The Essential Hemingway
Vintage Books, London (2004)
This collection of novellas and short stories gave me an entirely new appreciation of Hemingway. Reading a couple of his novels set in Spain did not cause me much excitement so I thought I would be faced with something similar throughout his short stories.
The reality was very different. Hemingway is certainly a master of the story. I got this feeling more from the last set of stories in the collection such as; The Light of the World, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Death in the Afternoon. Each of these deals, as does the whole collection in some sense, with the ever approaching spectre of death. In the last stories I saw the culmination of a life’s work, one which was unceasingly ebbing closer to the abyss and silence. Silence as an author’s worst enemy is approached in these stories with a defiant din. An echo back to the void.
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place resonated especially with myself, as someone always searching for that last call, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this image of a small bar, in a small village on the edge of a small night and in the depth of sentiment toward a patron trying to ride through the solitude of night. This story is especially pertinent to life in Sydney were all of the bars are closing and all of the lights are being turned out in favour of the ding of the casino bell or of the soft quilted bed cover. Ever less room is being left for those of us who love the night and the rhythm of a bar just before closing hour. The later that hour the better. It not a matter of a party or even of socialising, it is the possibility of disappearing into the night and into its anonymity. It doesn’t matter so much that you can’t sleep when so many others are not sleeping either.