05 October 2017

Suffered plenty

Ernest Hemingway. The old man and the sea. New York: Scribner, 2003.

This slim book is a huge test of endurance for me. At a hundred and twenty seven pages, and what seems to be font size 13, double space, Ernest Hemingway's The old man and the sea has the promise of a breezy, melancholy Sunday afternoon read.

It's so boring. If anything I can relate to the old man in the middle of an endless sea, waiting and fighting for his life and pride. I'm the type who'd deliberately abandon a novel if it doesn't excite. But I choose to stick it out with Hem, thinking I can't be beaten by a novella, and at least I'd know for sure if I hated it or not.

At that point when I feel like completely giving up — page 80 or so — it picks up. I want to know, Okay, will old man Santiago catch his fish or will he die? What will he learn about life? What will I realize for myself? Because it's that kind of book that screams, There's a moral in here somewhere, find it. (Would love to hear the vegans' opinion on the story.)

What I like about it are the glimpses inside a mind going through a tedious task — the different voices in your head that argue when faced with the smallest decision; how we frame situations to ease our heart or uplift our spirit. What I don't like about it is the tedious writing.

Let's end with some nice bits:
Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his detemination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. How many people will he feed, he thought. But are they worthy to eat him? No, of course not. There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behaviour and his great dignity. (p 75)

A man can be destroyed but not defeated. (p 103)

It is easy when you are beaten, he thought. I never knew how easy it was. And what beat you, he thought.

"Nothing," he said aloud. "I went out too far." (p 120)

How much did you suffer?

"Plenty," the old man said. (p 166)

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