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on 19 May 2012
Never read Hemmingway and on the strength of this book will not do so again. I found it slow and boring with almost every page referring to having yet another alcoholic drink. To be honest I found the grammar and style poor, if I was a publisher now in
2012 I would reject the manuscript. The last chapters describing the bullfight are better but the characters are people you do not care about
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on 20 May 2015
New
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on 12 January 2017
So far good
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on 9 March 2017
The relevance to today of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is explained in Frank Kyle’s The Sun Also Rises and the Post-Narrative Condition. Kyle explains that The Sun Also Rises examines the post-Narrative condition caused by World War I and how the novel points to a new post-Narrative worldview, one that is Universe (rather than god) oriented and is fundamentally an Earth-life centered philosophy.

The condition described in The Sun Also Rises is post-Narrative because the Great War invalidated the Christian narrative for the characters affected by the war. As a result, their lives have lost direction, and each character responds in his or her own way to this loss of direction that Grand Narratives provide. Important here is that the characters do not share a universal set of values or rules of behavior because there is no longer a Grand Narrative to give them universality. Their shared universal moral compass was shattered by the war. The condition of the characters is essentially existential with each character serving as his or her own compass when deciding the values and rules he or she will live by.

As a result, a state of moral anarchy and even moral nihilism occurs that leads to a good deal of conflict. Since the legitimacy of their values is no longer determined by a universal code embedded in a Grand Narrative but determined by each character’s predilection, there is no universal ethical code that can be appealed to in order to resolve conflicts. The bullfighter Romero represents universal, traditional values grounded in a Grand Narrative. He lies outside the influence of the war. Spain remained neutral throughout World War I. It’s his self-control and integrity that makes other characters praise and admire him. Yet, philosophically he is less interesting and perhaps less relevant as a character because he is unaffected by the post-Narrative condition. As a traditionalist he is neither modern nor postmodern. As admirable as he is, he remains a fossil of premodern thinking.

The main character, Jake Barnes, consciously confronts the post-Narrative condition. He establishes a worldview based on a personal set of ethical and aesthetic values. Of course, his moral and aesthetic worldview is not universal but personal and existential. In The Sun Also Rises the post-war generation may be damaged by the war but at least they are no longer some agency’s puppets and pawns, which is how they were used in the war. They act as individuals, sometimes badly, sometimes nobly and with dignity. Kyle says that a new science-based Grand Narrative would not be about mobilizing populations but would simply offer individuals the opportunity to do what only humans can do—experience the world with appreciative understanding—and by doing so realize their unique role in the story of the cosmos.

Kyle’s analysis reveals that The Sun Also Rises can be interpreted as a philosophical work that offers a meaningful response to the post-Narrative condition that threatens nihilism, the loss of the values that give purpose, direction, and nobility to human existence. Hemingway’s novel illustrates the effects of a nihilistic worldview, a loss of faith, not only religious faith but faith in reason, progress, human nature, and even in oneself. The novel is very much about overcoming the threat of nihilism mostly by rediscovering, reaffirming, or elevating values that have been taken for granted or disregarded, such as the value of simply being in the world.

However, I suggest that you boycott this edition because the cover is awful, awful, awful. It give the novel the appearance of a bargain book. Besides the story takes place in in the 1920s, not the 1950s. The book is considered a masterpiece (you don't have to agree that it is) and as such one would think the publisher would respect it enough to give it a decent cover. One of the older covers would have been infinitely more appropriate.
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on 8 December 2016
Classic
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 June 2015
I read this after a visit to Pamplona, where Hemingway is a Big Name. I hadn't been too struck on previous works of his, so began dubiously.
This novel is narrated by one Jake Barnes, a young American, and his 'gang' of friends, notably Lady Brett Ashley and her hard-drinking fiance. These 'bright young things' have been damaged by WW1 - Jake (like just about all the men) is in love with Brett, but has been rendered impotent. She, meanwhile, seems emotionally scarred: we learn in a conversation that her true love died during the War, while she served as a V.A.D. in a hospital.
Opening in Paris, where life is one round of alcoholic nights out and - for Brett - a succession of meaningless assignations with men - the group move off to take in Pamplona for some fishing and the annual fiesta and bullfights. I got quite caught up in the book at this point, thinking I knew what was going to happen to this little group of people among whom passions were aroused, echoing the descriptions of the bullfights (I was totally wrong!)
A book that grew on me, despite having a largely unlikeable cast of characters. Hemingway brings the atmosphere of Spain to life.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 1 August 2014
Written in 1926, Hemingway's characters are part of the 'lost generation' - those young people so emotionally damaged by WW1 that they are left drifting and purposeless, leading lives of dissolute recklessness. We first meet our narrator, Jake Barnes, in Paris, where he works as a journalist. Jake and Lady Brett Ashley love one another, but Jake has been left impotent by a war injury, and Brett is not the kind of woman who could be happy in a relationship that didn't offer her sexual fulfilment. So Brett embarks on a string of sexual adventures, usually with friends of Jake's, while Jake drinks. And drinks. And drinks. Actually, so does Brett. And by about a third of the way through the book, I was toying with the idea of knocking back three bottles of wine, a couple of brandies, and an absinthe or two myself. (But then the 'lost generation' usually has that effect on me - privileged, feckless wasters living off Daddy's money, and blaming their dissipated lifestyles on the war. Poor ex-soldiers, of course, just had to go home, get a job and get on with things - they couldn't afford to get 'lost' in Paris or Spain. Poverty is such a great sat-nav.)

When Paris begins to run low on alcohol, Jake and a loose group of friends and acquaintances, including Brett and her fiancé, make their way to Pamplona in Spain for the annual bull-fighting fiesta. There is a lot of alcohol available in Spain, of all different kinds, and this, together with the fact that every man in the party has either slept with Brett or wants to, leads to lots of macho posturing - not unlike the more formalised posturing that takes place between the matador and the bull. Surprisingly enough, Lady Brett seems to quite like matadors...

Hemingway's writing style is an odd mix of sometimes overly simplistic prose with occasional passages of real beauty. Some of the dialogue is mind-numbingly trite - repetitive and dull - and he gets fixated on details from time to time, like how much a bottle of wine cost or what each person ate. I tired very quickly of the endless descriptions of binge-drinking and drunken quarrelling. But some of the descriptions are excellent - the dusty journey to Pamplona, the passengers met by chance en route all merge to become a strikingly vivid picture of a particular place and time. As they all sit around drinking in Pamplona, I felt I could see the various cafés and bars clearly, almost smell them. The interactions between the ex-pats and the natives are brilliantly portrayed, particularly the growing disapproval from the real aficionados when Brett's behaviour begins to threaten the traditions of the bullfight. And as for the arena itself, I found I was unexpectedly fascinated by his depiction of the rituals around the running of the bulls and the bullfighting.

The same patchiness applies to the characterisation. I'm not at all sure what he was trying to achieve with Lady Brett's character - but I'm pretty sure he didn't achieve it. She didn't come over as a real person to me at all. Her permanent drunkenness and ridiculously promiscuous behaviour may have made many men want to sleep with her, but the idea that they all fell in love with her was a stretch too far. I felt as if she was a puppet rather than a character, her behaviour merely a device to provide reasons for strains and tensions to develop amongst the group of men.

I'm sure screeds have been written about the blatant anti-Semitism in the book and I must say I wasn't overwhelmingly thrilled by his stereotyping of his Scottish character either. But honestly both characterisations seemed to me more like lazy regurgitations of racial caricatures than any kind of active racism, and it was the 1920s, so no doubt they seem more shocking to us now than they would have been then. In fact, I wasn't at all sure that he wasn't attempting to gently ridicule the prevailing anti-Semitism of his time - but if that was his intention, by leaving it ambiguous, again I feel he failed.

However, I feel we get to know Jake well and some of the others come over as fairly well-rounded. There is a good deal of subtlety in the way he slowly reveals Jake to us as the most resilient of them all - the one who is physically damaged, but with the most emotional strength in the end. The whole 'there's more than one way to be masculine' message may seem obvious in retrospect but it's actually fed through in a gradual and almost understated way, and I felt I only really saw what Hemingway was doing as I looked back at the book after finishing.

I'm going to confess that in the end the book impressed me considerably more than I expected. Despite my many criticisms, I found it an absorbing read that drew me into the world Hemingway was describing and made it a believable one; and my appreciation for it actually grew in the few days after I had finished reading it. I feel that it needs to be approached like an impressionist painting - when you're close enough to see the detail it all looks a bit messy and it's hard to make out the picture. But stand back a bit and the details recede - the constant descriptions of drunkenness, the repetitiveness, the banality of the dialogue - and the picture that emerges of a damaged man metaphorically rising from the ashes through a kind of examination of maleness is really quite compelling after all. 4½ stars for me, so rounded up.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Scribner.
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on 16 May 2015
I read this for my book club The Whackademics, where we read our favourite books. This one was chosen by Alice Oseman. You can read everyone's reviews here: http://thewhackademics.tumblr.com/post/119135215472/

I have mixed feelings about this book. One the one hand, I feel like I’ve had an epiphany. This was the first Hemingway I’d read, and I adore his writing style. I can absolutely see why it resonates with Alice, because it has the same sparse yet absolutely biting tone that her writing does. He doesn’t hold back the punches, and I found a lot to relate to in a book that was written nearly 100 years ago now.

On the other hand, I found THE SUN ALSO RISES an odd book. It’s kind of like two books mashed together. The first half has absolutely nothing to do with the second half. The beginning is basically a travelogue of the drunken (so much drinking. So much.) adventures of Americans in Europe. It reminded me a lot of ON THE ROAD, in that I found it very, very boring. There were lengthy scenes with characters who never reappeared in the entire book; the prices of everything was listed as if I cared; and the details of every hotel room and bus ride were given in excruciating detail. Urgh. If it wasn’t for the occasional brilliant bit of wit I would have been bored stiff.

Then the second half starts, and WOW. Everything kicks off- suddenly there are bull fights and affairs and fighting in bars. It’s amazing! So why happened at the start, Hemingway?

I also had kind of a problem with Brett. The book is basically about this one woman and her party of male admirers, who are all in love with her, including the protagonist. But I kind of finished the book having no idea about anything about her. There were no details about her personality or any reason given for why these men all loved her – except that she was very sexually adventurous. Considering the book is basically all about her, it feels weird that I can’t tell you anything about her character. I want to love her – she’s a confident, sparkling twenties girl who gets what she wants – but she felt like a manic pixie dream girl without the quirky hobbies, because she had none.

So…I think I want to read other Hemingway books? I feel like I’d like them more than THE SUN ALSO RISES.
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on 30 January 2016
Firstly I have to say I've read other Hemingway books so I am a fan. However I could only give this 3 stars because to be frank I found it tedious and gave up less than halfway through. It just seemed to have a lot of repetitive boring dialogue so I just couldn't read any further. If you've not read Hemingway before then take my advice and start with 'A Farewell to Arms'. Now there's a book that will grab hold of your heart and squeeze it till it hurts!
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on 2 January 2015
Book Two of my Hemingway retrospective is his first novel, which fits nicely into his Moveable Feast memoirs just reviewed. I found the book startling, original, offensive, and un-putdownable.

Jake (of course, Hemingway without his balls, lost to the Great War) and his amoral friends drink and carouse through France, then Spain. At the centre is his love, the gorgeous Brett, a woman of no fixed morals, who screws everyone, has them all panting, and encourages fights for her favours. She is truly repulsive. Jake loves her but can't take advantage, Mike (her fiancee) can't afford her, Robert Cohn - the Jew who fights back - is love struck by her, and ultimately, the matador who falls for her, can't hold her attention completes the shortlist of men she enthrals. An ugly anti-semitism (and a quick anti-black passage) runs throughout the work. Robert Cohn - the only character whose full name is displayed most of the time - is treated shamefully by his so called friends, until he breaks down and literally beats the s*** out of his tormentors, including the matador. It is one of the core themes of the story - what is friendship to these people?

The 'style' is there on every page - the present tense of the tale, it's life like form, it's drunken revelries, the unreal reality this creates
- and it still takes the breath away. The best bits are the fishing trip and the bullfight - this is when the Hemingway hand is most visible and those who find this a drag should go no further in reading him. The endless drinking and eating is also front and centre.

It is is the overall amorality of the piece that hits you hard- it is a bit like a drunk's version of Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night. That great book was more cleverly constructed, but there is something broadly similar in it somehow. It is short, fascinating and strangely repulsive - and nearly great.

One star off for racism - maybe accurate for the time, but puts it in the 'Merchant of Venice class' for me - pre-Holocaust Gentile anti-Semitism, so unlike his admiration for Gertrude Stein and her weird charisma.
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