Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. HTML: Written when Ernest Hemingway was thirty years old and lauded as the best American novel to emerge from World War I, A Farewell to Arms is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Set against the looming horrors of the battlefield--weary, demoralized men marching in the rain during the German attack on Caporetto; the profound struggle between loyalty and desertion--this gripping, semiautobiographical work captures the harsh realities of war and the pain of lovers caught in its inexorable sweep. Ernest Hemingway famously said that he rewrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times to get the words right. This edition collects all of the alternative endings together for the first time, along with early drafts of other essential passages, offering new insight into Hemingway's craft and creative process and the evolution of one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. Featuring Hemingway's own 1948 introduction to an illustrated reissue of the novel, a personal foreword by the author's son Patrick Hemingway, and a new introduction by the author's grandson Seán Hemingway, this edition of A Farewell to Arms is truly a celebration.
Original publication date
As for the war aspects of the novel, I enjoyed learning about the "battalion police." Other than that, the writing was so choppy it was hard to follow the action (where it existed).
I cannot classify this as a romance novel due to the fact that the featured romance was an unhealthy one.
Nor can I classify it as a war novel because most of Henry's time "at the front" consisted of him drinking and chatting at the mess about nothing worth mentioning.
The only subject category I can think of that this might fall into is an alcoholism novel. Henry drinks enough to satisfy half a fraternity. I now know the names of more than enough wines and brandy to last me the rest of my life.
Surprisingly, there was a lot of humor in the book although some of it may have been unintentional. My general impression is that this book centers suffering as the normal state of life. Love, drink, food, games, are distractions but one will always go back to suffering.
As far as gender roles, I know Hemingway catches a lot of flack for being a dirty sexist, but I didn't see anything extremely offensive in this book. The main male character seemed like an exaggeration of 'maleness', that is, stereotypically male.( I feel like Hemingway writes male characters this way, his so-called 'Code Hero', because he himself is not stereotypically manly. This may be a baseless assumption but perhaps his characters were a type of wish fulfillment rather than an expression of himself.) The main female character didn't strike me as stereotypically female. The only feminist criticism that occurs to me is that the main female character seemed very concerned with pleasing the main male character even to her own detriment. But at the same time she seemed aware, more so than the male character, that their love was a fleeting game. She was happy to play house as a distraction (maybe that's the reason that she always put off getting married even though he suggested it early and often?) She did seem really two dimensional, but so did most of the characters, even the main male character.
Hemingway is famed for his short, terse prose that somehow evokes emotions through declarative sentence after declarative sentence and "Farewell" is one of the most shining examples of his style. Initially the dialogue may leave some readers wanting, as each line of dialogue is only a sentence or two at the most. The character of Catherine Barkley is interesting in that she seems to have no feelings or goal in life other than to make Frederic Henry happy - and she will do anything to make him happy.
Those are really the only qualms against the story, as it is an excellent, emotional story of love and war that will captivate and grip most readers and leave them breathless at the end.
That said, I enjoyed the book much more than I thought I would. I've not read a huge amount of Hemingway, although I've read enough to know that he's not my favourite writer. However, I like the deceptive simplicity of Hemingway's prose - a simplicity extraordinarily difficult to achieve. I also like the way in which Hemingway used his personal experience of being a volunteer ambulance driver at the Italian front during World War I to ground the plot. And I appreciate the complete absence bull fighting in this novel, a passion of Hemingway's to which I cannot relate.
Slattery’s narration is excellent. Thankfully, he’s not one of those male narrators who heads into the falsetto range when voicing a female character. Overall, this has been an unusual audiobook experience for me, but a worthwhile one nevertheless.
Hemingway certainly has his own signature style. Clipped, terse, single sentence dialogue that at times borders on the absurd. Perhaps it is the act of becoming comfortable and familiar with the style that results in his works starting slow and building to a strong finish, because at its root, this is simply a magnificent story, built upon a singular historical event. It was Hemingway's own experience as a stretcher bearer on the Austro-Italian front that provided the motivation and basis for the story.
I've seen some label this an anti-war novel, but I simply don't see it. It is anti-war to the extent that it doesn't glorify the act of war, but it is not political. The front line soldiers certainly are not pro-war, but honestly, except in the case of the odd megalomaniacs and psychopaths, given the choice most would opt for peace. At its root, this is a love story set amid extremely difficult and trying circumstances. Finally, as with much of Hemingway, don't expect a happy ending.
I'm aware, though, that I'm in a minority and many people love the very things that made me dislike the book. If you like terse prose and depressing war stories, you'll love this book.
The novel captures the endless pressure and anxiety that come in a war, when you are not actually in battle. The constant wondering of when the war will end, which side will prevail, what strategies are being planned ring true. The gossiping amongst friends and constant drinking of the characters is also believable. Life takes on urgency in such situations and it is easy to believe that people would behave in ways they ordinarily would not. Such as Catherine, beginning a love affair with a soldier whom she must know will be passing out of her life.
Ernest Hemingway's answer to "why did
-to die alone in the rain
The mountain that was beyond the valley and the hillside where the chestnut forest grew was captured and there were victories beyond the plain on the plateau to the south and we crossed the river in August and lived in a house in Gorizia that had a fountain and many thick shady trees in a walled garden and a wisteria vine purple on the side of the house.
Try saying that three times quickly without pause!
I found this one of the most tedious classic novels I have ever forced myself through. I've also heard that this is an amazing love story. Well, I have to tell you, I've read a lot of literary heart throbs, even flawed anti-heroes, who if they walked off the page, reader, I'd marry him! In the case of Lieutenant Frederick Henry, goodness, all I could think is what does Catherine see in him, and boy he sure drinks like a fish. He's supposedly a "man's man" sort of guy and he left me absolutely cold, and he's strangely opaque for a protagonist that also carries the first person narration. The novel almost feels third person, I get so little sense of a voice or personality. Nor does his love, Nurse Catherine Barkley, ever come across as a real person to me. Even Bella of Twilight fame came across to me as less self-effacing. ("There isn’t any me. I’m you. Don’t make up a separate me.") The dialogue between the two lovers was actually painful to read.
So, unbearable prose style, often cheesy or wooden dialogue, flat characters? Was there anything about this novel I liked? Well, like Henry, Hemingway himself served in World War I in Italy as a ambulance driver. Every once in a while, I'd catch him writing something horrifying and real. Whether it's his casual mention of thousands dying of cholera, or passages like this one:
If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
I wish there was more of that. But lines like those were buried in such tedium it was hard to enjoy them when they came by.
This time round I expected to love this: a Classic, a love story, taking place in WW1, written by a participant.
I actually found it dire. I presume the 'classic'
At first when a character repeated himself I thought it showed realism and a personality trait. But every character did it, every time they spoke. Crumps Hemingway's got me doing it now.
In other writers, describing events reveals character and emotions, but I simply felt here that description was all because there was no inner thought or feeling.
Won't be picking up another Hemingway anytime soon.
This wonderful story, with much of the material loosely based on his own personal experiences as an ambulance driver during World War I, by a young early Hemingway, is perhaps, one of the finest anti-war novels ever written. The story captures, in great detail, the conflict in all of its horror and barbarism.
In it we are introduced to a young and idealistic man, Frederick Henry, who, through love, experience and existential circumstance, comes to see the folly, waste, and irony of war, and attempts to make his own peace outside the confines of traditional conformity. For all of his obvious excesses, Hemingway was an artist compelled to delve deliberately into painful truths, and he attempted to do so with a style of writing that cut away all of the frills and artifice, so that at its heart this novel is meant as a exploration into what it means to confront the world of convention and deliberately decide to choose for what one feels in his heart as opposed to what one is expected to do. Of course, in so doing, the young ambulance driver becomes a full-grown adult, facing his trials with grace and courage. Still, what we are left with is a modern tragedy, one in which the characters must somehow attempt to resolve the irresolvable.
The tragic irony of this novel is what makes it so memorable. Henry, as a wounded man who withdraws from the battle, as well as the whims of the Italian Army. However, he does so only to find that life is full of tragedy whether you're in a war or not.
This story went as such: "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn."
For those of you familiar with Hemingway's life, you may see this as being quite autobiographical. Likewise, you may also find A Farewell to Arms to be equally autobiographical.
Set during World War I (called The Great War), American Frederic Henry is caught up in the war on the Italian Front. He drives an ambulance, delivering wounded solders to the proper medical facilities. In his duty, he meets an English nurse named Catherine Barkley. The two fall in love.
The story chronicles their relationship, and how the raging war outside tries to tear them apart (though without the war, they would have never met). As things start to fall apart, the lovers in the war-torn world try to find a safe place. A neutral place.
Not all is happy, but at the same time, not all is sad. The novel, leaving a bittersweet taste in the mouth of the reader, is well worth the time and devotion spend traveling through its passages alongside Frederic and Catherine.
Recommended for any fan of Hemingway, but too for readers interested in fiction focusing on World War I.
The story follows Federic Henry, an American in the Italian army during World War I, and his "love" affair with nurse, Catherine Barkley.
It starts off very slow, but suddenly turns quite gory when Henry arrives at the front. It was
I feel absolutely nothing for our main character. In the beginning of his relationship with Barkley, he straight up lies about loving her, and gets called out by her. For that reason, I always had a hint of disdain for Henry. Let's call it man's intuition in recognizing a foul character behind the veil that you wouldn't want near any female in your life, whether it's your sister, daughter or simply a friend. But along the way both of them declare their unyielding love to each other for some reason as no event really brings it forth. It sort of feel like those old 1930s flicks where all of a sudden, for no real reason at all, the two main characters can't help love each other. It feels forced and contrived. No matter how hard the book tried to put over this romance, I always sat back with a raised eyebrow.
About 98% of the dialogue in this book is so atrociously stale, and it rarely comes across as vaguely believable conversations between actual people. And that certainly goes for the so-called romance...
"Oh, I love you! Do you love me? Say you love me."
"Yes I love you."
"Oh, you're just saying that! It's the war. You don't mean it."
"Yes, I do."
"No, you don't"
"Ok, sure. Because I love you, but you don't have to lie to me."
Oh, my heartstrings can't take it any more. You'll be subjected to tedious dialogue like that multiple times throughout this book, and sometimes outright contradictions on the very same page. The way Henry and Barkley very often refer to each other as "my friend" is also very off-putting and does nothing but hinder its attempt to solidify the romance between the characters.
I probably feel the most for Catherine Barkley, even though a lot of her dialogue is unbearable. She's most likely still broken by the loss of her fiancée prior to this story and just want to be loved, but she then ends up with a schmuck - our main character. She tries to make the best of a bad situation, and want constant reassurance that everything is okay, although that is one thing that leads to a lot of a terrible dialogue because it's rarely varied and presented interestingly with some progress. It ends up like a broken record, and it gets old quickly. Barkley claims early on that she never drinks because she is an old-fashioned girl, but that certainly goes out later in the book, especially when she's pregnant, on doctor's orders. Quite poignant since all Henry does is drink, and drink, and drink. Whilst in a hospital, a nurse even says he should strop drinking to get jaundice just to get out of the war. He doesn't stop, though.
At certain points it also moves the plot forward just for the sake of it without explaining why and how, such as during the retreat where the army starts executing lieutenants and Henry deserts the army to avoid such a fate. Or when Henry and Barkley are reunited in a hotel and the bartender suddenly obtains the information that Henry will be arrested in the morning. How did the army know where to find them? Why do they let the word slip out instead of just arresting him in the middle of the night when he won't see it coming? Who gave up Henry? Why is he so important to round up? Why are they executing people to begin with? Don't know. Don't think about it.
There are bright spots in the book, however, but they tend to be confined to smaller characters, where my favourites were Rinaldi and the Priest. Rinaldi is a cheeky Italian who feels a brotherly connection to Henry. Some of their back and forth banter is genuinely funny. The priest sprinkles a few words of wisdom here and there, which certainly was a positive inclusion. A smaller character, Aymo, was also a fun little addition, and I did feel a bit sad when he did not make it during the retreat.
I am not well-versed in WWI literature, and it serves only as a light backdrop in this book, so if you're after books on that subject, just stroll right along. As for love stories, do the same - stroll right along.
It's just such a shame, as I was really looking forward to reading this book, and desperately wanted to like it, as the name Hemingway radiates a kind of reverence in spite of whatever criticism has been laid upon him. Apparently, Hemingway wrote more than 30 different endings for this book, which is quite something since the one he decided to run with is so freaking terrible and has no payoff as it relies on you to buy into the contrived romance of the two main characters, and that you have a shroud of empathy for Henry. I didn't, and therefore the ending fell absolutely flat on its face, even though it obviously tries to touch the reader's feeling. My reaction was just, "REALLY? THAT is how it ends? What a waste of time..."
One of the few reasons I have for going forward with Hemingway is because one of his books inspired a great Metallica song - "For Whom the Bell Tolls". "A Farewell to Arms" certainly didn't give me any. Quite the opposite.
In any event I love this novel. I admire Hemingway's skill at sliding things into sentences, where he talks about one thing but lets you see another or get a glimpse of things to come. It is love in the time of war. It is a heartbreaker for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the end. There are a ridiculous number of passages in this book that I love to read and re-read. One can immerse oneself into this story. It is a memoir, a fictionalized journalistic type of account of Hemingway in Italy in WWI. I don't think it can be viewed any other way. The Italian war was not the same trench warfare of Belgium and France that comes to mind when one thinks of the Great War. The shelling was very destructive and deadly in the mountains. The story begins early during the war and is set in the mountains where the Italian army fought the Austrians. Our narrator, Mr Henry is an American, an ambulance worker. He meets a Scottish woman, Catherine Barkley. Catherine is a little crazy, but she loves Frederic Henry and he loves her even more. You can cry if you want to. I can see how some readers may not like reading this. I am not one of them. I think Hemingway is my Faulkner - he's not for everyone but for me he works.
There is an odd use of language as well. At times it feels a bit stilted, at others the word choice is strange. Describing something 3 times in the same sentence as "nice" isn't what I expected. At times the choice of language was simple, at others repetitive, it didn't seem to be elegant or well considered.
The tale told is both simple and complicated. The central character is an American of (I think) Italian extraction who is serving in the Italian ambulance service on the Italian front. He's there because he's volunteered, not because he's been conscripted. He gets injured, treated and returned to the front shortly before the big breakthrough and collapse of the Italians at Carporetto. He gets swept up in the retreat and the way that the army degenerates is vividly told. However, it also sees the end of his involvement with the war.
However this does not end neatly, his own life disintegrates, with the nurse he had met and fallen in love with escaping over the Swiss boarder with him, before failing to survive childbirth.
At times I quite enjoyed this, but I failed to warm to Catherine, she was just so insipid as to be nothing that the narrator did not want her to be. She kept going on about being a good wife to him, if she wanted to do something he didn't she immediately changed her mind. I found her impossible to feel for or warm to.
There's much that could have been good in here, but it didn't hang together and I found too much to not enjoy.
The story is terrific - exiting and moving and terrifying when it needs
Told through Henry's point of view, one gets to experience the tension at the front, the adrenaline rush that comes with running from the enemy, and the camaraderie of the men who are fighting for something they do not understand. All they know is that they would like for the war to be over so they can go home; a common refrain in war. Romance, while it may seem like an odd word to use when speaking of war, is pervasive throughout the story; in the descriptions of the men, the sadness and loneliness that pervade the lives of the individuals at the front, and people waiting at home for them to return.
While I have not read a great deal of Hemingway, there is something very different about this book that makes it stand out from the rest and that is the romantic nature of the piece. He shows in great detail the love between these two, constrained and confusing as it is for everyone. It is very natural and drawn in its most elemental state, almost raw. He seems to want to readers to be involved with these two characters on a very intimate level and he accomplishes that goal.
I picked up A Farewell to Arms at
The one thing that I love about him is that his writing isn't about what is written, but what isn't. It's the spaces that hold the meanings. The white space is where the action is.
What I didn't get, was the love between the characters. At times it seemed flippant and at others it was endearing. I wasn't holding out for a happy ending though. It's like that joke: Why did Hemingway cross the road? To die. Alone. In the rain. I wasn't disappointed in that respect, but I was surprised that I cried as much as I did. I found myself caring for the characters and wondering what happen to the other soldiers.
I don't think I would recommend it though. I liked The Sun also Rises better. It's good to read if you are a Hemingway fan, and there were some keep moments that I loved (if you search my lj for the Hemingway tags, you'll see them), but this doesn't strike me as the "everyone should read this book of insert author here" book. I haven't seen the movie, from what I hear it's not anywhere near as good as the book. Personally, I think I would rather see a screen adaptation of Nick Adams.