a Spanish peasant by the time I'd finished it. Well worth a read, rewarding and interesting.read more
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reads well like other hemingway, but longer than the norm, no? spanish civil war, american professor goes to dynamite a bridge, 3 day span, much inner head, love, death. put weight to the source of the title (wiki it) and appreciate it at the end. i loved the final message, the meaning.read more
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I love the way Hemingway transports you to a different time and place. His use of language puts you in touch with the hearts and minds of every character, this was my first Hemingway book but it will not be the last...read more
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The story of the American Robert Jordan participating in the Spanish civil war. Both loyalty to the cause and disillusionment among the members of the republican guerrilla group. Interesting to hear about the presence of Russians. Even some of the highly publicized peasant leaders were Russian, a fact not part of the image manufactured for the public.read more
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Those who have not seen the elephant and lack the courage to go looking for it have no right to criticize Ernest Hemingway, who set out as a young man to find the elephant and get a good long look at the Beast, and then describe it for the rest of us. As a young man he did not yet realize that few people are as brave and as honest as he.He went. He saw. He wrote. He told us all about it -- and scarcely anyone believes him. Those who don't tell the few who do that Papa was a fool and a bad man. So it is in life as it was in "The Old Man and the Sea." Now the big fish is dead, little ones come to savage the corpse.Nobody with anything to lose has a friend in this world. The person who has nothing may yet find a friend. Papa knew.Many have asked why the man who said "Farewell to Arms" in 1929 felt compelled to go to Spain and fight fascism just a few years later.read more
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Classic first world war novel set mainly in Italy. Thrilling, tragic war scenes are contrasted with beautiful love story.read more
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A hard read, especially for those whose Spanish is not so good (I really should have had my spanish dictionary by my side while reading, however I'm not sure it would have helped as it seems you would need to know the colloquialisms as well) but ... well worth reading and finishing, interesting group dynamics hold up in and around a cave for three days waiting to blow a bridge. I would also recommend reading about the Spanish Civil War first also, a war that people from all over the world came to fight in and that everyone should know about.read more
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I was in the mood to read some Hemingway recently, since my indefinite overseas trip wasn't going very well and I was consoling myself with the thought that I was, at least, doing something - I was out of Perth, in foreign countries, living off the money I'd saved and not working. I felt like reading something like-minded, about lazy expats in France in the 20's. Unfortunately Chris was reading The Sun Also Rises himself, so I settled on For Whom The Bell Tolls, which is not like-minded at all. Rather than being about a bunch of lazy rich Americans getting drunk in France and Spain, it's about an American dynamiteer working with a group of guerillas in the mountains during the Spanish Civil War. It's accordingly far more serious, with characters ruminating on death and life and love, which wasn't quite what I was going for.Not that it's a bad book - indeed, it's considered one of his finest. It covers four days in the war, during which the American protagonist Robert Jordan is assigned the task of blowing up a bridge in sync with a heavy assault on fascist positions. I've commented before that I think Hemingway was better at writing short stories than novels, and the best bits of writing in For Whom The Bell Tolls are vignettes: Pilar describing the systematic slaughter of the fascists in her village, Jordan recalling his father's suicide, the desparate last stand atop a hillside as a fellow band of partisans are ambushed.It's stronger in the second half than the first, and while there are some great moments, I didn't absolutely love it. I think I like the idea of reading Hemingway more than actually doing so. Like Kurt Vonnegut, he's an author everybody else loves, but whom I don't quite seem to appreciate on the same level. I can appreciate his skill as an author, and he has several short stories I think are fantastic, but ultimately I rarely like his minimalist writing style. It works very well when describing moments of great emotional significance, but for everything else it's just dull to read. I prefer my prose to be carefully gilded, as evidenced by my favourite author being David Mitchell.I've now moved on to reading Down And Out In Paris And London, by George Orwell, which is doing a better job of satisfying my desire to be inspired to a life of living abroad, even if it means taking crummy jobs and living on the poverty line. George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway were both expatriates in Paris in the 1920s and were both present at the Spanish Civil War; Hemingway as a journalist and Orwell as a combatant. And they were both internationally renowned authors by the 1950s. I wonder if they ever met?read more
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Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls is not a reliable view of the Spaniards during the decade of the 1930s or of their 1936-39 Civil War. From both of those perspectives, the novel has its difficulties.

In Spain of the post-Franco years, and especially since the opening of the archives of the old Soviet Union, the debate about the role of the Communist in the Republic both before and after Franco’s rebellion has increased with renewed intensity. It has long been clear that the war was not a simple black-and-white conflict between a freely elected democratic State (the Republic), on one side, and an insurgent Fascism, on the other. What is emerging in greater clarity, however, is the role of the Communists.

The historian Stanley Payne—one of my professors at the University of Wisconsin—has argued that Russia’s subvention of the Republic both before and after 1936 was far more extensive than many once thought. Even if his conclusion that the Republic was moving toward a Communist totalitarianism well before the military’s 1936 intervention is not universally accepted, it is certain that the Republic (a coalition of Anarchists, Socialists, Communists and Republicans) was ill disposed to grant the right wing (a grouping of Church, Military and Fascists) any position in the political arena. It also seems clear that the West’s economic embargo did not drive the Republic into Russia’s hands. The Republican government’s links to Moscow, which supplied that government with armaments and strategy, were cemented well before that embargo.

Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (published in 1940) emerged out of a simpler, less Machiavellian view of the conflict that circulated outside of Spain and that romanticized the Republican cause and minimized Russia’s pernicious involvement. Hemingway’s novel—its plot and characters-- is certainly compelling and continues to rank among his best writing even given some of the negative criticism of the language which was intended to reflect the Spanish spoken by the characters. But, as a window on the Spanish and their war, the novel is unreliable. Although Hemingway worked as a journalist in Spain during a large part of the conflict, he was at best disengaged from the complexities of politics as they played out in Spain through 1939. His time in Madrid in the Hotel Florida, as Hemingway himself describes it, was far less political than social. He certainly never embraced the ideology of any of the Communist parties. He did, however, emerge as a spokesperson for the myths forged by the Stalinists.

When I first read For Whom the Bell Tolls as a teenager in 1956, I found both the setting and the politics of the war described by Hemingway as engaging as the novel’s more transcendental themes. I had no reason to doubt the authenticity of Hemingway’s voice in regard to Spain and its War. Robert Jordan, the young American academic fighting in Spain as part of the International Brigades on the side of the Republic, carried me into the mountains around Segovia and into a Spain of matadors, peasants and shepherds. And, although Hemingway described atrocities on both sides of the conflict [Pilar’s account of Pablo’s sacking of a small mountain town (based on actual events in the town of Ronda?) in the environs of Avila is quite chilling], the Republican guerrillas cemented my sympathies for their crusade. As Robert Jordan, I was a Republican. As Robert Jordan, I fell in love with María. And similar to Jordan, I saw the war and the inevitability of a victory of Franco’s Nationalists as the death of truth and idealism in Spain itself. Democracy defeated at the hands of Fascism. Here was the image: Robert Jordan’s commitment to blowing up a bridge was a XX Century reenactment of Don Quijote’s charge at windmills.

Having re-read For Whom the Bell Tolls in 2011, after years of studying Spanish history and culture and of living in the country itself off and on during Franco’s dictatorship, I now find it as a view of the Spaniards and of their Civil War both unreliable and deeply flawed. On the other hand, I find the work’s themes—death, honor, commitment, love—and Hemingway’s treatment of them far more meaningful for me than the novel’s physical setting and its portrayal of the Civil War. Hemingway’s treatment of those themes engaged me in 2011 as much as the novel did in 1956.
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I found this book exhausting to get through, moving at a very slow pace with little real action. Little did I know when reading the first chapter, that it would be almost 500 pages before the bridge was actually blown. The last page I found to be frustrating, leaving the story incomplete in my opinion. But looking back after having finished the book, it does make one think about things and evokes some form of emotion in the reader, and in the end I guess I consider that to mean that it was at least a decent book. If nothing else, it had some interesting views on humanity and the brutalities of war: how the common people suffer while the politicians and leaders behind them sit in safety, how brutal people can be in war, and how both sides dislike the actions they must take and yet find them necessary. I can't say I agree with Robert Jordan's theory that you can live your entire life ina a few days...and I found Maria to be too submissive and eager to please Robert Jordan for my tastes. Anselmo was easily my favorite character, very down to earth, humble, and seemingly good-natured.I did enjoy aspects of Hemingway's writing style, how the words and sentences, although in English, were arranged as if they were in Spanish (i.e. the use of 'thou' like for Spanish Usted) and made me think twice when he first used the word 'obscenity' for a curse word.Overall, I guess I'm glad I read the book, but probably won't be picking up another book by Hemingway any time soon.read more
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Robert Jordan is an American professor who takes a year off to fight in the Spanish civil war around 1936. Jordan finds himself allied with a band of rag tag band of communists consisting of Spanish farmers and gypsies fighting against oppressive fascists in the Spanish mountains. Jordan does not consider himself a communist- rather that he is fighting against fascism. The band seemingly is lead by Pablo, a rebel fighter who has seen better days; he currently spends his days drinking himself into a stupor, while his formidable woman- Pilar- actually leads the band of rebels. Pilar is a wonderful character, a strong, wise, smart mouth woman with a bit of the fortune -teller about her. The characters and settings in this book are wonderfully descriptive. I loved the antiquated language used throughout the book, and the obscenities used in lighter moments were certainly interesting. Some sections of the book were a bit dry for me, it is a war story after all, but many parts were very powerful and written with such simplicity and truth. At many points during the story, the small band with Jordan, and Jordan himself are certain that they will die, thoughts of the future are almost day dreams that the reader knows aren’t going to pass. Jordan faces these thoughts in a pragmatic business like manner- yet tries to live each moment as if he knows his days are coming to an end. Suicide was a recurring theme throughout the book, from Jordan’s father- to individual’s plans should they be captured. What rung true for me were the reactions the men had before, after and during the fighting- not that I have ever been involved in anything approaching warfare- but I have been in some precarious positions once or twice in my life in the course of my duties and these passages struck me as true. How a person suddenly finds faith when faced with the possibility of death or the nervous chatter that follows by which you can gauge just how close you came. The only real problem I had with the book was Jordan’s romance with Maria, a woman that had been rescued by Pilar after being abused by the fascists. The romance between Jordan and Maria seemed somewhat contrived to me, like a mildly misogynistic man’s fantasy of what a woman should be- submissive, docile, utterly dependent and a bit foolish. All in all, I enjoyed For Whom The Bell Tolls- I liked Hemingway’s writing and I’d like to read something else written by him, but maybe not a war story next time.read more
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My first experience reading anything by Hemingway. Overall I thought the story was very good at showing the in-depth relationships and personalities of a small group of persecuted people during war-time. The design of the text around the Spanish language was really clever and I will always remember the "I obscenity in the milk of..." lines. But this is definitely a very character-driven novel with not much happening in plot over the 500 pages. Hemingway is always talked about how "simple" his writing is but I didn't get the whole grasp of that ability in this story. I would be eager to read more Hemingway but I don't think I would likely re-read this book again.read more
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I love this book. I read it at university, in my first year, and because of it I wanted to change my degree from Physics to English. I never managed it - thankfully though I at least stuck my degree out to the end and graduated with something.The story is tiny - a guerilla movement in the Spanish hills during the civil war - but it explodes like a grenade to cover everything and everyone. The story of the civil war has never been told better than this - the horror, the desparation, the complete loss of control and humanity. A real classic, in every sense of the word.read more
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I read this book in the course of three days. Very engrossing and fast to read. A classic caper with some brutal bits concerning the flimsiness of mortality in such things as war.read more
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I was expecting to loathe this book. It was nothing like I expected.Yes, For Whom the Bell Tolls is about war. There are all the horrors of war in this book. But nothing was extraneous, gratuitous, undeserved. And the book was about so much more than just war. Hemingway delves into relationships and honor and courage and heroism. It is a great book.read more
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Hemingway's meditation on dying well wasn't my favourite of his. I didn't like it nearly as much as A Farewell to Arms, for instance, or even A Moveable Feast. Mind you, for me Hemingway's at his best when he's writing a short story.read more
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This is a short review--others have provided much more in-depth content. This is my favorite Hemingway novel. Though it is fiction, a large portion of this book is auto-biographical. From that standpoint alone, this made it more interesting for me. Though many of his books are, this one had multiple layers to it that revolved around his experience in war. I'm partial to first-hand accounts of war, so this is an obvious bias. I would give it 5 stars; however, I found that he can occasionally drag on a sentance too long--which I find annoying (and explains why I never could finish "On the Road"). Overall, a worthy read. If you like adventure, war, intriguing characters, and Hemingway as a person, then you will find something to like about this book.read more
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I loved it, was glued to every page until the end.read more
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I highly recommend 'For Whom the Bell Tolls.' It is simple and very complex at the same time and incredibly well written!read more
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This book was very hard to read. I do not recomend this book to anyone. save yourself.read more
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I don't think much of Hemingway's writing, but this book went well in conjunction with The First Casualty, The Naked and the Dead, and Hiroshima. (I read them simultaneously.)read more
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It is often said that Hemingway changed the modern novel. My first though is please change it back. For Whom the Bell Tolls is supposed to be the great American Literature, because we are told it is great American Literature. There are many who say that this is Hemingway's greatest work. I think ;this novel just plain misses. The Love story is sophomoric and shallow. Maria sleeps with the protagonist, Robert Jordan, within several hours of meeting him and then they are passionately in love with one another. This is Robert Jordan idea of "taking care of the girl." The character development is shallow and I really have no idea why Robert Jordon from Montana wanted to be a part of this war. I found myself not liking or caring about any of the characters in this novel with eh exception of Anselmo. Finally the ending, it is as if Hemingway just got tired of writing and decided enough was enough and found a way to quit. Overall, I was just disappointed in this novel.read more
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Hemingway's novel about the Spanish Civil War. The story is of a young American idealist fighting with the Republicans against the fascists and his love for a Spanish woman. It has a great ending.read more
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I continue to be amazed at the way with which Ernest Hemingway can paint such a powerful, profound work of art with so few words. I suspect that even when I have finished all of his novels, I still will not understand this. It isn't something that I would wish to copy--it is his own writing style, not mine, and besides, I could never pull it off as elegantly. But the fact that he has created for himself such a unique style is something that I wish to emulate in my own writing. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a novel of war without flowery language or sugarcoating. It does not glorify battle, not even in the case of success. Hemingway has laid out for his readers a strikingly blunt portrayal of the blurred line between duty and apathy, and the immoral strategies employed by both sides of a conflict. But in its own way, it arrives at the conclusion that all of humanity is connected through the inherent ability of all men to feel, and to love, and that because no side is morally superior to the other, no man is ever a real hero.This is a difficult novel to read, and should only be attempted with significant knowledge of the Spanish-American War. But all of the research that I did alongside reading For Whom the Bell Tolls was worth it. It was much easier to understand the plot line of the book when I knew the history behind it. The story also contains the first truly strong woman that I have ever seen Hemingway write. Most of the time, his women seem to be rather two-dimensional; they seem to exist merely as symbols, simply to allow the main male character to fall in love with them and discover his emotional side. Maria was a prime example of this. However, as I read in Hemingway's autobiography A Moveable Feast this summer, his wife was a very profound influence in his life, and I have wondered since why he didn't write her more often. Pilar, the unspoken leader of the guerrilla force, has hopes, fears, strengths and weaknesses. She is well rounded, believable, and flawed. She is undoubtedly my favorite character in the story.I would recommend this novel to anyone willing not only to do the research, but to really sit down and enjoy the novel. It really is worth the time, if you have it.read more
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"Are there no pleasant things to speak of?...Do we have to talk always of horrors?" asks Maria at one point in For Whom the Bell Tolls.Good question.To be fair, For Whom the Bell Tolls isn't ALL about horrors. It even has some pleasant moments. But ultimately, it's about the selfless nature of war---which, though Hemingway clearly intends us to admire the acts of sacrifice to which the war incites his characters, I think is the greatest condemnation of war.But Hemingway's portrayal of this theme is quite powerful. He isn't always consistent, but he is about as consistent as it is possible to be about such a theme and much more so than most, which is of great artistic value.It's also generally very well written, much more so than (and something of a relief after reading) a lot of faux-Hemingway like John Steinbeck or Cormac McCarthy. And I thought this was much better than the only other Hemingway I've read, A Farewell to Arms. But there are a few passages that miss the mark, such as this almost comically bad sex scene: "...They were having now and before and always and now and now and now. Oh, now, now, now, the only now, and above all now, and there is no other now but thou now and now is thy prophet. Now and forever now. Come now, now, for there is no now but now. Yes, now. Now, please now, only now, not anything else only this now, and where are you and where am I and where is the other one, and not why, not ever why, only this now; and on and always please then always now, always now, for now always one now; one only one, there is no other one but one now, one, going now, rising now, sailing now, leaving now, wheeling now, soaring now, away now, all the way now, all of all the way now; one and one is one, is one, is one, is one, is still one, is still one, is one descendingly, is one softly, is one longingly, is one kindly, is one happily, is one in goodness, is one to cherish, is one now..." blah blah blah.The mind-numbing repetitiousness of this "description" (if one can call it that) is especially unfortunate as it echoes another passage just a few pages earlier which is intended to have quite a different feel: "...muck this whole treacherous muckfaced mucking country and every mucking Spaniard in it on either side and to hell forever. Muck them to hell together, Largo, Prieto, Asensio, Miaja, Rojo, all of them. Muck every one of them to death to hell. Muck the whole treachery-ridden country. Muck their egotism and their selfishness and their selfishness and their egotism and their conceit and their treachery. Muck them to hell and always. Muck them before we die for them. Muck them after we die for them. Muck them to death and hell..." It goes on like this at some length.But in the end, Hemingway affirms that there are "pleasant things to speak of": "That is in Madrid. Just over the hills there, and down across the plain. Down out of the gray rocks and the pines, the heather and the gorse, across the yellow high plateau you see it rising white and beautiful. That part is just as true as Pilar's old women drinking the blood down at the slaughterhouse. There's no one thing that's true. It's all true. The way the planes are beautiful whether they are ours or theirs." But the horrors win out in the end: "The hell they are, he thought."read more
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An american signs up for the Spanish civil war to help the communist cause. The bigger issue is his growing relationship with the local underground and how that impacts his duty to his commanders. A lot of war and honor bullshit that just doesn't fly anymore today given the blind faith we americans gave our commander in chief in Iraq. Time to wake up and question what you're doing rather than believe you need to follow blindly. I guess you can say Hemingway is dated here.
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In 1937 at the peak of the Spanish Civil War with the guerrillas fighting against the Facist government in Spain, Robert Jordan meets with a group of guerrillas.Jordan is a dynamiter who had been sent to blow up a bridge.With the men who make up the freedom fighters a man named Pablo appears to be in charge. However, it is his wife Pilar who is the real force behind the group. Pilar is Spanish for pillar and is a symbol for the rock steadfastedness of the group. Amidst the talk of killing, we follow Robert and a young woman named Maria who are drawn to each other. This mixture of love and war is a significant juxtaposition used by the author. With the tender moments of these two characters it is as though this may be one thing the guerrillas are fighting for. The government's totalarism attitude cannot tell them what to do and that gypsies like Rafael, foreigners like the American Jordan and women like Pilar and Maria can all work and live together as equals.Hemingway is a master of dialogue. We don't just read the words but are transported to the Spanish mountainside and are listening to the scenes such as Pilar and Pablo discussing a matador that Pablo had seen.The story mixes historical fact and speculative fiction in a most entertaining manner. The reader will feel that they have read a work of extroardinary literary significance in this novel.
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This is such a good book. This was my first Hemingway book and I swear he has to be one of the best writers of all time. He is, at least in my opinion. I love his writing, even though there are many people who think it is kinda slow and too descriptive. I love it that way and I'll certainly read other books of his.
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This is my third experience with Hemingway, and while I fully expect to complete the entire Hemingway collection, I can't quite find it within myself to award five stars to any of the works I've read to date. In each of the novels (The Sun Also Rises and Farewell to Arms being the other two) I've been entranced at times by the hauntingly beautiful writing, however there have been periods where the story drags, where the almost stream of consciousness style grinds the action to a halt. Not long enough to kill the story, but enough to impact the overall reading experience.This novel is set in Spain, during the Spanish Civil War, the idealogical precursor to the Fascist/Communist clash soon to come on the Eastern Front of World War II. The story primarily involves American Spanish professor and converted Republican partisan, Robert Jordan and the 72 hours he spends with an anti-fascist partisan force in the hours preceding a Republican offensive.The characters crafted by Hemingway are fascinating, most specifically the partisan leaders Pablo and Pilar. The interaction between the rebels and with Jordan are spellbinding. The character of Pilar is especially haunting and her story of the execution of the fascists (a/k/a prominent citizens) in her small Spanish village is some of the best and most captivating writing I've ever read.Unfortunately, in my opinion, this 470 page novel is about 100 pages too long, as it is interspersed with periods of inaction, punctuated by stream of consciousness meanderings, which admittedly many may find enjoyable.Some may find the style of language irritating (Thee, Thou, Thy mother, etc.) but I found this to be a minor issue. More problematic to me is what I can only guess is the censorship (either self censorship in light of the times or editorial censorship) whereby all instances of profanity or coarse language is omitted and replaced by bizarre alternatives. For example, these beauties from the mouth of Pablo, "I obscenity in the milk of all," and "Go and obscenity thyself." I find it hard to believe that Hemingway actually wrote this, and if not (or even if he did), these bizarre omissions cannot be rectified.Despite these minor complaints, this is an extremely educational piece of work, both from the standpoint of literature and for the insight it provides for an extremely important and interesting period of world history. Highly recommended.
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The best of Hemingway's works. Here is Hemingway's writing in all of its economical beauty. 
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Hemingway's famously terse style is well suited to this story of derring do in the Spanish Civil War. I found myself cursing like a Spanish peasant by the time I'd finished it. Well worth a read, rewarding and interesting.
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reads well like other hemingway, but longer than the norm, no? spanish civil war, american professor goes to dynamite a bridge, 3 day span, much inner head, love, death. put weight to the source of the title (wiki it) and appreciate it at the end. i loved the final message, the meaning.
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I love the way Hemingway transports you to a different time and place. His use of language puts you in touch with the hearts and minds of every character, this was my first Hemingway book but it will not be the last...
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The story of the American Robert Jordan participating in the Spanish civil war. Both loyalty to the cause and disillusionment among the members of the republican guerrilla group. Interesting to hear about the presence of Russians. Even some of the highly publicized peasant leaders were Russian, a fact not part of the image manufactured for the public.
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Those who have not seen the elephant and lack the courage to go looking for it have no right to criticize Ernest Hemingway, who set out as a young man to find the elephant and get a good long look at the Beast, and then describe it for the rest of us. As a young man he did not yet realize that few people are as brave and as honest as he.He went. He saw. He wrote. He told us all about it -- and scarcely anyone believes him. Those who don't tell the few who do that Papa was a fool and a bad man. So it is in life as it was in "The Old Man and the Sea." Now the big fish is dead, little ones come to savage the corpse.Nobody with anything to lose has a friend in this world. The person who has nothing may yet find a friend. Papa knew.Many have asked why the man who said "Farewell to Arms" in 1929 felt compelled to go to Spain and fight fascism just a few years later.
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Classic first world war novel set mainly in Italy. Thrilling, tragic war scenes are contrasted with beautiful love story.
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A hard read, especially for those whose Spanish is not so good (I really should have had my spanish dictionary by my side while reading, however I'm not sure it would have helped as it seems you would need to know the colloquialisms as well) but ... well worth reading and finishing, interesting group dynamics hold up in and around a cave for three days waiting to blow a bridge. I would also recommend reading about the Spanish Civil War first also, a war that people from all over the world came to fight in and that everyone should know about.
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I was in the mood to read some Hemingway recently, since my indefinite overseas trip wasn't going very well and I was consoling myself with the thought that I was, at least, doing something - I was out of Perth, in foreign countries, living off the money I'd saved and not working. I felt like reading something like-minded, about lazy expats in France in the 20's. Unfortunately Chris was reading The Sun Also Rises himself, so I settled on For Whom The Bell Tolls, which is not like-minded at all. Rather than being about a bunch of lazy rich Americans getting drunk in France and Spain, it's about an American dynamiteer working with a group of guerillas in the mountains during the Spanish Civil War. It's accordingly far more serious, with characters ruminating on death and life and love, which wasn't quite what I was going for.Not that it's a bad book - indeed, it's considered one of his finest. It covers four days in the war, during which the American protagonist Robert Jordan is assigned the task of blowing up a bridge in sync with a heavy assault on fascist positions. I've commented before that I think Hemingway was better at writing short stories than novels, and the best bits of writing in For Whom The Bell Tolls are vignettes: Pilar describing the systematic slaughter of the fascists in her village, Jordan recalling his father's suicide, the desparate last stand atop a hillside as a fellow band of partisans are ambushed.It's stronger in the second half than the first, and while there are some great moments, I didn't absolutely love it. I think I like the idea of reading Hemingway more than actually doing so. Like Kurt Vonnegut, he's an author everybody else loves, but whom I don't quite seem to appreciate on the same level. I can appreciate his skill as an author, and he has several short stories I think are fantastic, but ultimately I rarely like his minimalist writing style. It works very well when describing moments of great emotional significance, but for everything else it's just dull to read. I prefer my prose to be carefully gilded, as evidenced by my favourite author being David Mitchell.I've now moved on to reading Down And Out In Paris And London, by George Orwell, which is doing a better job of satisfying my desire to be inspired to a life of living abroad, even if it means taking crummy jobs and living on the poverty line. George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway were both expatriates in Paris in the 1920s and were both present at the Spanish Civil War; Hemingway as a journalist and Orwell as a combatant. And they were both internationally renowned authors by the 1950s. I wonder if they ever met?
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Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls is not a reliable view of the Spaniards during the decade of the 1930s or of their 1936-39 Civil War. From both of those perspectives, the novel has its difficulties.

In Spain of the post-Franco years, and especially since the opening of the archives of the old Soviet Union, the debate about the role of the Communist in the Republic both before and after Franco’s rebellion has increased with renewed intensity. It has long been clear that the war was not a simple black-and-white conflict between a freely elected democratic State (the Republic), on one side, and an insurgent Fascism, on the other. What is emerging in greater clarity, however, is the role of the Communists.

The historian Stanley Payne—one of my professors at the University of Wisconsin—has argued that Russia’s subvention of the Republic both before and after 1936 was far more extensive than many once thought. Even if his conclusion that the Republic was moving toward a Communist totalitarianism well before the military’s 1936 intervention is not universally accepted, it is certain that the Republic (a coalition of Anarchists, Socialists, Communists and Republicans) was ill disposed to grant the right wing (a grouping of Church, Military and Fascists) any position in the political arena. It also seems clear that the West’s economic embargo did not drive the Republic into Russia’s hands. The Republican government’s links to Moscow, which supplied that government with armaments and strategy, were cemented well before that embargo.

Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (published in 1940) emerged out of a simpler, less Machiavellian view of the conflict that circulated outside of Spain and that romanticized the Republican cause and minimized Russia’s pernicious involvement. Hemingway’s novel—its plot and characters-- is certainly compelling and continues to rank among his best writing even given some of the negative criticism of the language which was intended to reflect the Spanish spoken by the characters. But, as a window on the Spanish and their war, the novel is unreliable. Although Hemingway worked as a journalist in Spain during a large part of the conflict, he was at best disengaged from the complexities of politics as they played out in Spain through 1939. His time in Madrid in the Hotel Florida, as Hemingway himself describes it, was far less political than social. He certainly never embraced the ideology of any of the Communist parties. He did, however, emerge as a spokesperson for the myths forged by the Stalinists.

When I first read For Whom the Bell Tolls as a teenager in 1956, I found both the setting and the politics of the war described by Hemingway as engaging as the novel’s more transcendental themes. I had no reason to doubt the authenticity of Hemingway’s voice in regard to Spain and its War. Robert Jordan, the young American academic fighting in Spain as part of the International Brigades on the side of the Republic, carried me into the mountains around Segovia and into a Spain of matadors, peasants and shepherds. And, although Hemingway described atrocities on both sides of the conflict [Pilar’s account of Pablo’s sacking of a small mountain town (based on actual events in the town of Ronda?) in the environs of Avila is quite chilling], the Republican guerrillas cemented my sympathies for their crusade. As Robert Jordan, I was a Republican. As Robert Jordan, I fell in love with María. And similar to Jordan, I saw the war and the inevitability of a victory of Franco’s Nationalists as the death of truth and idealism in Spain itself. Democracy defeated at the hands of Fascism. Here was the image: Robert Jordan’s commitment to blowing up a bridge was a XX Century reenactment of Don Quijote’s charge at windmills.

Having re-read For Whom the Bell Tolls in 2011, after years of studying Spanish history and culture and of living in the country itself off and on during Franco’s dictatorship, I now find it as a view of the Spaniards and of their Civil War both unreliable and deeply flawed. On the other hand, I find the work’s themes—death, honor, commitment, love—and Hemingway’s treatment of them far more meaningful for me than the novel’s physical setting and its portrayal of the Civil War. Hemingway’s treatment of those themes engaged me in 2011 as much as the novel did in 1956.
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I found this book exhausting to get through, moving at a very slow pace with little real action. Little did I know when reading the first chapter, that it would be almost 500 pages before the bridge was actually blown. The last page I found to be frustrating, leaving the story incomplete in my opinion. But looking back after having finished the book, it does make one think about things and evokes some form of emotion in the reader, and in the end I guess I consider that to mean that it was at least a decent book. If nothing else, it had some interesting views on humanity and the brutalities of war: how the common people suffer while the politicians and leaders behind them sit in safety, how brutal people can be in war, and how both sides dislike the actions they must take and yet find them necessary. I can't say I agree with Robert Jordan's theory that you can live your entire life ina a few days...and I found Maria to be too submissive and eager to please Robert Jordan for my tastes. Anselmo was easily my favorite character, very down to earth, humble, and seemingly good-natured.I did enjoy aspects of Hemingway's writing style, how the words and sentences, although in English, were arranged as if they were in Spanish (i.e. the use of 'thou' like for Spanish Usted) and made me think twice when he first used the word 'obscenity' for a curse word.Overall, I guess I'm glad I read the book, but probably won't be picking up another book by Hemingway any time soon.
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Robert Jordan is an American professor who takes a year off to fight in the Spanish civil war around 1936. Jordan finds himself allied with a band of rag tag band of communists consisting of Spanish farmers and gypsies fighting against oppressive fascists in the Spanish mountains. Jordan does not consider himself a communist- rather that he is fighting against fascism. The band seemingly is lead by Pablo, a rebel fighter who has seen better days; he currently spends his days drinking himself into a stupor, while his formidable woman- Pilar- actually leads the band of rebels. Pilar is a wonderful character, a strong, wise, smart mouth woman with a bit of the fortune -teller about her. The characters and settings in this book are wonderfully descriptive. I loved the antiquated language used throughout the book, and the obscenities used in lighter moments were certainly interesting. Some sections of the book were a bit dry for me, it is a war story after all, but many parts were very powerful and written with such simplicity and truth. At many points during the story, the small band with Jordan, and Jordan himself are certain that they will die, thoughts of the future are almost day dreams that the reader knows aren’t going to pass. Jordan faces these thoughts in a pragmatic business like manner- yet tries to live each moment as if he knows his days are coming to an end. Suicide was a recurring theme throughout the book, from Jordan’s father- to individual’s plans should they be captured. What rung true for me were the reactions the men had before, after and during the fighting- not that I have ever been involved in anything approaching warfare- but I have been in some precarious positions once or twice in my life in the course of my duties and these passages struck me as true. How a person suddenly finds faith when faced with the possibility of death or the nervous chatter that follows by which you can gauge just how close you came. The only real problem I had with the book was Jordan’s romance with Maria, a woman that had been rescued by Pilar after being abused by the fascists. The romance between Jordan and Maria seemed somewhat contrived to me, like a mildly misogynistic man’s fantasy of what a woman should be- submissive, docile, utterly dependent and a bit foolish. All in all, I enjoyed For Whom The Bell Tolls- I liked Hemingway’s writing and I’d like to read something else written by him, but maybe not a war story next time.
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My first experience reading anything by Hemingway. Overall I thought the story was very good at showing the in-depth relationships and personalities of a small group of persecuted people during war-time. The design of the text around the Spanish language was really clever and I will always remember the "I obscenity in the milk of..." lines. But this is definitely a very character-driven novel with not much happening in plot over the 500 pages. Hemingway is always talked about how "simple" his writing is but I didn't get the whole grasp of that ability in this story. I would be eager to read more Hemingway but I don't think I would likely re-read this book again.
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I love this book. I read it at university, in my first year, and because of it I wanted to change my degree from Physics to English. I never managed it - thankfully though I at least stuck my degree out to the end and graduated with something.The story is tiny - a guerilla movement in the Spanish hills during the civil war - but it explodes like a grenade to cover everything and everyone. The story of the civil war has never been told better than this - the horror, the desparation, the complete loss of control and humanity. A real classic, in every sense of the word.
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I read this book in the course of three days. Very engrossing and fast to read. A classic caper with some brutal bits concerning the flimsiness of mortality in such things as war.
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I was expecting to loathe this book. It was nothing like I expected.Yes, For Whom the Bell Tolls is about war. There are all the horrors of war in this book. But nothing was extraneous, gratuitous, undeserved. And the book was about so much more than just war. Hemingway delves into relationships and honor and courage and heroism. It is a great book.
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Hemingway's meditation on dying well wasn't my favourite of his. I didn't like it nearly as much as A Farewell to Arms, for instance, or even A Moveable Feast. Mind you, for me Hemingway's at his best when he's writing a short story.
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This is a short review--others have provided much more in-depth content. This is my favorite Hemingway novel. Though it is fiction, a large portion of this book is auto-biographical. From that standpoint alone, this made it more interesting for me. Though many of his books are, this one had multiple layers to it that revolved around his experience in war. I'm partial to first-hand accounts of war, so this is an obvious bias. I would give it 5 stars; however, I found that he can occasionally drag on a sentance too long--which I find annoying (and explains why I never could finish "On the Road"). Overall, a worthy read. If you like adventure, war, intriguing characters, and Hemingway as a person, then you will find something to like about this book.
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I loved it, was glued to every page until the end.
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I highly recommend 'For Whom the Bell Tolls.' It is simple and very complex at the same time and incredibly well written!
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This book was very hard to read. I do not recomend this book to anyone. save yourself.
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I don't think much of Hemingway's writing, but this book went well in conjunction with The First Casualty, The Naked and the Dead, and Hiroshima. (I read them simultaneously.)
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It is often said that Hemingway changed the modern novel. My first though is please change it back. For Whom the Bell Tolls is supposed to be the great American Literature, because we are told it is great American Literature. There are many who say that this is Hemingway's greatest work. I think ;this novel just plain misses. The Love story is sophomoric and shallow. Maria sleeps with the protagonist, Robert Jordan, within several hours of meeting him and then they are passionately in love with one another. This is Robert Jordan idea of "taking care of the girl." The character development is shallow and I really have no idea why Robert Jordon from Montana wanted to be a part of this war. I found myself not liking or caring about any of the characters in this novel with eh exception of Anselmo. Finally the ending, it is as if Hemingway just got tired of writing and decided enough was enough and found a way to quit. Overall, I was just disappointed in this novel.
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Hemingway's novel about the Spanish Civil War. The story is of a young American idealist fighting with the Republicans against the fascists and his love for a Spanish woman. It has a great ending.
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I continue to be amazed at the way with which Ernest Hemingway can paint such a powerful, profound work of art with so few words. I suspect that even when I have finished all of his novels, I still will not understand this. It isn't something that I would wish to copy--it is his own writing style, not mine, and besides, I could never pull it off as elegantly. But the fact that he has created for himself such a unique style is something that I wish to emulate in my own writing. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a novel of war without flowery language or sugarcoating. It does not glorify battle, not even in the case of success. Hemingway has laid out for his readers a strikingly blunt portrayal of the blurred line between duty and apathy, and the immoral strategies employed by both sides of a conflict. But in its own way, it arrives at the conclusion that all of humanity is connected through the inherent ability of all men to feel, and to love, and that because no side is morally superior to the other, no man is ever a real hero.This is a difficult novel to read, and should only be attempted with significant knowledge of the Spanish-American War. But all of the research that I did alongside reading For Whom the Bell Tolls was worth it. It was much easier to understand the plot line of the book when I knew the history behind it. The story also contains the first truly strong woman that I have ever seen Hemingway write. Most of the time, his women seem to be rather two-dimensional; they seem to exist merely as symbols, simply to allow the main male character to fall in love with them and discover his emotional side. Maria was a prime example of this. However, as I read in Hemingway's autobiography A Moveable Feast this summer, his wife was a very profound influence in his life, and I have wondered since why he didn't write her more often. Pilar, the unspoken leader of the guerrilla force, has hopes, fears, strengths and weaknesses. She is well rounded, believable, and flawed. She is undoubtedly my favorite character in the story.I would recommend this novel to anyone willing not only to do the research, but to really sit down and enjoy the novel. It really is worth the time, if you have it.
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"Are there no pleasant things to speak of?...Do we have to talk always of horrors?" asks Maria at one point in For Whom the Bell Tolls.Good question.To be fair, For Whom the Bell Tolls isn't ALL about horrors. It even has some pleasant moments. But ultimately, it's about the selfless nature of war---which, though Hemingway clearly intends us to admire the acts of sacrifice to which the war incites his characters, I think is the greatest condemnation of war.But Hemingway's portrayal of this theme is quite powerful. He isn't always consistent, but he is about as consistent as it is possible to be about such a theme and much more so than most, which is of great artistic value.It's also generally very well written, much more so than (and something of a relief after reading) a lot of faux-Hemingway like John Steinbeck or Cormac McCarthy. And I thought this was much better than the only other Hemingway I've read, A Farewell to Arms. But there are a few passages that miss the mark, such as this almost comically bad sex scene: "...They were having now and before and always and now and now and now. Oh, now, now, now, the only now, and above all now, and there is no other now but thou now and now is thy prophet. Now and forever now. Come now, now, for there is no now but now. Yes, now. Now, please now, only now, not anything else only this now, and where are you and where am I and where is the other one, and not why, not ever why, only this now; and on and always please then always now, always now, for now always one now; one only one, there is no other one but one now, one, going now, rising now, sailing now, leaving now, wheeling now, soaring now, away now, all the way now, all of all the way now; one and one is one, is one, is one, is one, is still one, is still one, is one descendingly, is one softly, is one longingly, is one kindly, is one happily, is one in goodness, is one to cherish, is one now..." blah blah blah.The mind-numbing repetitiousness of this "description" (if one can call it that) is especially unfortunate as it echoes another passage just a few pages earlier which is intended to have quite a different feel: "...muck this whole treacherous muckfaced mucking country and every mucking Spaniard in it on either side and to hell forever. Muck them to hell together, Largo, Prieto, Asensio, Miaja, Rojo, all of them. Muck every one of them to death to hell. Muck the whole treachery-ridden country. Muck their egotism and their selfishness and their selfishness and their egotism and their conceit and their treachery. Muck them to hell and always. Muck them before we die for them. Muck them after we die for them. Muck them to death and hell..." It goes on like this at some length.But in the end, Hemingway affirms that there are "pleasant things to speak of": "That is in Madrid. Just over the hills there, and down across the plain. Down out of the gray rocks and the pines, the heather and the gorse, across the yellow high plateau you see it rising white and beautiful. That part is just as true as Pilar's old women drinking the blood down at the slaughterhouse. There's no one thing that's true. It's all true. The way the planes are beautiful whether they are ours or theirs." But the horrors win out in the end: "The hell they are, he thought."
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