I’ve just read the collection of short stories Men Without Women. I’m not often drawn to short stories but they suit Hemingway’s style – he says so much with so few words. I have to admit sometimes the stories were so subtle I had to re-read them a couple of times, but it was certainly worth it.
My favourite stories in the collection were two of his more famous works: Hills Like White Elephants and In Another Country. Both have a sadness to the relationships between men and women that seem incredibly poignant. In Hills Like White Elephants the story is entirely based around what isn’t said. The couple sitting having a beer before catching a train have an involved history and are struggling with how to move their relationship forward. There is truth and love, jealousy and emptiness; it is like a battle between them to see who can care the most whilst making the other as unhappy as possible.
In Another Country is a touching story dealing with war heroes, cowardice, guilt and grief. Big themes for a seven page story! The feeling I have when reading Hemingway’s writing is that he fully knows his subject. It was something I thought when I read The Old Man and the Sea too. Unlike other writers, he doesn’t smack you in the face with how much he knows, or how much research he has done. Instead there is just an underlying authoritative tone, where I was quite willing to accept anything he said as truth.
Brilliant, but not quite as epic as The Old Man and the Sea.