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Sunday, 22 March 2015

Retro Review: "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Ernest Hemingway

Let me preface this review by saying that I wasn't even sure I liked Hemingway's writing before reading this short story collection. I had fought my way through as much as For Whom the Bell Tolls as I possibly could, but couldn't fathom what others found so compelling about this author.

This collection has seen me do a u-turn on this opinion. The title story is perhaps the most powerful and profound and it sees an American reflecting on his life and failures as he lies on his deathbed. He laments his complacency, and the way his comfortable existence has prevented him from striving for greatness. Undoubtedly, this is a manifestation of Hemingway's own fears.

In many of the other stories Hemingway lives up to his reputation as a man's man and often they centre on outdoor activities such a fishing, skiing, and hiking. I can forgive this view however, because the writing is so beautiful. He evokes these wild settings so powerfully that it's impossible not to be transported to them.

"Nick slipped off his pack and lay down in the shade. He lay on his back and looked up into the pine trees. His neck and back and the small of his back rested as he stretched. The earth felt good against his back. He looked up at the sky, through the branches, and then shut his eyes. He opened them and looked up again. There was a wind high up in the branches. He shut his eyes again and went to sleep." - "Big Two-Hearted River: Part I"

The stories lack strong plots, but there is a feeling that the author is doing something more with this collection, where innocence is marred and the intrusion of the mundane so often destroys the paradise of physical activity with friends. If I took away an overriding message from this book, it's that these moments of purest joy cannot possibly last but that one should embrace them all the same. 

Buy the book: The Snows Of Kilimanjaro And Other Stories

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