I continued on my Hemingway kick by reading a full length novel rather than short stories: Hemingway’s first novel Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises. The book follows a group of friends as they travel from Paris to Pamplona in Spain to watch the running of the bulls. Jake, the narrator, is in love with Brett. Brett is engaged to Mike. Brett is having an affair with Robert. Robert is in love with Brett… and so on. The relationships in the novel are quite modern, all the characters seem free to chase after whoever they like. Whilst this is a liberated portrayal, it doesn’t seem to make people happy. The opposite, in fact! The jealousy and sadness from these relationships is really touching.
Without ever mentioning the war, other than to hint about Jake’s injuries, the whole book smacks with the aimlessness of a lost generation. Hemingway isn’t judgmental about the way his characters behave, but maybe the whole book is a comment about whether the world provided for young men after the war. I’m sure there must be something to the writer of the novel being the most tragic character… There was understandably a lot of male insecurity after the war, as people tried to come to terms with what being a man meant. I think the characters in this book are struggling with this.
All these ideas are tied together with the bullfights; passion, violence, heart and soul, work, achievement, recognition, tradition, masculinity, bravery. Bullfighting represents everything the novel talks about. I really enjoyed this novel but I think it requires a lot of thought. On the surface the story is quite simple, but the more I think about it the greater its depths. I don’t think it is a book I could confidently say I understand after just one reading.