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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
ISBN: 9780743237178
List price: $12.99
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By far the best book I have ever read. Poignant and insightful into the heart and mind of people during war. This book was life changing.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
What struck me most in this novel was the language. Hemingway of course is known for his journalistic style, but there it was his willingness to mirror the Spanish language, making the distinction between the thou and the you to demonstrate familiarity and ultimately emotion.The politics were well explained without being burdening; the cultural aspects and the horrors of the war are very moving and bring the readers into the story, especially at the end, where we are left alone with Jordan. Finally, I liked the flashback to the American Civil War - it made me better understand why Jordan was there in the first place, so all ties in well from a historical and psychological perspective. Definitely a tour de force.more
Having just finished this fantastic novel, I am left with a sense of gratitude for having read it, but also a sense of sadness for having it end. Hemingway completely nails this one. His writing style is brilliant especially with the spanish translations. This is an incredible account of only a few days in the life of Robert Jordan and a band of rebels during the Spanish Civil War. I recommend this to anyone as it is a classic and must be read. Books like this are hard to find anymore so please read it. I am much more fulfilled for having read it and lucky that this was in my Aunt's collection.more
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.more
Classic first world war novel set mainly in Italy. Thrilling, tragic war scenes are contrasted with beautiful love story.more
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.more
I highly recommend 'For Whom the Bell Tolls.' It is simple and very complex at the same time and incredibly well written!more
"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."more
A beautiful story, narrated brilliantly.more
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.more
For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest HemingwayBook Review by Benn BellThe title “For Whom The Bell Tolls” is taken from a poem written by John Donne wherein he makes the claim that because of our common humanity, every death necessarily diminishes each of us, therefore, ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. This is a book about death and dying set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway’s novels and stories present a certain kind of hero: “The Code Hero.” This individual lives by his own code and struggles gracefully and bravely against death and annihilation. Another consistent theme found in Hemingway is courage under fire or dire circumstances, whether it is in the bull ring, behind enemy lines, or hunting man-eaters in the green hills of Africa. Cowardice is particularly loathed. The novel begins in 1937 at the height of the Spanish Civil War and takes place over a four day period. The chief protagonist is an American named Robert Jordon who has been tasked to blow up a bridge behind enemy lines in the Spanish mountains. He is aided in this task by a band of guerrillas headed by Pablo and the woman of Pablo, Pilar. We also meet the beautiful Maria. A young Spanish girl whose parents were murdered by Fascists soldiers who then raped and abused Maria. Some say that Maria represents Spain and her gang rape represent the despoilage of Spain by the Fascists. Robert and Maria fall in love at first sight. This is another recurring theme to be found in Hemingway, that humans can find salvation through romantic love. The couple makes love together in Jordon’s sleeping bag on the ground outside the mouth of the cave where they are all hiding. He asks Maria “Did the earth move for thee?” This is the earliest I have seen this terminology in print and is now considered a cliché, but it may be that Hemingway coined this usage. Hemingway’s use of language was controversial in this novel. Many Spanish words and phrases were translated literally word for word which gave a sense of the Spanish but sounds archaic and stilted to our English hearing ears. For example, the Spanish characters in the novel referred to each other as thee and thou. The traditional second person singular in English is "thou/thee/thy". The most exact way of translating "tu" from Spanish is "thou" or "thee". This was a bold experiment. Once the convention was understood and accepted one got used to and even grew to like it. During the course of the novel many flashbacks and digressions take place as various characters tell their stories and reminiscence about the past. We learn, for example, that Jordon’s Grandfather was a Civil War hero in the America’s war of rebellion. We also learned that his father was a coward and that he shot himself to death with a pistol. It is indeed ironic that Hemingway’s own father committed suicide and that Hemingway took his own life with a shot gun many years later. Death is the primary focus of the novel with much discussion amongst the characters about what it is like to kill another human being, was it the right thing to do and what would it be like to die. In the end, Jordon is fatally wounded after successfully completing his mission and trying to escape. He waits by the roadside while the others get away, hoping to kill as many of the enemy soldiers as he can before he dies.It took me a long time to get around to reading this book. I have been carrying it around with me since 1971. I finally read it in 2011. Forty years. It was well worth the wait. Wile each man’s death may diminish me to some extent, this novel has made me whole.more
Not sure why, but took quite a while for me to get through this... tough going, took a couple weeks, which is quite a while for me to read a novel.The scene where Pilar describes Pablo and his band taking over the town and lining the townspeople up in two lines to whip and beat the fascists one by one before throwing them of a cliff... woweee. That's some writing goin on there.It's easy (for me at least)to get a little tired of the whole Hemingway tough guy bullfighting brawling thing, but you can't deny him. He's a beast.more
This is a sad story... and a very long one at that. Hemingway's bare writing style is evident, and where the real action takes place makes up only a fraction of the thick book. So if you're into fast-paced novels, this is not for you. However, one should try and finish it at least once in their life - it is a beautiful novel.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
I am not a fan of this book. It felt like it took forever to get going and when it did get going, it went no where. I am not a fan of books about war and that should have driven me away, right away. Although, there is a love story in the book, but even that was kind of so-so for me. It was kind of weird to read, because they had sex, that seemed like every night they did it. It was just a really bad book for me to read, because it was kind of everything that I dislike in books put into one book.more
It took me a while to get around to this one, which I enjoyed rather more than I imagined I might. In the end though, but for the subject matter, I might even have given it a higher rating.Hemingway manages to build tension around a planned military assault in such a way I found myself caring about the outcome. I'd say the writing gets better as the story progresses and maybe that's just a response to his introduction of a broader number of perspectives. I can't honestly claim to find the protagonist a particularly attractive character - a tad too American for me, I'm afraid, and a bit lacking in depth. My sense is that Hemingway intended that he should come accross that way, however, and intended that the other characters might only emerge as fully rounded as the action unfolds.more
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?more
Reading the final paragraph over and over again left me moved in an incredible way.While its not an easy read by any stretch, I picked this up and put it down and read multiple books in between, it certainly tells a powerful story. For one, its an incredible portrayal of a particular time in history. Secondly, his depressing and ultra realistic portrayal of life and death during war left me... affected. And lastly, in a way that few can, Hemingway moved my emotions greatly, and left me thinking of another life.Throughout all the times that I cursed the book through slow dragging inner dialogue, I respect it as a finished product, and will cherish and think of it... more
The best of Hemingway's works. Here is Hemingway's writing in all of its economical beauty. more
I loved it, was glued to every page until the end.more
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.more
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...more
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.more
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Reviews

By far the best book I have ever read. Poignant and insightful into the heart and mind of people during war. This book was life changing.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
What struck me most in this novel was the language. Hemingway of course is known for his journalistic style, but there it was his willingness to mirror the Spanish language, making the distinction between the thou and the you to demonstrate familiarity and ultimately emotion.The politics were well explained without being burdening; the cultural aspects and the horrors of the war are very moving and bring the readers into the story, especially at the end, where we are left alone with Jordan. Finally, I liked the flashback to the American Civil War - it made me better understand why Jordan was there in the first place, so all ties in well from a historical and psychological perspective. Definitely a tour de force.more
Having just finished this fantastic novel, I am left with a sense of gratitude for having read it, but also a sense of sadness for having it end. Hemingway completely nails this one. His writing style is brilliant especially with the spanish translations. This is an incredible account of only a few days in the life of Robert Jordan and a band of rebels during the Spanish Civil War. I recommend this to anyone as it is a classic and must be read. Books like this are hard to find anymore so please read it. I am much more fulfilled for having read it and lucky that this was in my Aunt's collection.more
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.more
Classic first world war novel set mainly in Italy. Thrilling, tragic war scenes are contrasted with beautiful love story.more
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.more
I highly recommend 'For Whom the Bell Tolls.' It is simple and very complex at the same time and incredibly well written!more
"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."more
A beautiful story, narrated brilliantly.more
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.more
For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest HemingwayBook Review by Benn BellThe title “For Whom The Bell Tolls” is taken from a poem written by John Donne wherein he makes the claim that because of our common humanity, every death necessarily diminishes each of us, therefore, ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. This is a book about death and dying set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway’s novels and stories present a certain kind of hero: “The Code Hero.” This individual lives by his own code and struggles gracefully and bravely against death and annihilation. Another consistent theme found in Hemingway is courage under fire or dire circumstances, whether it is in the bull ring, behind enemy lines, or hunting man-eaters in the green hills of Africa. Cowardice is particularly loathed. The novel begins in 1937 at the height of the Spanish Civil War and takes place over a four day period. The chief protagonist is an American named Robert Jordon who has been tasked to blow up a bridge behind enemy lines in the Spanish mountains. He is aided in this task by a band of guerrillas headed by Pablo and the woman of Pablo, Pilar. We also meet the beautiful Maria. A young Spanish girl whose parents were murdered by Fascists soldiers who then raped and abused Maria. Some say that Maria represents Spain and her gang rape represent the despoilage of Spain by the Fascists. Robert and Maria fall in love at first sight. This is another recurring theme to be found in Hemingway, that humans can find salvation through romantic love. The couple makes love together in Jordon’s sleeping bag on the ground outside the mouth of the cave where they are all hiding. He asks Maria “Did the earth move for thee?” This is the earliest I have seen this terminology in print and is now considered a cliché, but it may be that Hemingway coined this usage. Hemingway’s use of language was controversial in this novel. Many Spanish words and phrases were translated literally word for word which gave a sense of the Spanish but sounds archaic and stilted to our English hearing ears. For example, the Spanish characters in the novel referred to each other as thee and thou. The traditional second person singular in English is "thou/thee/thy". The most exact way of translating "tu" from Spanish is "thou" or "thee". This was a bold experiment. Once the convention was understood and accepted one got used to and even grew to like it. During the course of the novel many flashbacks and digressions take place as various characters tell their stories and reminiscence about the past. We learn, for example, that Jordon’s Grandfather was a Civil War hero in the America’s war of rebellion. We also learned that his father was a coward and that he shot himself to death with a pistol. It is indeed ironic that Hemingway’s own father committed suicide and that Hemingway took his own life with a shot gun many years later. Death is the primary focus of the novel with much discussion amongst the characters about what it is like to kill another human being, was it the right thing to do and what would it be like to die. In the end, Jordon is fatally wounded after successfully completing his mission and trying to escape. He waits by the roadside while the others get away, hoping to kill as many of the enemy soldiers as he can before he dies.It took me a long time to get around to reading this book. I have been carrying it around with me since 1971. I finally read it in 2011. Forty years. It was well worth the wait. Wile each man’s death may diminish me to some extent, this novel has made me whole.more
Not sure why, but took quite a while for me to get through this... tough going, took a couple weeks, which is quite a while for me to read a novel.The scene where Pilar describes Pablo and his band taking over the town and lining the townspeople up in two lines to whip and beat the fascists one by one before throwing them of a cliff... woweee. That's some writing goin on there.It's easy (for me at least)to get a little tired of the whole Hemingway tough guy bullfighting brawling thing, but you can't deny him. He's a beast.more
This is a sad story... and a very long one at that. Hemingway's bare writing style is evident, and where the real action takes place makes up only a fraction of the thick book. So if you're into fast-paced novels, this is not for you. However, one should try and finish it at least once in their life - it is a beautiful novel.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
I am not a fan of this book. It felt like it took forever to get going and when it did get going, it went no where. I am not a fan of books about war and that should have driven me away, right away. Although, there is a love story in the book, but even that was kind of so-so for me. It was kind of weird to read, because they had sex, that seemed like every night they did it. It was just a really bad book for me to read, because it was kind of everything that I dislike in books put into one book.more
It took me a while to get around to this one, which I enjoyed rather more than I imagined I might. In the end though, but for the subject matter, I might even have given it a higher rating.Hemingway manages to build tension around a planned military assault in such a way I found myself caring about the outcome. I'd say the writing gets better as the story progresses and maybe that's just a response to his introduction of a broader number of perspectives. I can't honestly claim to find the protagonist a particularly attractive character - a tad too American for me, I'm afraid, and a bit lacking in depth. My sense is that Hemingway intended that he should come accross that way, however, and intended that the other characters might only emerge as fully rounded as the action unfolds.more
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?more
Reading the final paragraph over and over again left me moved in an incredible way.While its not an easy read by any stretch, I picked this up and put it down and read multiple books in between, it certainly tells a powerful story. For one, its an incredible portrayal of a particular time in history. Secondly, his depressing and ultra realistic portrayal of life and death during war left me... affected. And lastly, in a way that few can, Hemingway moved my emotions greatly, and left me thinking of another life.Throughout all the times that I cursed the book through slow dragging inner dialogue, I respect it as a finished product, and will cherish and think of it... more
The best of Hemingway's works. Here is Hemingway's writing in all of its economical beauty. more
I loved it, was glued to every page until the end.more
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.more
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...more
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.more
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