To have and have not

by Ernest Hemingway

Hardcover, ca. 1977




New York, Scribner, ca, 1977. Hudson River Editions.


The dramatic, brutal story of Harry Morgan, an honest boat owner who is forced into running contraband between Cuba and Key West as a means of keeping his crumbling family financially afloat. His adventures lead him into the world of the wealthy and dissipated yachtsmen who swarm the region, and involve him in a strange and unlikely love affair.

Media reviews

". . . a turbulent, searching story of Key West and Havana in these strange years of grace. . . . stronger than 'The Sun Also Rises,' not as good as 'A Farewell to Arms' . . ."

User reviews

LibraryThing member BenKline
I technically finished this yesterday (9.23) (because I only had about 4 pages to go when I got to to work) ironically at work; where when I didn't get the promotion I was told I read too much on my breaks and I should be spending that time socializing with my co-workers.

But anyway.... the
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book..... is just not good. It screams amateurish and first-time writing. Its not that its Hemingway's style that is bad; its just the execution of it in this book. The various chapters that are POV and then are omniscient, the going back and forth, the things like Harry losing his arm basically happening off-screen, the bad way that he tried to show the intersecting lives of the rich and the poor.... it all just comes off as .... so bad.....

Its funny, I have a hate/love relationship with Hemingway. Sometimes I find him deep and insightful and love his prose, and then others it just comes off as poor and amateur hour. I also mostly feel like the characters are him; so their actions and dialogue is his actions and dialogue, like surrogate characters, rather than their own entities. So things like racial language (the n-word and the Asian c-word) in the book more comes off as thats how E. Hemingway talks rather than thats how Character X talks. Especially how it transcends just this book and its in multiple works of his (books / short stories). Ultimately just none of the characters felt great in this either, Harry comes off as flat. We're told how amazing he is by his wife, we're told how handsome he is by an ugly woman at a bar, etc. The back blurb also doesn't do this book much justice (which luckily I only read after being 2/3rds of the way through the novel). The back blurb mentions an "amazing love" (I'm assuming Harry and his wife's, which is piss poor blurb-writing if I ever saw it), and it says he's caught up in a love affair (he barely sees two of the characters, one time at a bar, who THEY have the affair - not him). That back book blurb has about as much to do with the actual novel as a Bud Light can has to do with beer.... (hint, BL is more like water than beer.... and bad water at that).
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LibraryThing member andystardust
When asked by a friend to describe this novel, I said that it was a mean story about mean people who do mean things to one another. More specifically, Hemingway is exercising a kind of casual, detached social criticism with Harry Morgan, a down-on-his-luck captain of a private fishing boat, and his
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attempts to do business with a series of lowlifes who at their best prove untrustworthy, and at their worst lethal. Viewed as Depression-era social criticism, the novel is half-baked and unconvincing, but I suspect that Hemingway was no more convinced of his social message than Harry Morgan is convinced by the politics of the young Cuban revolutionary he agrees to smuggle out of Key West with three other men in the novel's third part. Harry is no bleeding-heart, and he is as quick to toss his friend Albert's dead body off his boat and into the sea as he is to grieve over him. To me, the point of the book is not that the author Richard Gordon, for example, is a "have" and that Harry Morgan is a "have not," and isn’t that a shame. The point is that, in Key West, anyway, the two live right next to one another.
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LibraryThing member kcshankd
Hard to read past the cheap racist descriptions, hasn't aged well, which is a shame, as the gritty noir story is a good one.
LibraryThing member melodyaw

Harry Morgan is a policeman-turned-fisherman down on his luck like so many others in the Depression-struck Florida Keys. To make ends meet, Harry begins engaging in increasingly dangerous illegal activities in the waters between the Keys and Cuba.

The book opens on Harry and several Cuban
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revolutionaries who want to pay Harry an exorbitant fee to transport them to the United States. Harry refuses, preferring to use his boat for legal activities, and as the revolutionaries leave, they are gunned down in the street.

However, after being tricked by a customer who charters the boat for three weeks and then vanishes without settling his account, Harry agrees to smuggle Chinese immigrants from Cuba to the mainland. Next, Harry begins running alcohol between the two countries, and a confrontation with Cuban customs lost Harry his arm and his boat. Undeterred, he signs to the next scheme he runs across: stealing a boat and ferrying Cubans involved in a bank robbery back to their homeland.

As he descends ever-deeper into desperation, Harry meets old friends and new faces. He has little patience for those who have not remained as resilient to the times as himself, and he has no patience for outsiders. Tensions mount between this hardscrabble jack-of-all-trades and several tourists who frequent his local bars.

One pair of tourists take special prominence in the book: Arthur, an unexceptional writer, and his beautiful, unhappy wife. When Arthur comes home one day after sleeping with yet another woman, his wife decides to leave him for another man, an alcoholic who has been seen sloshing around the bars as well.

Meanwhile, you are given a peek into the intimate details of Harry’s relationship with his wife, Marie. The quiet desperation with which they cling to each other is meant as a justification for Harry’s illegal maritime activity. Unfortunately, Harry does not return home after his trip with the Cuban bank-robbers, and Marie becomes yet another Depression-era woman left wringing her apron in desperation and rage.


I’ll be the first to admit that I have a bit of a Hemingway obsession. One of my literary goals is to read all of his books, and I’m not too far from the finish line. However, To Have and Have Not is my least favorite Hemingway book so far. Though Hemingway attempts to dissect grand social issues, such as troubled economic times and the relationship that exists between husband and wife, the entangled sub-plots and the erratic activities of the characters serve to distract from whatever statement Hemingway is trying to make.

The unexpected changes in viewpoints are disorienting, and the stories of other characters either stop abruptly or trail off seemingly without resolution. Harry remains the driving force of the novel, if there is one, even when the narrative meanders through the viewpoints of those who interact with him. Though his motivations inspire pity, his actions encourage judgment. Ultimately, I felt indifference toward him.

One aspect of the novel that I did enjoy, however, was the marine setting. I liked the descriptions of Harry’s boat and the protective feelings that he felt for her. However, if you want good writing by Hemingway about the nautical life, read The Old Man and the Sea. In fact, skip this book and read Old Man anyway.
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LibraryThing member sadiebooks
i hate hemingway. the only reason this book gets 3 stars from is because it was adapted into a really good movie.
LibraryThing member SaraPrindiville
Social commentary - poor and faithful spouses verses rich and cheating ones. Adventure, fishing. Interesting that I liked it so much since it deals with a topic I'm not interested in. Romantic.
LibraryThing member andyray
First of all: chapter 24 should have been COMPLETELY EXCISED by Scribner's editors. It has nothing to do with the story, which itself is mundane and, for Hemingway, borning. One of his more empty efforts.
LibraryThing member AndrewBlackman
The original New York Times review in 1937 put it this way:
"Mr. Hemingway has been for some years an outstanding figure in American literature; he has influenced greatly men a little younger than himself, and they have paid him the tribute of imitation. Whatever he does is of interest because he
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has, unquestionably, a very real talent. What has he done with it in To Have and Have Not?"

It's a good question, and one that hasn't really been answered in the 70 years since then. Some have said Hemingway hated the book himself and only wrote it to fulfil some kind of contractual obligation. But how could he be contractually obliged to write an awful book? Even if somebody did set the subject matter, surely he could have produced something better than this?

The main problem with the book is that it is schizophrenic. It's a cross between an adolescent high-seas adventure story and a social analysis of the effects of the Great Depression. Even if both could be crammed into one book, it's probably safe to say that fans of one genre are unlikely to be fans of the other.

The writing style, too, is schizophrenic, lurching from first person to third person, from one character's point of view to another's. Harry Morgan's character, too, changes. He starts out as a hard-drinking, hard-fighting Hemingway hero, but later on, as the whole idea of the book seems to change midstream, he becomes more of a Steinbeck-style poor old victim of the system. His wife and children then appear in the book, looking as if they have been grafted on to make him appear more sympathetic. Then rich people start to appear, being vile and self-obsessed but never fully drawn as characters. Their only role appears to be to act as "haves" to contrast against the "have nots".

Another major problem I had with the book was its racism. You could argue that Hemingway was showing his characters to be racist, but still the constant, overwhelming use of words like "nigger" and "chink" really shocked me and immediately put me off the book. And worse than the words themselves were the way the characters of other races were described as objects more than people, with no characters beyond crude racial stereotypes like lazy blacks and untrustworthy Chinese. They are hardly ever even given names, but just referred to by their race: "the [insert racial slur] said...."

Well, I suppose every good writer has a clunker. I still like Hemingway's writing, particularly in For Whom the Bell Tolls. So this book did teach me one thing: don't judge an author by one book alone. If this had been my first Hemingway book, I'd probably never have read another, and as a result I'd have missed out on some fantastic writing.
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LibraryThing member knightlight777
I have always found Ernest Hemingway a fascinating figure, his house in Key West equally so. His writing, not so.
LibraryThing member antiquary
For some odd reason, what stixcks in my mind from this is how the man lobves his fat wife and a visiting novelist imagines he cabn;t love the fat wife and fictionalizes a love between the man and a beautiful young union organizer.
LibraryThing member mcolv
"On the other hand, a surgeon cannot desist while operating for fear of hurting the patient. But why must all the operations in life be performed without an anaesthetic?"

-from To Have and Have Not

If you've read Hemingway you know what to expect. If you've seen the movie with Humphrey Bogart, it is
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only loosely based on the novel. The beginnings are rather similar, but the movie eliminates the grim nature of the book almost entirely.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
"To Have and Have Not" is one of the strangest works by Hemingway that I've come across, and I've even read his first work, "The Torrents of Spring;" and that was pretty strange.

It's hard to describe the book. It's rugged like its principal character, a gun runner working the route from Cuba to
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Florida. It's a book void of happiness or relief, and feels downright angry at times - making it a very powerful work.
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LibraryThing member JosephJ
Good book. If you like Hemingway, you'll like it. Not much really happens and its not a resounding novel with a deep message, well maybe other than money is the ruin of man. But it is a good, easy read that will satisfy readers looking for machismo.
LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
After seeing the movie "based" on this novella, I decided it was worth checking out the original - if in part only to see how true to it the movie was. I'd chalk this up as one of the few cases where I preferred the movie. Not one of Hemingway's best, this slim book isn't terrible but I wouldn't
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really recommend it either, especially if you'd seen the more romance- and action-packed movie first. Of course, Hemingway's unique style is here and the book is worthwhile for that, but the plot is particularly compelling.
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LibraryThing member MColv9890
I read this during the summer of 2010 amid a fascination with the detective novel. This book in particular was picked up to accompany the Humphrey Bogart film. I enjoyed the film but I enjoyed the book much, much more. The setting is changed for the film. It isn't believed to be one of Hemingway's
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best but I think that is just plain wrong. This book is fabulous. And Captain Morgan finds its name within this novel.

"there aren't any lucky rummies."
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LibraryThing member Lady_Lazarus
My first Hemingway and most probably also the last: he did not know how to write. His language is dull, his characters are vague and they talk like no one would really talk, his plot is okay, but then why are there all these side-kicks and what happens to them in the end? What purpose do they serve
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if the author merely introduces these characters, largely at the cost of the main plot and characters, and then forgets to explain the fates of the "sad little love stories"? If the purpose is to show how miserable the life is in this corner of the world - to everyone, not just to the main characters - I think it only succeeds in adding (unnecessary) violence and chauvinism to the story.
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LibraryThing member LCoale1
I must say I was biased by this book because Hemingway is my favorite author. I didn't understand everything that happened in this book, either, because of Hemingway's famous vague-ness, but that's okay. It had everything I like in a novel: crime, rich buttheads, poetically rambling sentences, and
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boats. The ending was really sad though, I must say.
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LibraryThing member BMcknight
Brutal, tragic story of Harry Morgan, who tries to provide for his family through increasingly shady means, in Depression-era Florida Keys and Cuba. His story is contrasted against the Haves, including a Hemingway stand-in, and their superficial existence. Rough stuff.
LibraryThing member fuzzi
Read this book, which is totally different from the movie. Loved the movie but disliked this book, especially the ending.
LibraryThing member mcc89
Later torn up and revamped for a movie, this lesser work of Hemingway still has it's moments. Following the characters as they collide into each other violently all around the island is what makes this novel work. The movie was good too, but only for the banter between Bogie and Bacall.
LibraryThing member Salmondaze
The greatest Hemingway failure I've read since The Old Man And The Sea, To Have And Have Not finds him failing to write convincing women AND stream-of-conscious. All of this could conceivably be forgiven if the narrative were compelling, but the virulently racist Harry Morgan experiences a death
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that elicits no sympathy from the reader whatsoever. Oh, spoiler alert! I've thrown the book a bone by giving it a full star instead of just half of a star because there are some well written passages that have been stowed few and far between. And the book is a sight better than The Old Man And The Sea, but that regrettably doesn't say much.
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LibraryThing member Garp83
If I ever read To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway before, it did not stick because I have no recollection of it. I went through a decidedly passionate Hemingway phase in my teens and again in my early twenties, but I don’t recall this work, although I remember quite vividly A Farewell to
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Arms, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, the fat one volume Collected Short Stories – if not the details of the narratives but the way they made me feel, the impact the fiction had upon my life, the essential contribution to the foundation of my own core sense of existentialism. Of course it has been a lot of years and a lot partying since those days, so it remains possible that I read To Have and Have Not and simply forgot it. Anyway, I don’t think so.
I typically read four or five books at the same time, and I quite randomly picked To Have and Have Not off the shelf as a nightstand book for the end of the day. Almost immediately, I rediscovered the electric thrill of reading Hemingway again, the way he gets inside your skin so you literally become the protagonist! Literary scholars can wax on about his brilliant technique of utilizing the objective correlative to transform the otherwise inanimate into dynamic moods and passion, but it is more challenging to qualify how the master transports you inside the story: you might be a ninety pound weakling who clerks at a drugstore, but when you read Hemingway you become - for a brief moment perhaps – Robert Jordan with a rifle facing certain death for something you believe in.
Hemingway is out of fashion these days, most prominently I believe because his larger-than-life personality became conflated with his literature, so that he became a caricature for himself the way Elvis did. But of course that the real-life Elvis became a fat, sequined, pill-popping fop in Vegas should not detract from the brilliance of Jailhouse Rock, and the loud, bullying, lion-hunting Hemingway should not overshadow the beauty of the author’s spare prose and the spell it casts on the reader in his many literary efforts. There are definitely aspects of the real Ernest Hemingway that should be out of fashion, but there are certainly critical pieces of his legacy as a great writer that should never be out of fashion. If you doubt that, read him; I encouraged my twenty-something daughter to read A Farewell to Arms and it blew her away. Genius does not go out of fashion.
To Have and Have Not (1937) is not Hemingway’s best book, in my opinion. In fact, I am not certain he ever figured out what he wanted to say in this novel, so he just said everything he could think of while he wrote it. It is actually two short stories and a novella, loosely woven together, and according to Howard Hawks (who directed the extremely loose film adaptation) Hemingway called it his worst book. It is certainly disjointed, but it is punctuated by the kind of brilliance Hemingway uniquely supplies in his fiction. This would be a good time to bring up the film, which is a memorable if sometimes trite 1944 Bogart-Bacall vehicle that leaves an indelible impression on the viewer so that it is ever after difficult to separate the Bogey version of Harry Morgan in the flick from the Harry Morgan character in the Hemingway novel. The Bogey Harry Morgan is a worldly, cynical yet larger-than-life cardboard cut-out (speaking of caricatures!) spawn of Rick in Casablanca whom you really can’t take that seriously: he is nothing like the doomed down-on-his-luck fatalistic fellow Harry Morgan in the book, who unlike the Bogey Harry Morgan (who has the hot statuesque future wife Lauren Bacall to trade clever jibes with) has a middle-aged overweight wife, mother to three girls, who is past-her-prime but pathetically hangs on to what they had together when he was the younger and more successful alpha-male. But reading the book, I think Hawks magnificently succeeded by casting Walter Brennan as the alcoholic shipmate Eddie; this is the only film character who even remotely resembles his fictional counterpart. Eddie is one of the best side-kicks Hemingway ever devised, but no matter how hard I shook my head I couldn’t help hearing Brennan’s screechy voice when Eddie spoke in the pages of the book.
Much of To Have and Have Not is about Harry Morgan and his struggle to tragically and hopelessly hold on against a world that is crushing him, but there are other incongruous characters introduced late in the book who assume control of the narrative for some time, men and women who are rich and flawed and troubled: superficial, supercilious beings with the world at their fingertips who squander it all for the frivolous or for the pure pleasure of rising roughshod over the pack. They are the “haves,” I suppose, largely miserable creatures, while Harry is one of the “have-nots,” by implication a better human being who nevertheless is broken against the rocks of life in a cruel, uncaring, amoral world. For me, these other characters are not nearly as well-drawn as the typical personalities Hemingway etches into his narratives, and I can see why the author would have been disappointed with the end product. Still, it was wonderful to read “Papa” Hemingway again. If flawed, this book is still far better than a couple of dozen other works of critically acclaimed works of fiction by “noted authors” that I have read of late. That in itself says everything that needs to be said about the master of twentieth century American fiction, although I might add that I have felt like Harry Morgan more than once in my life, which is testament to the genuine veracity that inhabit all of the central characters in a Hemingway book, even a book not quite as grand as some of the others.
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LibraryThing member viking2917
Crisp, effortless prose. Oddly erratic plot, the Harry Morgan thread and the Richard Gordon thread really don't have anything to do with each other. The Richard Gordon part feels strongly autobiographical. Apparently the book was written quickly and it shows. I read it while I was in Key West,
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where the book was set, so it resonated for me in spite of all the flaws.
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LibraryThing member JBreedlove
My favorite Hemingway book. Harry Morgan's uses any method tos sustain his family in Key West. It is harsh book and his character reminds me of JD MacDonald's Travis McGee.
LibraryThing member JaredOrlando
Hemingway is the ultimate manipulator. He gets a lot of flack for his straightforward writing but I have found myself enjoying it. It doesn't always take flowery language to make a scene or a character. To Have and Have Not is up there with Farewell to Arms in the Hemingway upper echelon.



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