on 11 June 2001
This short novel was written when Hemingway was living in Key West and paying regular visits to Cuba, before moving, lock, stock, and barrel, to Havana in 1939. The author was a keen deep-sea fisherman himself, who craved a laid-back tropical lifestyle between bouts of high adventure. To Have and Have Not draws heavily on his intimate knowledge of early nineteen-thirties life in the Florida Keys, the north coast of Cuba, the Gulf Stream in between, the fishing boats that worked these waters, and the men who owned and manned them.
This was the time of the Great Depression. Harry Morgan has been bilked of his dues for a fishing charter out of Havana. Broke, he turns to smuggling with its inevitable risks, in order to support his family, while the author treats the reader to a simply told, suspenseful, and sometimes poignant morality tale. A tale with a rich share of characters ranging from down-and-out "rummies", Cuban revolutionaries, bar-owners, drunken authors, customs men, and an inevitably crooked lawyer, to wealthy owners of luxury steam-yachts.
Interestingly, if a little quirkily structured, the book is divided into three parts. The first is told in the first person, most of the remainder in the third. To Have and Have Not should be viewed as a product - as well as a story - of its time, particularly in respect of terminologyy that would today be seen as highly racist and derogatory. Not "Papa's" best work, but most assuredly a yarn that held this reader's attention throughout.
on 25 March 2012
I am a huge Hemingway fan. To my mind, 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' is one of the 20th century's best novels; 'A Moveable Feast' one of the same century's best pieces of narrative non-fiction; and I'm not sure there's ever been a better short-story written than 'The Old Man and the Sea'.
But I'll also be the first to admit that his writing failed almost as often as it succeeded. 'Across the River and Into the Trees' was as stultifying as 'The Old Curiosity Shop'; 'True at First Light' was beautiful in parts but ultimately strange and meandering; and 'A Farewell to Arms' (contentious statement this one) was simply dismal.
'To Have and Have Not', like many of Hemingway's short stories (for this was born out of two), stands somewhere in the middle. It is difficult not to get tugged into the story of Harry Morgan and difficult not to like him: murderous, racist profiteer that he is. I've never seen the myriad film-adaptations, but can understand why it has been so popular with Hollywood executives - Morgan's story is a gun-blazing, hard-drinking blockbuster, and his scenes in the novel range from terse action to moments of surprising tenderness.
Then suddenly, in the last fifty pages, we are introduced to a score of new characters whose relation to the main story is tenuous at best and disjointed at worst. It's still fascinating stuff, but so unconnected and so late in the novel that one wonders what Hemingway was thinking when he structured his novel in this way.
I think, perhaps, he wrote it as a first draft and was so displeased with it (he has famously claimed it to be his worst novel) that he just shouldered it on to his publisher without any corrections just to be done with it. This is a shame, for with some careful interweaving of narratives and a little more bulk, this novel could have been as fine as much of his other output.
But, still, it's Hemingway, isn't it? And even when he's bad, he's still better than most.
on 10 July 1998
This book is incredibly written. I have read all of Hemingways work and have found this book to be the most exicing. It may be a little rough but I think that is how he wanted it. Parts of this book refer to Hemingway's own thoughts own sucide and after reading you will have a lot better grasp of why he did kill himself. You can not call yourself a true Hemingway fan unless you have read this book!
I picked this up not because I'm any particular fan of Hemingway, but because I've always liked the 1944 Hawks/Bogart/Bacall film of the same name. What I didn't realize until reading the book is that the Hawks adaptation was a very very loose one, bearing little resemblance to Hemingway's story. (I also didn't realize the book had been adapted far more faithfully in three later films: The Breaking Point (1950), The Gun Runners (1958), and Captain Khorshid (1997).
The book itself is a little uneven, which makes sense, since the three parts it's divided into (Spring/Fall/Winter) were written completely separately. The first is more or less a standalone story that was originally published as "One Trip Across" in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1934. The second part was originally published as "The Trademan's Return" in Esquire magazine in 1936. The third part takes up about 2/3 of the book, and was written after the first two stories. The unevenness comes from how the first two parts really revolve around a Florida Keys sailor named Harry Morgan, while the third part veers all over the map.
In the first section we are introduced to Morgan, who is making his living chartering his boat to wealthy Americans in Cuba seeking to fish. It's a taut story of economic precariousness, as one trip goes awry and forces him into a smuggling run. The second section finds Morgan a few months later, even further at the mercy of running illegal cargo to feed his family, and further at the mercy of the law.
The third section does have a plotline involving Morgan and some desperado Cubans, but it also has a completely extraneous second plotline about some wealthy intellectual types and their wayward wives. This feels more like fictionalized reportage and commentary than fiction, and there's a portion near the end where the writer's gaze starts drifting through boats moored at the docks and it takes on the air of something from Dos Passos' USA Trilogy. There's little beyond proximity to connect the reader to Morgan's story, which actually has real stakes to it.
Definitely worth reading by those who like fiction about work life, but don't expect a fully-developed novel. Be warned, the characters in the book display a fair amount of causal racism and the "N" word is deployed fairly frequently.
on 3 October 2003
Rough. Hard. Dirty. Physical. Tough. And also lyrical, simple, emotional, indelible. All characteristics of Hemingway's writing, all present in this book. A simple story of Harry Morgan, sometime fisherman forced into smuggling and illegal immigration just to feed his family, a man who spirals down the slippery road of 'the end justifying the means' till there is nothing left but survive at any cost.
The story is told as three separate time-segments in Harry's life, which forces a certain disjointedness to the tale. But it also allows Hemingway to illuminate Harry's story with different segments of the Cuban and Key West societies at different times with changing social conditions. There are many character vignettes, people captured sometimes in only a few paragraphs, people who are desperate, silly, egotistical, idealistic, cynical, worn-out, greedy, dissolute, resigned, driven, and just coping. Albert, a man doing relief work for less than subsistence wages, is one of the clearest and most poignant images, hiring on as mate to Henry even though he knows the voyage is supremely dangerous. Within this short portrait of this man, we see not only the extremes that desperation will drive a man to, but also Hemingway's commentary on social/political organizations and economic structures that give rise to such desperation. This was quite typical of Hemingway, as he never beat his reader's over the head with his political philosophy, but showed the underpinnings of his reasoning through the circumstances of his characters.
Throughout this work, there is the sense that there is more here than what the words on the page delineate, a theme of people from all walks of life and all economic circumstances who are caught in the implacability of fate. All of these people have their own dreams, their own methods of dealing with the vagaries of life, and each is limned by the ultimate depression of life limited to only a short span.
Morgan's wife, though relegated to only a small part on these pages, shines through as one of the most engaging and durable people here, supportive of her husband's dreams, willing to forgo anything more than minimal material wealth, able to put aside her husband's foibles, and having the inner strength to continue when all her world collapses around her. The contrast between her and many of the other characters here is striking, a fine illustration of what really compromises the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.
This book is not as powerful as For Whom the Bell Tolls, mainly due to its fragmented story structure and lack of any clear objective for its main characters, but is still a fine book with many nuances hiding within its simple story. This is not a book for those who like happy, uplifting stories, but it does much to illuminate both the best and the worst of humanity's fight with the curse of living and the insurmountable wall of dying.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
I re-read this book after some 40 years and found it more "topical" today than when I read it the first time. So many themes literally tumble out of today's headlines. There is the American-Cuban relationship, engendered by proximity, and of course economics, before America erected its economic version of the "Berlin Wall" against Cuba. There is the subject denoted by the title, the "haves" and "the have nots," with the emphasis on the later. There is an incisive vignette on one of the "haves," who had managed to steal from many of his fellow "haves," a la Madoff, driving some to suicide. There is a sexual predator of a wife who "collects" writers. There are veterans who have fought in America's foreign wars, misused and mistreated by their own government. There is illegal immigration, and why it was more contained in the `30's, due to the stiffer penalties. The central character is Harry Morgan, a hard-luck, but ethical fisherman, trying to scrap a living during the Depression, who is ripped off by an inept, but economically "successful" "have", which commenced Morgan's decent into crime and guns. Yet a topic which could fall out of today's websites as a "post-mortem," literal and figurative, on another mass killing by an economically marginal figure - some, but not all, driven to despair by one of the "Sun King" "haves." And then there is the wildly speculative, but an item for consideration concerning the organizational membership of the two Presidential candidates in the 2004 election: "the type of man who is tapped for Bones is rarely also tapped for bed; but with a lovely girl like Frances intention counts as much as performance."
Other reviewers have evaluated the novel as not up to Hemingway's other works, even making the point that supposedly he said, and meant so, himself. They also criticized the shifts in narration, the supposed "Faulknerian rambles," the shallow portraits of the "haves," and a supposed "cut and paste" nature of combining some short stories and vignettes. All of the above "worked" well for me. The novel is primarily about Harry Morgan, inarticulate as many are of his economic class, but admirably portrayed by Hemingway through his actions. The portrait of his wife, Marie, a woman who "stood by her man," is succinct and successful; almost certainly the most insightful portrait of a woman in any in Hemingway's works. Often the rich are vapid and shallow, and so Hemingway's description is accurate. The woman in the bar scene, accompanied by her husband, deserves Morgan's contempt and reaction. And the novel is another view of a "Margaritaville," or at least one version of same, Key West, Florida, where Hemingway is still fondly remembered.
The novel has withstood the test of time, and can be read, or read again with greater appreciation today. Highly recommended.
(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on April 10, 2009)
on 19 September 2010
A few things to keep in mind before reading this book:
*The plot is very different to the popular Humphrey Bogart Film
*The storyline is very exciting in parts - especially when Harry Morgan is the focus - but a little dull (almost pretentious when he is not)
*Hemingway himself didn't like the book (so I have read) - but it did win literary awards when first published
*It is a relatively short novel (more a novella)
*The book is quite experimental - begins with first person but then points of view and perspectives change (I agree with the reviewer 'Mandrake' who says it has similarities or provided possible inspiration for Quentin Tarintino's work such as Pulp Fiction
*It is fast paced and when Morgan is the key focus provided readers with a great intro to Hemingway - the dreary aspects that focus on the 'Haves' however is in my view quite tiresome and doesn't quite convince - the female characters seem a bit pathetic in nature and unrealistic
*The audio version is great - though when the narrator reads out the female lines it really does accentuate the artificiality of the dialogue Hemingway gives to his female characters (who come across as ideals/superficial charactures rather than real people
*In summary: part brilliance(hence the four stars) for a about two thirds of the book/ part dull and unconvincing
for about one third of the book and Hollywood were right to keep the focus on Harry Morgan and use the essence of his character and nature to drive the film. HOWEVER, I would love to see a director like Tarintino give this film a more modern rendition as the book definitely has something special in there.
on 16 January 2009
If you ever have wondered where Quentin Tarantino or the Cohen Brothers get their inspiration you should read this book. Written in 1937 it anticipates many of the themes and techniques we have come to associate with these film-makers. The narrative from a range of different perspectives, the exploration of the lives of multiple characters from multiple social, ethnic and economic backgrounds and perhaps most significantly of all the presentation and exploration of violence, stark brutal often shocking violence, and the effect it has on perpetrators, their victims and those connected to both. It is a very visual book and crying out to be filmed. There have been three attempts but all have wandered so far from the text, both in terms of story and theme, that they can hardly be considered worthy of Hemingway. I would advise you to read this quickly if you can. Immerse yourself in Harry Morgan's depression-era Florida and Cuba. It will leave you moved, stunned and reaching for more.
on 29 August 2015
Hemingway makes it easy to picture the scenes in the minds eye! Unfortunately, the enjoyable scenes are few and far between! Over 3/4 of the book follows the main character Harry Morgan the other 1/4 of the book goes astray and doesnt seem to mean anything or connect to the plot. The end is disappointing and abrupt after being lost in various unneccesary and irrellevant chapters! I threw the book at the wall after reading out of pure frustration!
on 26 April 2014
To Have and Have Not is written like a hardboiled noir, played out on Harry Morgan’s boat and the bars and harbours of Key West and Havana. Hemingway’s prose is deceptively simple, using short declarative sentences to create a tense atmosphere. Morgan is a hard, suspicious man, somewhat of a bully, misogynist and racist, who has little pity for others or himself, yet other men and women seem drawn to his roughed, abrasive demeanour. He’s willing to take a risk and to play hard. Throughout the story his position gets increasingly worse as he raises the risks that he’s prepared to take in order to try and get his life back on an even keel. Some of the passages create a wonderful scene, such as the charter hire trying to catch a marlin, but the story is uneven and veers off on an extended, unrelated tangent about two thirds of the way that added little to the story and felt oddly out of place. The tale would have worked much more effectively if it had just stuck to Harry Morgan’s misadventures