While taking train rides between the northeast section of Spain en route to meeting up with old friends at the San Fermin Festival, there is nothing else to be read other than the 1926 classic novel ‘The Sun Also Rises‘ from Ernest Hemingway, which follows a similar route.
Though some of Hemingway’s other works are seen as challenging, this is more approachable — if a major story line can easily be lost in the first reading, at least for me. Still, the theme of the savagery of love, life and bullfighting seemed to easily hit home. Though bullfighting and the running of the bulls have gone on for centuries, it was Hemingway who helped inspire the romanticism of the sport and festival that attracts people like myself, so it felt right to read it while traveling.
The first third of the book seemed like a period piece. The second third set up the real story for me, and the last third was really the beautiful novel I came to expect.
Below, some of my favorite passages from the tight 300-page novel.
- “It is very important to discover graceful exits in the newspaper business, where it is such an important part of the ethics that you should never seem to be working.” [p. 11, soft cover]
- “You, a foreigner, an Englishman (every foreigner was an Englishman [in the eyes of the French], something that now is probably more likely seen as an American [p. 31]
- On HL Mencken: “He’s through now. He’s written about all the things he knows, and now he’s on all the things he doesn’t know. ” [p. 43] (also mentioned on p. 122)
- The ‘n-word’ makes an appearance on pages 62 and 71, among others
- Around page 83, it was particularly noticeable about how much Hemingway moves the story with dialogue and broad declarations.
- On page 85, a conversation on the train notes how many Americans are on board. U.S. citizens en masse aren’t new today.
- Page 91 threw me into reading more about the ethnic communities of Catalonia and Basque, their similarities and, yes, pelota court games.
- Satirical chatter about the Great Commoner, as Jake and Bill talk about the passing of William Jennings Bryan, joking about the order of the chicken and the egg, following the famed Scopes Trial. [p. 121]
- I didn’t know that a series of arches is an architectural term called arcades [p. 144]
- “One man fell, rolled to the gutter and lay quiet. But the bulls went right on and did not notice him. They were all running together.” [p. 160] Mentioned earlier in the novel and something I experienced, it’s an interesting reality that aside from mistakenly running forward, bulls are far less aggressively dangerous when running in a pack.
- The use of ‘kike’ is the heightened beginning of the anti-Semitism shot from some characters to David Cohn [p. 164]
- “The bull who killed Vincente Girones…” a beautiful passage [p. 199]
- “Because the public were against Belmonte, the public were for Romero,” a beautiful description of bullfighting fandom [p. 215]
“They preferred Belmonte’s impersonation of himself,” the start of a wonderful description of an aging star that could fit for athletes and artists throughout time [p.218]
- “You could never tell when a Spanish waiter will thank you,” Hemingway writes of tipping culture and comparing with a Frenchman. [p. 233]