For whom the bell tolls

by Ernest Hemingway

Hardcover, 1968




New York, Charles Scribner's, 1968, c1940. Facsimile of first edition published in 1940. In slipcase


Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. HTML:Ernest Hemingway's masterpiece on war, love, loyalty, and honor tells the story of Robert Jordan, an antifascist American fighting in the Spanish Civil War. 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" and one of the foremost classics of war literature. For Whom the Bell Tolls tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades, is attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain. In his portrayal of Jordan's love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of a guerilla leader's last stand, Hemingway creates a work at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving, and wise. Greater in power, broader in scope, and more intensely emotional than any of the author's previous works, For Whom the Bell Tolls stands as one of the best war novels ever written.… (more)

Media reviews

Hemingway the artist is with us again; and it is like having an old friend back. That he should thus go back to his art, after a period of artistic demoralization, and give it a larger scope, that, in an era of general perplexity and panic, he should dramatize the events of the immediate past in
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terms, not of partisan journalism, but of the common human instincts that make men both fraternal and combative, is a reassuring evidence of the soundness of our intellectual life.
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1 more
The greatness of this book is the greatness of these people's triumph over their foreknowledge of death-to-come... For Whom the Bell Tolls, unlike other novels of the Spanish Civil War, is told not in terms of the heroics and dubious politics of the International Brigades, but as a simple human
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struggle of the Spanish people. The bell in this book tolls for all mankind.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member browner56
I grew up thinking of Hemingway as one of the literary giants. Most people of a certain age read "The Old Man and the Sea" in high school (or at least they were offered the chance to read it; I didn’t always take advantage of such opportunities in those days). Now, however, he seems to have
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fallen out of favor in many circles.

I suppose his terse and sometimes overtly macho style rubs some people the wrong way, but I think the best of what he wrote is enduring. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is substantially longer than most of his other novels, but it contains the same motivating themes that mark his territory. Set against the backdrop of war, Hemingway challenges the reader to consider the value of devotion and commitment and, ultimately, sacrifice. This is great stuff and one of the best books ever written.
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LibraryThing member BooksForDinner
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member edgeworth
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
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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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LibraryThing member MLHamilton
The best of Hemingway's works. Here is Hemingway's writing in all of its economical beauty.
LibraryThing member crashmyparty
Oh, Hemingway. Is it you or is it me? I don't know why but I can't feel anything above mild acceptance that your novels are okay. Are you just not as good as you're cracked up to be, or do I just not understand your genius? And do I keep reading until I work it out?

Robert Jordan (not just Robert,
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never Robert, but Robert Jordan) is a Spanish teacher who has become involved in the Spanish Civil War as a dynamiter. He has to blow up a bridge with the help of a band of guerillas living in a cave somewhere in Spain. The world as he knows changes when he falls in love with Maria, who was adopted by the band after they blew up a train.

First off, the dialogue was frustrating to read. With so many thous and thees and thys you would've thought you were reading Shakespearian but actually the translation of Spanish to English translates better that way than to modern English, apparently. The problem is, it doesn't fit with the rest of the narrative. I don't know how else to explain it except it doesn't fit. Just reads wrong. The other thing about the writing style is that while it is written in the third person, the reader spends a lot of time in Robert Jordan's head. Which is not always an exciting place to be as he often argues with himself and goes off on crazy tangents that don't always feel relevant or crucial to the story. It's hard to stay interested.

I struggled to get into the story mainly because it felt like the point, the blowing up of the bridge, was so far away and without it there was so little to keep the plot moving. I also found it hard to connect with the characters - none of them really did anything for me. I wasn't at all moved by this book until the very end. At the end the imagery of Robert Jordan lying on the ground with his leg at an unnatural angle and with his submachine gun pointed at Lieutenant Berrard was just so vivid and so real in the my mind - if the whole novel was more like the last page, my rating would have been very different.
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LibraryThing member sadiebooks
another hemingway. another nap. i honestly have never finished this book. i get to the same spot every time and give up. i can't stand it.
LibraryThing member santhony
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
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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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LibraryThing member stpnwlf
Possibly the best opening paragraph in modern literature. Brilliant story about the realities of partisan warfare in Spain.
LibraryThing member magonistarevolt
I'm disappointed. Ernest Hemmingway should have done this war better justice. Obviously, I'm going to be comparing this novel to Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. A very famous English writer goes to Spain to fight the fascists, and comes home having written a book about it. But where "Homage" is full
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of spirit and admiration for the Spaniards, their fiery politics, their ideological devotion to freedom and equality, For Whom the Bell Tolls is a dud. Orwell stated: "it would be quite impossible to write about the Spanish war from a purely military angle. It was above all things a political war." And yet this is what Ernest Hemingway does. So immersed in Robert Jordan's life are we that we get no "bigger picture" of the conflict unfolding around him. No politics, just fascists and anti-fascists, who have no politics of their own. You get just as much politics out of an overwhelmingly political war from the Metallica song based on the (movie? book?).

Furthermore, we develop no affinity to any of the Spaniards. Relating to Spaniards is made much more difficult with Hemingway's chosen awkward too-literal translations. The Spanish speech patterns are littered with archaic pronouns: thee, thy, thou. Hemingway's prudish self-censorship, along with the literal translation of Spanish curses (that would be far better translated as a simple "Fuck you," or "Fuck your ________") also get in the way of seeing any of the characters as relatable. When the Spanish are angry in Hemingway's novel, they yell, "obscenity!" or "I obscenity in the milk of thy (whatever it is)!"

The relationship between Robert Jordan and his girlfriend Maria is bizarre and more like what Ernest Hemingway's fantasy woman would be. Even creepier than that, maybe. She wants to not only love Robert Jordan, she wants to be with him ALL of the time, be doing EVERYTHING he's doing, doing EVERYTHING for him, looking like him, and even BEING him. It's totally off-putting for me as a reader.

Totally meh.
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LibraryThing member li33ieg
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member supersam
This book was very hard to read. I do not recomend this book to anyone. save yourself.
LibraryThing member feralcatbob
I had read this back in high school and my one quibble with it then as the same as now. Too much emphasis on the romance with Maria. I do like Hemingway's focus on a 'moment in time' for telling a story. Hemingway has been accused of not developing characters, particularly women, but I think that
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with a narrow time window that a story is told in that it's more about character being revealed. While Maria's character seems to be not be revealed, Pilar's character is very rich. I would like to have rated this higher but the use of the word obscenity for an actual expplicative was distractive and annoying. I rewalize that at the time the book was written/published this was the only recourse but it stioll makes for a articificality to the read. And then there is the romance droning on and on...
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LibraryThing member yogimarley
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
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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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LibraryThing member emily_morine
I don't read a lot of war literature, so it's noticeable when I'm suddenly experiencing two stories of war back-to-back. David and I spent a few weeks listening to John Le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and I kicked off the 9 for '09 challenge by reading Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell
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Tolls. I tend to find Hemingway subtly optimistic, less dark than his reputation would lead one to believe. Sure, his characters are wounded and adrift in a harsh world, but there's always that glint of hope beckoning from afar, whether in nature, a quiet moment between friends or lovers, or the shooting of innocent animals, that hints at the redeemable nature of humanity. Nevertheless, I was not prepared to read Papa as the little ray of sunshine he seems in comparison to John Le Carré.

It is very tempting to read the differences in these two novels as representing the zeitgeists of their respective wars: in the Spanish Civil War of For Whom the Bell Tolls, the characters still believe that they are fighting for an ideal, that their actions, however horrific, can have an important and lasting effect on the country and the world. Concepts like "freedom" and "The Republic" are bandied about with un-ironic conviction, and romantic love is a saving force, even if cut short. When characters are thrown into doubt, despair, or fear, which happens frequently, they pull themselves out of it with some brusque self-talk about the ideals of the Republic. Even when they do things in the name of their cause of which they are later ashamed (as in Pilar's gruesome description of a mob massacre in her small town of origin), that shame is largely kept separate from the untarnished ideals for which they are fighting.

In the late Cold War Britain of Le Carré, on the other hand, any idealism has faded into a memory so distant and exhausting that it's not even nostalgic anymore. The characters perform their actions out of habit, and out of an idea that they have spent too long spooking around for "The Circus" to think of changing now. From a moral perspective East and West are largely indistinguishable, so tasks like ferreting out a Russian mole are performed by exhausted career spies as a matter of course, rather than by fiery young ideologues in a lather of righteous indignation. There are a plethora of scenes where the protagonist, George Smiley, does nothing but sit in a room sifting through files. Even the suspenseful scenes, especially the final apprehension of the mole, are laden with exhaustion and disappointment, yet performed with the careful attention born of long habit. And Le Carré probably has a point: if I had a tricky job I wanted done, I would recruit George Smiley over Robert Jordan any day.

For most people, the primary associations with "Hemingway hero" are of succinct expression, "the thing left unsaid," a character emotionally reserved to the point of inaccessibility. Robert Jordan, the protagonist of Bell, certainly thinks of himself this way: he's forever treading his precarious way among the "wrong" thoughts, reminding himself which subjects are safe to dwell on and which will put him in a mindset ill-suited to his task of blowing up a bridge. He warns himself against getting too attached to the people with whom he's working, but also against getting too angry at them. He calls himself on starting to romanticize the Spanish people, but also stops himself from descending into cynicism. He struggles to maintain that crisp, taut surface of clean action and minimal thought that is the salvation of the Hemingway protagonist; at one point he even claims that his "mind is in suspension until the war is over." Nevertheless, he thinks a lot, and some of those thoughts are downright paeans to the cause of Spanish Republicanism:

In all the work that they, the partizans did, they brought added danger and bad luck to the people that sheltered them and worked with them. For what? So that, eventually, there should be no more danger and so that the country should be a good place to live in. That was true no matter how trite it sounded.

If the Republic lost it would be impossible for those who believed in it to live in Spain.

So much of the poignancy of For Whom the Bell Tolls comes from thoughts like these: thoughts of how things will be when the war (or even the specific action) is over and life can return to normal. Wartime experiences, as well as dreams and memories of better times, are made more vibrant by the palpable abnormality of living in a guerrilla band in the pine forest, behind fascist lines. At some point in the novel, every character indulges in dreams of a more leisurely existence, full of the mundane but achingly evocative details of everyday life: sleeping late with a lover, raising fowl in the backyard, conversing in a bar, eating wine and cheese in a rented room in Madrid. Because odds are stacked against any of the characters achieving these modest dreams, the scenes of nostalgia can be heart-wrenching, although I thought Hemingway does a good job of not getting too maudlin about them or dwelling on them too much.

In Tinker, Tailor, the poignancy comes from quite a different source: the Cold War has been going on for so long, and permeated so far into the characters' psyches, that they no longer expend any imagination on what life would be like if it were over. They don't have the luxury of keeping their minds "suspended" for the duration of the war; they have no "normal" lives outside their profession. In fact, despite the thawing of Russian/British relations during the novel's timeframe, the idea of escaping from a Cold War mentality never seems to enter the characters' heads, except insofar as it means they will have spent an entire career in service only to be left behind when they're no longer useful. The saddest scene in the novel, for my money, involves Smiley visiting Connie Sachs, an old colleage who has been fired, supposedly for losing her sense of perspective, and told to spend some time "in the real world." Connie, descended into bloated alcoholism, sobs to Smiley that "I hate the real world. I like the Circus and all my lovely boys," while he, overcoming his sense of revulsion, reluctantly holds her hand. It's vastly darker than anything in For Whom the Bell Tolls, as far as I'm concerned. The Circus has come to exist, for these characters, as an end in itself, not a tool to create a better world.

The atmosphere of Tinker, Tailor was so dark, in fact, that getting through it occasionally felt like the same moral slog facing its characters. It's a testament to Le Carré's writing that it felt like that infrequently, just as it's a testament to Hemingway's prose that For Whom the Bell Tolls doesn't come off as a complete romanticization of the doomed-but-noble battle. The first book was full of lovely lines in the midst of pleasingly workhorse jargon (my favorite was Smiley's description of an interrogation: one should "learn the facts, then try on the stories like clothes"); the second was the classic, bone-taut style that made its author a household name. As it's really style and quality of prose that make or break a book for me, these were both winners. I don't think I'll be reading much war fiction for a while, though. A little goes a long way, even if they're such lovingly constructed and realized narratives as these.
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LibraryThing member mikedraper
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
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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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LibraryThing member AshRyan
"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
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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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LibraryThing member Cecilturtle
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member dcsax96
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
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life - it is a beautiful novel.
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LibraryThing member ffortsa
Oh boy. The printer almost did me in with this one. I got to page 442 and the next page was 412. Only the fact that Jim had the text on Kindle saved me from self-explosion. And it's a library book! Didn't anyone tell the librarian about the defect?!?!

ok. got that said. Now, about the book.

I was
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somewhat surprised by how many people in my f2f reading group actively disliked this book. They objected to Hemingway's portrayal of women (gee, the younger one is pretty naive, and the older one isn't. right). They objected to his attempt to represent the difference between 'usted' and 'tu' in Spanish by using 'you' and 'thou', etc. in English. And I admit that some of the attempts to make the text sound like a translation from the Spanish were worse than awkward,and the editor did the story no favor in insisting that the naturally obscene language be masked so clumsily.

But what about the story? What about the naive volunteer trying his best to be a good soldier for a cause he thinks he believes in, in spite of what we know about the errors and excesses of that cause? The partisan band in the hills, trying to say alive so that they can go back to being farmers and vintners, each one delineated as a distinct person with frailties and honor in unique proportion? And the honesty of the brutality on both sides of this gruesome war, the ineptitude and cynicism of the commanders, the pain of both dying and killing, and the fatalism war can engender.

The intense writing made me see everything as if through a close-up lens. Although the language can seem moderately straightforward (and no, it's not all simple declarative sentences by any means), I had to slow down to capture the vivid detail, even when I wanted to story to move faster because the tension mounts even though the inevitability of the outcome seems clearer every step of the way.

Bad grammar, bad usage can pull me right out of a mediocre story, but nothing could pull me out of this one.
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LibraryThing member rayski
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
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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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LibraryThing member tony_landis
I loved it, was glued to every page until the end.
LibraryThing member DanDanRevolution
Tedious. Reputation and glory aside, this war novel features flat characters and morbid imagery/theming. Some scenes stand out, but they aren't worth the time investment. Disappointed.
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
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
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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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LibraryThing member writestuff
For Whom The Bell Tolls is first and foremost a war novel. Spanning a scant three days, the novel is the story of Robert Jordan - a young American professor - who is attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain. Jordan's mission is to blow up a bridge which is guarded by the
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fascists. He enlists the aid of a band of Communist guerillas, spending several days with them at a cave in the mountains. Hemingway introduces a broad range of characters, including Maria - the beautiful Spanish girl with a tragic history - who Jordan falls in love with practically on sight. The novel has all the makings of a classic, and in fact has been called Hemingway's greatest work. Despite this, I found myself struggling to continue reading through the first half of the story.

Hemingway spends a great deal of time inside his character's heads, repetitively showing us their thoughts and motivations. The dialogue tends to plod along, filled with 'thees' and 'thous' and odd phrases such as:

"Go and obscenity thyself," Pablo told him. -From For Whom The Bell Tolls, page 211-

I found myself tempted to scan through large portions of the book during the early going, and only hard-nosed determination kept me reading.

Luckily, the book redeems itself around page 270, when finally the reader gets to experience some action. It is the latter pages that Hemingway shows his skill as a writer, painting the tragedy of war in broad strokes and revealing the humanity of his characters.

I wanted badly to love this book. I have enjoyed other Hemingway novels (The Old Man and The Sea, for example), and have been captivated by Hemingway's short stories. But, I'm afraid I cannot recommend this one. Had I not been reading this for a challenge and a group read, I would have quit less than 50 pages in. If the reader is diligent and can wade through the dryness of the first half of the book, they will be tragically rewarded in the end.
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LibraryThing member agrabfelder
For Whom The Bell Tolls is a classic hero novel. It takes place in the Spanish Civil War. Roberto, the main character and hero, is tasked with the destruction of a bridge. He allies with the Partisan units in the Mountains to complete his task. Much of the book is the characters waiting till the
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signal is given to blow up the bridge. This book is very similar to A Farewell To Arms, also by Hemingway. Although the main driving force of the novel is the destruction of the bridge, the character interaction is arguably much more captivating.
This book definitely involves the theme of a hero. Roberto meets the guerrilla troops in the mountains and subtlety but rather quickly takes command. He unifies the people to complete a task for the Republic. Roberto upholds his duty to his country even at the cost of his life. He embodies a classic hero.
I think that this novel is very well written. It is written as if Robert, who is English, is translating the Spanish language back into writing and therefore makes the language barrier between him and the others very real. This book was a little dull at some points but I still found it to be a good read. I recommend it to anyone who liked A Farewell to Arms.
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