When a friend mentioned re-reading Hemingway’s 1929 novel I was ripe for suggestion, especially when he said that the book held up well. He thought the published ending was the best, though variations have appeared. I’d just finished reading a gut-wrenching, totally page-turning sci-fi novel, mostly reading on an airplane and no, not on my Kindle, but the Tor paperback of Jack McDevitt’s Deepsix. Carried an iPad, camera, and phone on this trip. Used only the phone except for a snapshot of the Lexington, Missouri Civil War battlefield. I may have used the iPad in the hotel for web browsing. I think my brain is currently taking a spur off the digital track.
A Farewell to Arms is still as great a novel as it’s always been. Hemingway’s writing is so direct it’s like a drumbeat. We all know the origins, the journalism, hanging out with Gertrude Stein. (Is there any bigger influence on Hemingway, other than Michigan of course?) It also occurred to me that the novel is very much aligned to the blogging/Twitter/instant communication media of 2014. God, Hemingway on Twitter. Maybe he would have hated it, but no one could have packed more into a short sentence than Hemingway!
One of the things that I was reminded of reading the novel again was how much Hemingway was interested in language, his skill with dialog, his use of languages other than English as a kind of dramatic foil—people can or cannot understand Italian, French, German. He’s a very modern writer. I suppose that’s obvious but I don’t think he gets much credit for that, at least in the popular view where his safari’s and suicide outshine his books to some degree. It’s important to remember what’s important, which is how moving and powerful A Farewell to Arms is.