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Book Name: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Author: Ernest Hemingway

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Overall Rating: (4.41/5) View all reviews (total 101 reviews)
Description

The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of Jordan's love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo's last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway surpasses his achievement in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to create a work at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving, and wise. "If the function of a writer is to reveal reality," Maxwell Perkins wrote Hemingway after reading the manuscript, "no one ever so completely performed it." Greater in power, broader in scope, and more intensely emotional than any of the author's previous works, it stands as one of the best war novels of all time.

Reviews

The Writing Rings True For Everyone

by 2nd sunshine
(5/5)

To me Hemingway epitomizes the hard drinking, hard living, hard loving, worldy writer. In this book, the main character Robert Jordan is a soldier send on a mission to the hills of Spain to blow up a bridge. There, Jordan meets up with a rogue band of warriors who believe in war but not in military. Once united with the militia, Jordan becomes involved with a woman named Maria. The fight scenes are incredible. The ending is even more incredible. I'm not going give away the book, but the ending brought tears to my eyes- I guess it's true, underneath every man of steel is a heart of gold.


A SMALL SLICE OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

by Alfred Johnson
(4/5)

I have been interested, as a pro-Republican partisan, in the Spanish Civil War since I was a teenager. What initially perked my interest, and remains of interest, is the passionate struggle of the Spanish working class to create its own political organization of society, its leadership of the struggle against Spanish Fascism and the romance surrounding the entry of the International Brigades, particularly the American Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the 15th Brigade, into the struggle.Underlying my interests has always been a nagging question of how that struggle could have been won by the working class. The Spanish proletariat certainly was capable of both heroic action and the ability to create organizations that reflected its own class interests i.e. the worker militias and factory committees. Of all modern working class uprisings after the Russian revolution Spain showed the most promise of success. Russian Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky noted in one of his writings on Spain that the Spanish proletariat at the start of its revolutionary period had a higher political consciousness than the Russian proletariat in 1917.That analysis calls into question the strategies put forth by the parties of the Popular Front, including the Spanish Communist Party- defeat Franco first, and then make the social transformation of society. Ernest Hemingway in his novel For Whom the Bells Toll weighs in on that question here. Whatever value the novel had or has as a narrative of a small slice of the Spanish events one must look elsewhere to discovery the causes of the Republican defeat.Ernest Hemingway most definitively was in love with Spain and always lurking just below the surface was his love affair with death. That combination placed in the context of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 makes for an explosive, dramatic tale. The hero is an American, Robert Jordan, aka Ernest Hemingway, of fizzy politics but a desire to help the Spanish people. Additionally Jordan, if expediency demands it, is willing to face danger and death at the command of the Communist-dominated International Brigades (although it is not always clear whether he is a Lincoln Brigade volunteer or a freelancer). Hemingway's critique of the Stalinist domination of the military command and therefore authors of the military strategy that led to defeat at times overwhelms the story. His skewering of Andre Marty, leader of the International Brigades, also has that same effect. In short, Hemingway believed that 'outside forces' meddling in Spanish affairs led to death for Jordan and disaster for the Spanish people. Well, nobody expects nor is it mandatory for a novelist to be politically astute or correct. Here Hemingway joins the crowdThe one subject that Ernest Hemingway seemed consistently to excel at was the telling of war stories. And whatever else might be true of For Whom the Bell Tolls it is preeminently a war story. A classic war romance if you have also seen the movie treatment of the book starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. It might be a male thing, it might be a Hemingway thing, or it might be that the nature of war lends itself to dramatic tension that holds a story together. Today, in some literary circles, it is not considered politically correct to laud works by such dead, white males as Hemingway but the flat out truth is that the man could write. If his work stands outside the current canon of American literary efforts then something is wrong with the new canon.To make matters worst the current leftist-oriented literary establishment, grizzled, hard-bitten warriors that they are, has not been the only force that has taken aim at Hemingway's head. At the time of publication in 1940 the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, those who actually fought in Spain and the various Communist Parties throughout the world were unhappy with the novel. Why? Hemingway was too harsh on the deficiencies of the Communists, the International Brigades and the Republican forces in general. Above I mentioned that writers were not expected to be politically astute. That is one thing. But to say that Hemingway was essentially sabotaging the exiled Republican efforts to aid the refugees by the thrust of his novel is also politically wrong. The man did materially and militarily aid the Republican side (sponsoring volunteers and ambulances). That accrues to his honor. In short, Hemingway's writings- yes. Hemingway's politics no


Classic for Good Reason

by Amazon Customer "Jonathan Stephens"
(5/5)

Hemingway deftly walks us into the heart of war and a man caught between his loyalty to his position in the military and his love for Pilar, a woman like no other. Some highly memorable scenes and conflicts prove this novel's place as a classic.-- Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens


So. Amazon asked me how many stars I'd rate this...

by Amazon Customer "RB"
(5/5)

10 stars? 20 stars? For Whom the Bell Tolls is one of the great works of literature.REALLY, Amazon. There are certain books for which your asking for a review exposes the need for your system to have better information and more specific query criteria before requesting a review.


Tuning in to Hemingway

by An admirer of Saul "Mr Wobble"
(5/5)

Covering a period of just under four days,this riveting story tells of a doomed offensive against the facists in the Spanish civil war. Robert Jordan seeks the help of partizans in the mountains to blow a bridge. Amongst them is Maria...What can be said of this great work that hasn't been said a million times? It is a fantastic thriller,a close account of the Spanish war and culture,of love, of death,of political stupidities....But for me,this is the book that finally tuned me into Hemingways style and power-his laconic but highly descriptive prose that press all the right buttons in the imagination;the use of 'Thee' and 'Thou' to properly give the feel of the peasants dialect;the way he builds up complex characters with just the briefest of story lines,even the way Robert Jordan is always refered to as Robert Jordan seems to add to his character.Its wonderful and each chapter excites and adds.When I was about 11 or 12 I foolishly tried to take on 'Farewell to Arms' and simply didn't have the reading ability then to take aboard Hemingways style (although I see now how many imitators it has) This prejudiced me against him. I didn't go overboard with the 'easier' 'Old Man and the Sea' but warmed a bit after reading 'Men Without Women' and thought I'd give Hemingway another go some time and am so glad I did with this one.The complexities of this book are reflected in Hemingways own life;the preoccupation with death and suicide,of beauty and brutality.A great book; a book in the true sense of the word.Persist with Hemingway as when you 'get' him the experience is truly wonderful.


An Engaging War Novel

by Anthony
(5/5)

I had only read The Old Man and The Sea before this novel. This book just grabbed me and I had to read it until I finished it. The trademark Hemingway style of silence is present here. The landscape and environment are as much a part of the story as the characters. It took getting used to pages of describing the landscape so deeply, but once I went along for the ride I enjoyed the novel immensely. The plot seems conventional, that's fine for me.


If you're bored, you're boring.

by arbadigsjazz@yahoo.com
(5/5)

As I look over the reviews of the classic works of literature, I am appalled by how often I see the word boring being used. I guess it's because great books don't come with big screens, speakers and a joy stick. Welcome to the Millenium.


Descriptive but depressing

by A reader
(2/5)

I found this book, which takes place during the Spanish Civil War, interesting in its descriptions and although it is excruciatingly slow in its development (five hundred pages detailing three days worth of events), somewhat compelling in its own way.And yet in the end, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is ultimately a novel with a fatalistic outlook and few, if any, redeeming messages for humanity, in spite of all the commentaries it makes about human nature. To me, the story was the most interesting as a reflection of Hemingway's own experiences and strange outlooks on life.For example, one would assume that Robert Jordan, the main character, is a reflection of what Hemingway deems heroic. Like Hemingway, Jordan is a rugged, somewhat independent sort. Jordan characterizes the literary period's allure for the expatriate life and Hemingway's fascination with Spain and dislike for the Spanish Fascist. But yet, one has to wonder what compels Jordan, an American college professor from Montana, to be involved in this Spanish Civil War to the extent that he has become a demolitions expert and is ready to kill Spaniards (regardless of what side they happen to have fallen upon) without any conscience. What busness, really and truly, is this war of his?Further, how do you root for a hero, who is fighting for, and willing to give his life while following orders from, Communists that Hemingway makes clear are every bit as brutal as the Fascists?Notable is the fact that the Jordan character feels shame for a father who committed suicide, just as Hemingway's own father did. And for Hemingway to commit suicide 20 years after this book was written parallels the sense of inevitable doom that is a pervasive theme of this story.This book demonstrates that Hemingway had a way with descriptions and dialogue that can be at times entertaining and at other times irritating. For example, his conventions for speech that is a more literal reflection of the Spanish language is rather clever. However, as the story progresses, Hemingway's usage of the King James-style "Thee" and "Thou" to indicate that a more formal Spanish dialect is being used becomes distractingly gimmicky and wore quite thin by the end of the book. At least, it did for me.This is a story about people who are flawed to the extent that they will kill without hesitation...people who have abandoned God and Godly virtues, and look to themselves for their own salvation. What little is left is a cause whose means and ends don't seem to differ from the alternative, and an appeal to virtues of loyalty to the band, or one's responsibility to follow his duty. The trouble is, these appeals are made among characters who Jordan - as Hemingway's voice - often considers untrustworthy, repugnant and treacherous. Rather contradictory, I would say. And Jordan's fatalistic sense of duty to a cause of questionable politics and in a country that isn't even his own is just plain strange to say the least.Interesting as character study, and a microcosm of the Spanish Civil War, but very depressing.


War and self-sacrifice

by Ash Ryan
(4/5)

"Are there no pleasant things to speak of?...Do we have to talk always of horrors?" asks Maria at one point in For Whom the Bell Tolls.Good question.To be fair, For Whom the Bell Tolls isn't ALL about horrors. It even has some pleasant moments. But ultimately, it's about the selfless nature of war---which, though Hemingway clearly intends us to admire the acts of sacrifice to which the war incites his characters, I think is the greatest condemnation of war.But Hemingway's portrayal of this theme is quite powerful. He isn't always consistent, but he is about as consistent as it is possible to be about such a theme and much more so than most, which is of great artistic value.It's also generally very well written, much more so than (and something of a relief after reading) a lot of faux-Hemingway like John Steinbeck or Cormac McCarthy. And I thought this was much better than the only other Hemingway I've read, A Farewell to Arms. But there are a few passages that miss the mark, such as this almost comically bad sex scene: "...They were having now and before and always and now and now and now. Oh, now, now, now, the only now, and above all now, and there is no other now but thou now and now is thy prophet. Now and forever now. Come now, now, for there is no now but now. Yes, now. Now, please now, only now, not anything else only this now, and where are you and where am I and where is the other one, and not why, not ever why, only this now; and on and always please then always now, always now, for now always one now; one only one, there is no other one but one now, one, going now, rising now, sailing now, leaving now, wheeling now, soaring now, away now, all the way now, all of all the way now; one and one is one, is one, is one, is one, is still one, is still one, is one descendingly, is one softly, is one longingly, is one kindly, is one happily, is one in goodness, is one to cherish, is one now..." blah blah blah.The mind-numbing repetitiousness of this "description" (if one can call it that) is especially unfortunate as it echoes another passage just a few pages earlier which is intended to have quite a different feel: "...muck this whole treacherous muckfaced mucking country and every mucking Spaniard in it on either side and to hell forever. Muck them to hell together, Largo, Prieto, Asensio, Miaja, Rojo, all of them. Muck every one of them to death to hell. Muck the whole treachery-ridden country. Muck their egotism and their selfishness and their selfishness and their egotism and their conceit and their treachery. Muck them to hell and always. Muck them before we die for them. Muck them after we die for them. Muck them to death and hell..." It goes on like this at some length.But in the end, Hemingway affirms that there are "pleasant things to speak of": "That is in Madrid. Just over the hills there, and down across the plain. Down out of the gray rocks and the pines, the heather and the gorse, across the yellow high plateau you see it rising white and beautiful. That part is just as true as Pilar's old women drinking the blood down at the slaughterhouse. There's no one thing that's true. It's all true. The way the planes are beautiful whether they are ours or theirs." But the horrors win out in the end: "The hell they are, he thought."Three and a half stars.


Lives Up To Its Reputation

by Bill Slocum
(5/5)

The ur-text for today's wartime adventure novel, "For Whom The Bell Tolls" remains a standard bearer for pulse-pounding action fiction, and one of the true masterpieces by the most celebrated American author of his time.Robert Jordan is a Spanish-language instructor from Montana who, now in Spain, has a job of another kind: blow up a critical bridge under enemy control before his comrades, the Republicans of the Spanish Civil War, mount a critical attack. He falls in with a band of motley guerrillas, discovering the joy and passion of life even as he must make peace with the real possibility of his death.When published in 1940, there was little need to explain the title: the bell was tolling pretty loudly for just about everyone outside of Sweden and Chile as the Axis powers led by Nazi Germany rolled up giant chunks of the globe. Germany's three-year dress rehearsal had been the Spanish Civil War, where they helped Spanish fascists and monarchists overthrow the Marxist-led Republicans while Western democracies watched idly. Ernest Hemingway, a strong supporter of the Republican cause, lost arguably the only country he ever really loved."For Whom The Bell Tolls" could have been an exercise in told-you-so or score settling with the right-wing victors Hemingway despised. Yet the story is so engaging - so raw and sweeping in its style, so visceral in form, and undogmatic in outlook - that it is hard to know from reading it just how bruised a champion Hemingway had been for the losing team. The most drawn-out, brutal section of narrative deals with atrocities committed by Republicans, not fascists. Rebels and Republicans alike appear oddly human."Do you think you have a right to kill any one? No. But I have to. How many of those you have killed have been real fascists? Very few. But they are all the enemy to whose force we are the opposing force. But you like the people of Navarra better than those of any other part of Spain. Yes. And you kill them. Yes."That's one of many internal monologues Jordan has with himself in the course of the book, which may annoy some expecting more wall-to-wall action but works fine by me. It's easy imagining oneself pondering similar questions in similar situations, and the running stream-of-consciousness adds to the nail-biting tension.Hemingway also does very well by the secondary characters, especially the guerrilla band Jordan takes up with. Their leader, Pablo, was a once-ruthless killer of fascists now reduced to drink and train-robbing. "There is not enough of you left to make a sick kitten," says Pablo's bitter woman, Pilar, herself a tigress and Jordan's chief ally. Pilar is both supporter and scoffer of Jordan's budding relationship with Maria, a teenaged rape survivor rescued by the guerrillas. This is not a merry band of outlaws; their very fractiousness draws you in.As a Sam Peckinpah fan, I was struck by how pleasingly similar "For Whom The Bell Tolls" was to the classic Western desperado saga "The Wild Bunch". Both are straightforward action yarns with a lot of backstory, vivid characters and setting, and a storyline that cleverly pulls you in even as it seems to ramble."For Whom The Bell Tolls" is less concerned about the bridge itself (where or when precisely this action is occurring is never spelled out) then the feelings that surround warfare, and how and why one man must do what he can, for as Rick said in "Casablanca", the problems of one man don't add up to a hill of beans in this crazy mixed-up world. Hemingway's ending is less Hollywood but just as stirring, and a fittingly open-ended climax to this singular story.


Great story, great character, great issues, great narrator

by Bill Staley
(5/5)

Five stars are not enough for the audio of this book narrated by Campbell Scott. I do not speak Spanish or know much about the Spanish Civil War or the geography of Spain. It did not matter. This is a great, gripping story.Robert Jordan is a wonderful character -- macho, intelligent, generous, deliberate. Pablo and El Sordo, guerilla leaders, and Pilar, the "woman of Pablo" and Roberto's change agent, are fascinating, as are several Russians and Fernando, the rather prim guerilla. Other characters are colorful, but not as engaging. Hemingway tries very hard, but cannot quite bring Maria, the love interest, to life.The issues are how to die well, the roles of individuals and small groups in large movements and wars, and whether any reform movement can change a country. (Robert Jordan approaches, but does not reach the conclusion "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Won't get fooled again.") Also, does religion mean anything and is it merely "the opium of the people"? Is it possible to live and die without religion when one was raised with it?Campbell Scott should get an Academy Award for this narration. He voices all of the characters well. (It is hopeless for a man to read Maria's perpetually ernest -- no pun intended -- lines.) He conveys the irony, the disgust, the subtle sparring very well. He switches from the choppy Hemingway style for Robert Jordan's thoughts to the cadences of Spanish and Russian for the others. He absolutely brings the story and the characters to life. I have listened to many books on tape (and CD) and this is hands down the best. Very highly recommended. (Thanks, Dad, for giving it to me.)In the audio edition, even the incidental music is perfect, as are the pauses before it begins and after it ends. It is just about a perfect production. (A map of in the CD box would make it perfect. It should identify all the places named in the text and shows the rivers and roads mentioned -- and the bridge!! -- even if this requires more than one map. Next best alternatives would be a CD or website with this info. But it would be best to have a hard copy with the audio CDs. Stephen Ambrose audio tapes about WWII came with maps like this and they were very helpful. This would help any edition of the book in any medium, as would a bibliography of the Spanish Civil War. [...]I read this as a teenager and enjoyed it. Back then, I thought that there might be many books this good out there in the world. It turns out that there are not many books this good.


"...It tolls for thee"

by bixodoido
(5/5)

This is one of the greatest modernist novels to deal with the subject of war. Set during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, this novel explores war as it really is, not as what it is glorified or vilified to be according to the whims of a journalist or novelist. There is very little of the actual war in the foreground of the plot--the entire novel spans only about four days--but the relationships of the characters and their interaction with one another allows the reader to see what war is like from the viewpoint of those who participate in it. Like Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, this book deals with the psychological and human ramifications of war.The hero is Robert Jordan, an American idealist fighting in Spain on the side of the `Republic,' or Communist, party. Opposite the `Reds' are the so-called fascists. At the beginning, Jordan has an unflinching and unwavering duty to the cause, but the people he meets and a girl he falls in love with alter somewhat his outlook. The bulk of the novel deals with Jordan's own philosophy, but also with the philosophy of the band of guerillas he is assigned to complete a mission with. Through his love for the girl, Maria, and his interaction with the scheming rebel leader Pablo and his wife Pilar, Jordan learns much about life and war.The plot moves quickly enough, and all leads up to the final climactic battle at the bridge. This is perhaps Hemingway's finest moment, and his treatment of the battle and fate of the group is nothing short of masterful. The quote from John Donne "never send to know for whom the bell tolls" looms ominously throughout the novel, and the battle of the bridge and the final, chilling moment of truth for Robert Jordan drives home the harrowing fact that is the reality of war: "it tolls for thee."


Beautifully tragic story of love and war...

by Brent Wigen
(5/5)

Hemingway's story of Robert Jordan, an American college instructor fighting for the Spanish republic, is a beautiful story of desperate love and the death of an ideal.Robert Jordan has been assigned the task of blowing up a bridge behind Fascist lines in support of a Republican offensive. He is sent to a guerrilla camp in the mountains behind the lines, where he meets those who are to help him with this task. He also meets and falls in love with Maria, a young Spanish woman who was brutalized by the fascists, and rescued by the band in a previous raid.Hemingway details the nature of the war in the way that only he can, using his stark prose to depict the decay of the idealism that characterized the beginning of the Spanish Republic. This is particularly evident in the character named Pablo, a once-fervent fighter for the Republic who has lost hope in the cause and just wants to be left alone in the hills. Each character has his own idea of the Republic and why they are fighting, which is as truthful a depiction of the Republican cause as could be hoped for.There were three parts of this book which really stood out for me. The first was Pilar's account of the execution of the fascists in her village. Pablo's ruthlessness, along with the growing terror of the people who go from reluctant participants to bloodthirsty mob, is terrifying in its escalation and horrible finish. Second is the final stand of El Sordo, who accepts his fate, but draws a little pleasure and satisfaction in his efforts. Third is the final battle in Chapter forty-three. Hemingway doesn't overdramatize things, he realizes that things are dramatic enough, and the straight-forward presentation of the battle as things go well and then get worse carries much more impact as a result. The stark, straight-forward writing makes these events come to life as tragic circumstances not only for the dead, but for those who survive as well.I would suggest that any reader do a little research into the Spanish Civil War before reading this book, as a little knowledge of the circumstances and people of the war (like Marty and La Pasionaria) will enrich the story immensely.This book is very compelling reading, as Robert Jordan struggles with love and duty, while both fearing and accepting his dangerous assignment. In the abstract, this book is about the death of the ideal in Spain, the corruption and dissent which led to the demise of the Republic. Hemingway conveys these ideas in a way that only Hemingway can, weaving a fabric of sadness and beauty amid hopeless circumstances.


Finally! I get Hemingway's appeal...

by Brian C.
(5/5)

Warning: there may be a few SPOILERS in my review. I will try to warn the reader in advance.I have actually read a fair amount of Hemingway. I have readThe Sun Also Rises(twice),A Farewell To Arms,The Old Man and The Sea,The Short Stories, andA Moveable Feast. I have also been reading a fair amount about Hemingway lately. I have learned a great deal about Hemingway's technique, and I have come to admire his craft and artistry, but I have not been able to find any Hemingway book that really moved me or, in my mind, justified his reputation or popularity. Until now. I just finished For Whom the Bell Tolls and I was blown away. I finally feel like I have some understanding of why people love Hemingway and why he is such an important writer. This is, in my opinion, by far Hemingway's best novel. There are, I think, a few reasons for that.First, the novel has the most engaging plot of the Hemingway novels I have read. In general, plot is not all that important to me. I tend to be more interested in the quality of the writing and the philosophical ideas contained in a novel. It was surprising to me, therefore, what a difference having an interesting plot made in terms of my enjoyment of the book. I guess plot does matter! The novel is about an American helping a band of guerillas in the Spanish Civil War blow up a bridge. The novel is very exciting and tense in places and Hemingway paces things perfectly. POSSIBLE SPOILER. The climactic scene on the bridge was, in my opinion, perfectly paced. Hemingway slows things down, not enough to bore the reader, but just enough to keep them on the edge of their seat. Anyone who wants to learn how to pace an action scene would do well to study the bridge scene closely. I was mesmerized.Second, the characters were more interesting than the usual Hemingway characters. I do not tend to like any of Hemingway's characters all that much but I was surprised that I liked all the characters in this book. Robert Jordan is a professional, as so many of Hemingway's heroes are, but he is a likable professional. He has heart and understanding. He forgives people their faults and weaknesses and he is noble. He is also capable of great passion. Pilar and Pablo are very interesting characters as well, each in their own way. I think Hemingway could have done a little better with Maria. She was, of all the characters, the least well drawn to me. She felt secondary to me, like she was put in as a means of making Robert Jordan more interesting, as opposed to being her own independent character with an independent value. Still, the relationship between Robert and Maria was powerful.Third, this novel comes later in Hemingway's career and his style has developed a great deal since The Sun Also Rises. The Sun Also Rises is told in very plain and very direct prose. There is very little lyricism. In For Whom the Bell Tolls Hemingway still uses what he learned from his earlier direct style but it is much more lyrical and beautiful. Everything that was great about his early style is still here but it is better. There is genuine lyricism in the prose. There is no doubt in my mind that Hemingway continued to grow as an artist and this book seems to me to be his most mature statement as an artist. He restrained himself for a long time, he learned control, and here, he has what seems to me to be a carefully controlled unrestraint, as paradoxical as that might sound. He is like a horse trainer who finally has enough control over his horse to let it run wild sometimes. He does not have to keep it tethered all the time.Even more than the lyricism, however, there is passion and feeling in the prose. One of the things I did not like about Hemingway's early style was his penchant for affectless understatement and ironic detachment. I am by no means an expert in Hemingway's development or style but I do not remember any passages like this in The Sun Also Rises "He looked at her brown face and at the eyes that, since he had seen them, had never been as young as the rest of her face but now were suddenly hungry and young and wanting" (67). You can feel the longing in that prose. You can picture Hemingway typing those words and getting caught up in the passion as opposed to remaining stoic and detached all the time. SPOILER ALERT. That is especially true in the farewell scene between Robert and Maria. There have only been two books that have ever brought tears to my eyes and this book is one of them (the other is Cormac McCarthy'sThe Road). The farewell scene between Robert and Maria was very sad and poignant. I had no idea Hemingway was capable of such power. He is less restrained here and it shows.There are a number of really poignant scenes in the book. There is a scene where Robert is remembering back to his childhood when he had to get on a train and go to school for the first time. His dad is very emotional, he is crying, and he says a little prayer before Robert gets on the train. Robert is embarrassed for his father and he says it was the first time he felt older than his father. It is a very poignant and beautiful moment. There is very little of that in the other Hemingway I have read.Finally, the novel deals with some interesting themes. Like all Hemingway novels there is the theme of courage but Hemingway lets us hear the thoughts of his characters as they battle with their own fear in this book in a way that he does not in his other works. Death is also a theme as it is in nearly all Hemingway works. SPOILER ALERT. Robert Jordan expresses beautifully what is so difficult about death. Robert Jordan is an atheist. He does not believe in any afterlife, so he is not frightened by the afterlife. The reason death is difficult is because "The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate to leave it very much" (Robert Jordan's own words) (467). Only Hemingway could have expressed the sadness of having to say goodbye to the world and everything in it so simply and yet so powerfully. This is easily one of the most moving books I have ever read, and I never thought I would say that about a Hemingway book. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone whether you are a Hemingway fan or not.


great book, slow and steady

by Brian Hurley
(4/5)

First things first, if you want a quick thriller than this is not the book for you. If what you want is a compelling, thought provoking, and an informative narrative of guerrila's in the Spanish civil war than this is up your alley. Even with its slow pace and limited conflict lessons are learned in every chapter. Everything from how to treat unreliable ally's to how to deal with love in war. Hemmingway's writting is somewhat repetitive, but in its elegance completely bareable. Having only read The Old Man and the Sea, I can't compare it to his other longer fiction, to me For Whom the Bell Tolls was a more rewarding read. With a great cast of characters that constantly enrich plot, all with back stories that build character developement. Robert Jordan the main character gives an American familiarity to the story making it even more accessible to today's readers. Hemmingway has a way with words that puts you in the story, with Robert Jordan's up's and down's, you understand him, you want to be him. Anyone who hasn't read Hemmingway's work but enjoys any American classics from Steinbeck to McCarthy will find this read enjoyable and rewarding.


Hemingway is Brilliant and this Book Proves It

by Brian P. McDonnell
(5/5)

Excellent, Excellent, Excellent. One of the best war novels I've ever read. Now I know why Hemingway is known as one of the greatest writers of all time. I absolutely loved "The Old Man and Sea", but when "A Farewell to Arms" fell a little short, I had my doubts. This was the one that finally clinched it in my mind that Hemingway deserves all of the accolades he's received over the years. It's a love story that takes place up in the mountains of Spain during the Spanish Civil War which took place in the 1930's. The main character Robert Jordan, is a young American dynamiter in the International Brigade. Back in the State's Jordan used to be a college professor. Jordan's grandfather used to be a great war hero, but since his father was labeled a coward, he has set out to try to redeem the family name. It becomes his assignment to travel into the mountains of Spain, hook up with a band of guerillas, and to blow a pivotal bridge during an upcoming campaign. Not being as familiar with the Spanish Civil War as I would like have been before reading this novel it was a little hard at first to try to figure out who was fighting and what side Jordan was on. I then found out there are the Fascists vs. the Republic and Jordan is on the side of the Republic. At first I thought that members of the Republic were Communists with the ideals they were preaching and since the Russians were advising them, but then when they said some disparaging things about Communists that made me think otherwise. The guerilla band he joins up with is led by a man named Pablo who at one time used to be great leader, but recently has lost his nerve. He no longer is as interested in the cause as he once was, and now would rather tend to his horses instead. He once led this band on a successful assault on a train and everybody in the band still seems to consider this their crowning achievement. Pablo is still very smart, but nobody now knows if he can continue to be trusted to lead them. His female companion Pillar is really the one who has held the band together for the last few months of the war, but she lacks Pablo's cunning. She says she has a little bit of gypsy in her and at times she tells people's fortunes, not all of them however are good. She is very feisty and was probably something in her day when she used to date several matadors. The rest of the band is made up of an old man named Anselmo who Jordan loves very much and is one of the few people he really can rely on. Then there is a few younger men, a pair of competent brothers, plus a strong and loyal man named Agustin, as well as a gypsy who for the most part everybody considers useless. Finally there is the young girl named Maria. She was rescued from the fascists during the raid on the train. She is the daughter of a former Mayor. Her hair had all been cut off and she isn't as beautiful as she once was, but Jordan immediately falls in love with her the first time he lays eyes on her. In war a few days can sometimes seem like a life time and the pair make the most of what time they have together. Pillar had taken Maria under her wing and had been teaching her how to one day be a good wife. She approves of Jordan and Maria's union and after the fighting is over she wants him to take Maria away from this place. As the battle nears there are several scrimmages and some great fights. El Sordo's last stand is very memorable. Hemingway's descriptions are magnificent. At times Hemingway switches back and forth between Spanish and English but it never seems to be a distraction as he always provides a translation. There are things wrong with the Republic that eventually will lead to their downfall, but at this point in the war Hemingway shows them as just little inconsistencies. For instance, the Republic doesn't seem to believe in religion, so it is ironic that all of the band still say their little prayers every time they are in the middle of a battle. The people also want to rule themselves rather than be ruled by the government, but they have no trust in one another. If you are not from the same town as these people you will always be considered an outsider and an enemy. There are too many fractions in the Republic. They have some good ideals, but they are unable to really bring any of them to life. Jordan figures even if they win they would probably need to get rid of most of the leaders since the majority of the ones remaining are all incompetent or murderers. Both the Fascist and the Republic come off as being very brutal at times. I wonder what Hemingway's political views really were. I believe he probably had some of the same ideals that Jordan displays. This book will make my list of the top 100 books of all time.


Great book

by BronxRev "BronxRev"
(4/5)

Can I add anything to what has already been said? Well, I find this to be Hemingway's best piece of literature. The story is interesting (though sometimes the dialogue can come across as odd to me, it's from a different time, so some difference is to be expected). Especially interesting was the protagonist's work (a perfect example of UW, in my opinion), and what he did. Read it, enjoy it.


excelsior!

by Cathy J. Taurine "C.J."
(5/5)

must be where Metallica got the song name from. Anyways this is one of but many authors that, like Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain decided to take the easy way out. In the meantime he penned this great literature that is a great book. I don't care what anybody says, the old man and the sea is boring and short and so with that I bid you good day and happy reading!


A historical fiction masterpiece. And a look at the Individuals behind the war.

by Chip Hunter "chips_books"
(5/5)

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is a masterpiece. This historical fiction from Hemingway is in my opinion far better than the other two Hemingway novels that I have read (The Sun Also RisesandA Farewell To Arms), and for the first time triggers the same kind of admiration for Hemingway from me that I had always been so puzzled to see from others. If you're looking for a taste of Hemingway, this is the book I would recommend. If you've read other Hemingway and been less than impressed, try this one before you give up on him completely.This long book takes place over just a few days, and follows Robert Jordan as he works behind enemy lines during the Spanish Civil War. While containing plenty of suspense and action, the primary focus of this book is delving into the psyches of Jordan and the irregulars he recruits for his mission. A stark and honest look into the minds of simple people caught up in the sweeping events of a large war is something Hemingway excels at, and it really shows in this book. While at times being perhaps a bit over the top with the rambling and inane thought processes of his characters, he seemed to ease up on it a bit with this story, instead focusing more on what was relevant and on progressing the story. And personally, I liked Hemingway's use of Spanish and the literal translation during much of the dialogue. Rather than being distracting, I felt that this method helped highlight the romantic nature of the Spanish language (and simultaneously reminded me of some of the basic Spanish that I had forgotten).The characters in this book are also great. Robert Jordan, Maria, Pilar, Pablo, and Anselmo are particularly well-done and unforgettable. Unlike other reviewers, I enjoyed the innocence and sweetness of Maria, and didn't find her to be unrealistic in either her response to mistreatment or her love for Jordan. (Is it that she fell in love so easily? that she is so blindingly trustful? that she is universally kind? or that she manages to not wallow in self-pity, that modern day feminists hate about this character?) Pilar and Pablo are both spectacularly done, being often hilarious and always intensely complicated. Giving faces to these and the other irregulars in this book helps the reader realize the impact on Individuals that wars can have.As a historical fiction, this book is excellent. You'll want to educate yourself more about the time and the circumstances around the Spanish Civil War while reading this book. Interestingly, Hemingway himself was somewhat involved in this war, acting as a journalist, but also supposedly supporting the Republic's fight, even going so far as to help train young men in the use of modern rifles. The content of the story comes off as being very possible, and the battles alluded to come out of real history. Indeed, even some of the peripheral characters are historical figures, including the well-described André Marty (known as the Butcher of Albacete) that played a significant role toward the end of the book. Nicely grounded in historical fact, it makes the reading of this book all that much better.Very highly recommended!!


As compelling as it is entertaining

by Chris Salzer
(5/5)

There never has, and never will be, another writer with the lucidity and inestimable genius of Hemingway. Hemingway's characteristic laconic, terse, and fluid prose and dialogue shine radiantly throughout this book for the ages. Seeing our country in the midst of the war on terrorism and a growing divisiveness amongst Americans, I feel, regardless of one's stance on war, For Whom the Bell Tolls is a great book to pick up right now.To stereotype and routinely categorize this great work as nothing more than a "war book" is to do it a grave injustice. Hemingway touches on, among other things, love, loyalty, sacrifice for the greater good, rape, suicide, altruism, and social injustice. For Whom the Bell Tolls manifests itself as a book that speaks to the reader in many indescribable ways. Hemingway's character development is masterful and unparalleled in literature. We come to know not only our intrepid protagonist Robert Jordan, moreover we come to know the inner thoughts and feelings of Anselmo, Maria, Pablo, Pilar, and Lieutenant Berrendo as Hemingway ingeniously flips from 3rd to 1st person narrative and then back to 3rd perdson on the drop of a dime.Perhaps the only negative of the book is the annoying censoring of curse words throughout the text such as, "I obscenity in the milk of science." Ironically, Hemingway's hero Robert Jordan fights for the Communist Republic(which of course mandated censorship), and his own book ends up censored. Go figure. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this powerful tour de force and recommend it highly.


A must read � the definitive anti-war tale

by Christopher A. Smith
(5/5)

For most readers the jury is back on Hemmingway; you love him or you hate him. For fans of Hemmingway's prose this novel is a true masterpiece, but even those who aren't particularly fond of Hemmingway's sparse style will find lots to like in For Whom The Bell Tolls.Wrapped in a brisk plot of pre-combat suspense and the ensuing battle Hemmingway has hidden the definitive anti-war novel. In the three days that we follow Robert Jordan's efforts for the Republic against the Fascists we watch him develop a love of incredible intensity with the girl Maria, then willingly throw everything away for a senseless fight between two equally irrational forces struggling for power in the eve of WWII.The most powerful account of brutality and inhumanity is not attributed to the Fascists, but is Pilar's tale of the early days of the revolution and atrocities carried out by the Republicans - the side for which Jordan is risking his life. Although moved by the tale and by Pilar's excellent account (indeed as most reviews comment this self-contained story of Pilar's is the strongest part of the novel) Jordan cannot veer from the path that has been set for him, both by his war hero grandfather and by his father; Jordan views his father as a coward because he died by suicide - a them which runs through the novel. Even his unexpected discovery of Maria and true love cannot deflect him from his course of self-destruction.As an anti-war novel For Whom The Bell Tolls is elegant and subtle. Hemmingway, in typical fashion, lionizes the warriors. The American Jordan and the guerilla leader El Sordo are depicted as noble men of principle. Even his treatment of the fascist lieutenant Berrendo is sympathetic. Hemmingway's commentary is an attack on the senselessness of war (or this particular war, anyway) but those who fight that war are largely treated as tragic figures.The characters are among the most complete that I've encountered in a novel. In that they're developed using Hemmingway's sparse style makes the feat all the more impressive. The novel perhaps is a bit long, and there are in my opinion some extraneous elements that could have been omitted, but the conclusion is a masterpiece. There are not many novels that have had as great an emotional effect on me. A must read.


Classic

by C.P.M. "Cicero"
(5/5)

This is my first exposure to Ernest Hemingway and, after reading it, I wonder how I could go through eight years of high school and college and not read one Hemingway book. I loved this book! I have never taken so quickly to a piece of classic literature. Hemingway's style is powerful, evocative, and dramatic. And yet none of the prose is overly verbose or bombastic. This tale, set over four days in the mountains of Spain during the Spanish Civil War, follows Robert Jordan, an American fighting in the International Brigade, and his preparations for a bridge demolition. During that time, he falls in love with the beautiful and tragic Maria as well as befriends the group of guerrillas he is working with. During those four days, Jordan loves, idealizes, and submits to his dutiful fate more passionately than most men ever will. If you have never read Hemingway before, I suggest you do so right away. This book is a great one to start with and I know that I will be looking to read more of his works soon.


You're better off with A FAREWELL TO ARMS

by Craig Chalquist, PhD, author of TERRAPSYCHOLO...
(2/5)

This novel bored me. And I like Hemingway's work. Pilar's tragic stories go on and on, as do pointless conversations in caves with desperate people swearing at each other and hitting each other in the mouth (which, alas, only encourages more conversation instead of silencing it). The constant use of "obscenity," "muck," etc. instead of the real swear words is truly wearying, and the translation of Spanish terms into "thee," "thou," and "less bad" mean nothing at all to the casual English reader.Nor is Robert Jordan (why does Hemingway keep using his full name throughout the novel? That's irritating too) much help, being a typical Hemingway strong-and-silent-type who drinks too much, enjoys bullfights, and lives to sleep with pretty 19-year-olds. "The earth moved" is the best he can do in the supposedly passionate and brief love scenes with Maria, who enjoys pouring him more wine while washing his feet. His doubts about doing his duty are neither profound nor convincing. Until well into the novel he's a too-typical freedom fighter who justifies duty over Eros in dreary inner conversations. Like another reviewer put it, I wished a quarter into the novel that he'd spare me his musings, blow the damned bridge and go home.


Not too impressed.

by Daniel A. Scott "Just honest!"
(2/5)

I listened to this on audio book over several days, it felt like forever. I wasn't too impressed. It was slow, slow, and did I mention slow. Then when it was interesting, it wasn't even worth all the slowness. Won't be sampling Hemingway again anytime soon.


Classic Account of the Spanish Civil War

by Daniel Hurley
(5/5)

This is Hemingway's virtual personal account of the Spanish Civil War at the ground level. The central character is an American from Montana who speaks fluent Spanish and is known as the "dynamiter". He sides with the republicans, as did other Americans such as the Lincoln Brigade and many other westerners and soviets pitted against the Fascists supported by the Nazis and Italians. The American, referred to as Roberto or Ingles by the guerilla band, joins the band behind enemy lines with the expressed purpose of blowing up a bridge to coincide with a republican offensive. The brutality of war is evident by Maria, with the band, who was brutalized and raped while her parents were shot just because they were republicans. In contrast, demonstrating that war is brutal on both sides, Pablo, the band's soddened leader, is traumatized with guilt and feelings of defeat that haunt him with own past butchering of townsmen that were friendly to the Fascists. There is a general feeling of despair as the band attempts to regenerate itself to action in the face of an enemy well supported by aircraft and weaponry. Another key character is Pablo's lady friend Pilar who, once associated with a famous bull fighter, speaks often of manliness and she takes over the leadership temporarily vacated by Pablo's morose fall into a drunken stupor. The discussion of Spanish views of manhood provide an opportunity for Hemingway to expose his fascination with bull fighting and machismo that is both courageous and revolting. Time is fleeting, although the paperback is almost 470 pages, within in the book as an accelerated romance develops between Roberto and Marie that heightens an expectation of loss as the two fall deeply in love. Hemingway consumes the bulk of the book with dialogue within the personalities in the band such as the gypsy and the old man who seems the most dependable and balanced member. Action picks up toward the end of the book as Pablo's band prepares to take action while the Fascists search the mountains for Pablo's associate and his band on a neighboring mountain. As Roberto and Pablo's band seek to destroy the bridge, the republican attack formes in the distance. There is an expectation of great loss and the book climaxes with the attack on the bridge and you feel an uncertainness of doom for the central characters as the end is abrupt and almost shocking. The book is a classic and very realistic, it may be too long for younger readers but it certainly outlines the tragedies of war and perhaps underlines the horror of Civil War. One of Senator John McCain's favorite books as noted on the Imus in the Morning radio show last week.


A good novel

by David Graham
(4/5)

I happen to think Hemingway is one of the most overrated novelists of the 20th century, but this particular book is "a good read." Hemingway does deal with many subjects such as duty, brutalization, love, or loyalty, all the while telling a good, moving story. Not my vote for "the great American novel", but worth reading.


More than just a book about war

by Debnance at Readerbuzz
(5/5)

I was expecting to loathe this book. It was nothing like I expected.Yes, For Whom the Bell Tolls is about war. There are all the horrors of war in this book. But nothing was extraneous, gratuitous, undeserved. And the book was about so much more than just war. Hemingway delves into relationships and honor and courage and heroism. It is a great book.


Astonishingly good and absolutely timeless

by D. M. Purkiss "Diane"
(5/5)

Someone should rush into George W Bush's office with a copy of this book. It's not anti-war, but it is about what Wilfird Owen called 'the pity of war', the terrible ironic waste of camaraderie and love and stories and landscapes, and the value of the life of just one man.So many reviews summarise the plot, so I'll refrain. It's almost like Hamlet, though; Robert Jordan has to blow a bridge, but four acts go by before he acts. In that space, he and we learn what the act will really mean - nothing, in terms fo the war, but everything to him. he's like a matador, int eh pause between the bull's turn and his impact. The whole book is lit up with Robert's mortality.And it sounds amazing, lyrical, not entirely spare, but with half-heard rhythms as steady as pulses.I liked Maria. I know I'm swimming against the feminist stream, but why not goodness in a heroine instead of the tiresome feistiness we've all seen so much of lately?Pilar, however, is not tiresome, and to meet her is alone enough to put this book at the top of any list of tO read books you may be making. She shines because it is SHE whoo is Hemingway - yes, folks, he was fat and a bit food-obssessed. And she is the storyteller. Hemingway was interested in that kind of transgression - read Garden of Eden. But read this first.


"Whichever one there is, is both."

by Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!"
(5/5)

Hemingway's magnificent novel has something for everyone: an action tale, an anti-war protest, a love story, subtle ironies, a magnificent short story within the novel, political criticism of communism and fascism, a philosophy of life, and beautiful descriptions of life that leave you gasping. You will learn a lot about yourself by considering which elements you notice most strongly. Reading For Whom the Bell Tolls is like holding up a mirror to your soul.On the surface this is a book about 3 days and nights of war. But with the action packed into that time and extensive use of flashbacks, it becomes a tapestry of all humankind. After you start to notice the individual threads in the tapestry, be sure to step back and see the whole. For the remarkably balanced and connected artistry of the themes and directions in the story is what makes this book great.If you are disturbed by descriptions of violence, brutality, and inhumanity, you will not enjoy this book.Robert Jordan is an American who has joined the republican side of the Spanish civil war. In normal life, he teaches Spanish. Now, he is transformed into a demolitions expert who can blow up trains and bridges. With an offensive coming, he moves behind the fascist lines to join a guerilla group to blow a key bridge during an offensive that begins in 3 days. The rest of the story covers the action of preparing for and attacking the bridge. Along the way, you will become acquainted with the characters in the guerilla band as well as Jordan. Jordan will find himself moved in many ways to become more alive and fully connected than he has ever been before. He will experience the full range of human emotion and life within these 3 days.If you don't know about the Spanish Civil War, you should be aware that it was the main warm-up for World War II. The fascists under Franco were supported by Hitler and Mussolini. Hitler wanted to try out his new weapons and fine-tune tactical theory before attacking the rest of Europe. Communists from around the world flocked to the republic, as did pro-democracy volunteers. The republican forces had great popular support but had little war materiel and fought a losing campaign that created great anguish in the international community.Civil wars are one of the worst forms of human conflict. Because the people are so much alike, they tend to behave with greater savagery towards one another. With modern weapons of mass destruction, the effects can be awful beginning with the American Civil War. Hemingway does a great job of showing the essential sameness of the forces on both sides in human terms, and takes away the meaning of their causes to show the greater importance of their humanity. The book reminds me in this aspect very much of All Quiet on the Western Front, the great ant-iwar novel about trench warfare in World War I.As is usual with Hemingway, the writing is spare, effective, and graceful. Stylists will be delighted!Why should you read this book today? You will probably not fight in a civil war. Or will you? For in fact, humans are as divided in their competitions as ever. They just normally don't involve bloodshed. There is great glory in the conflict, but even greater potential in their cooperation. Ask yourself about where you compete now and what could be accomplished if you focused on constructive cooperation instead. Think about this concerning your family, your love, your work, your hobbies, and your volunteer activities. Like the quote above, wherever there is one of us the other is present. If you start to represent each other's interests and connect with one another, the sum of mankind is greater and so is each person. You will also love life more!


smell of pine needles

by Doug Anderson
(5/5)

This is a unique novel in the Hemingway collection, it has a plot. This is the longest of his novels though the easiest to describe. The Hemingway style is not as lean as in earlier works, one might even say it is pleasantly plump in comparison (as Papa himself was at the time of writing). I'll never forget my first reading of this book. One of those books you put down and just hold your breath with the memory of it all. This might best be described as Hemingway fare for non Hemingway fans. Though Hemingway fans like it too, but it will always be number three to them. The Sun Also Rises is perhaps one of the more difficult books to summarize and Hemingway's style is so new in it that the book created a buzz that has still not died down. What was not said in that first book left some feeling a bit famished. Others were intrigued by this new kind of writing that held its cards so close to its chest. In this book you get a more conventional novel of a novel though the events described in it are very powerfully told. (It is fun to see pictures of Hemingway as a reporter at this time. A world famous novelist in the field.) This book along with A Farewell to Arms prove no American knew better how to convey by written words that nasty busines of war better than Hemingway. Robert Jordan is one of the least talked about Hemingway characters ever. Perhaps because he is a character invented to serve a plot. You will love this book of fighting and love in the Spanish mountains. John Donne himself I think would have proudly read and enjoyed this.


The Book That Ripped the Pulitzer Apart

by D. Scott "D. Scott"
(5/5)

Controversy has swirled around Ernest Hemingway's masterpiece since the day it was published. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1941 and the Pulitzer committee agreed unanimously to name the book as the winner of the fiction category. Board president Nicholas Murray Butler, however, overruled the committee on the grounds that he felt the book to be profane and offensive. No award in the fiction category was given that year. The Pulitzer committee, sans Butler, did go on to award Hemingway in 1953 for "The Old Man and the Sea." Butler has since been widely criticized for his partisan politics and racial beliefs during his 43 year stint as president of Columbia University. Hemingway also won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954."For Whom the Bell Tolls" is Ernest Hemingway's seminal novel of the Spanish Civil War. Beginning in 1937 Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the war as a reporter. In the years before WWII, Spanish Republicans, backing the established Spanish Republic fought the fascist Nationalist forces of General Francisco Franco. The Republicans received backing from the Soviet Union and various organizations of the Marxist movement, among others. The rising forces of Nazi Germany and Italy backed Franco. The fascists under Franco won. Franco established a dictatorship and then went on to rule Spain with an iron hand until his death in 1975.It is easy to get hung up on all the politics involved in this book - who is backing which side, etc. Remember the time frame of the book (pre-WWII) and know that the story is essentially human. It is about ideals, loyalty, love, sacrifice, and honor in the face of loss and death. Robert Jordan is an American who joins the guerrillas fighting on the side of the republic as a dynamiter. Jordan's goal is to blow a key bridge right after a Republican attack starts against the Fascists. He meets up with the anti-Fascist cell in the area, which is headquartered in a well-hidden cave. Pilar is the wife of Pablo, who ostensibly is in charge, but Pilar runs the show. Pablo is tired, burned out, and dangerous to the cause after years of war and atrocities committed on both sides, and Pilar takes the reins. While coordinating the attack with the cell Robert Jordan meets and falls in love with Maria, a young woman adopted by the cell after her family is decimated by the fascists and she is raped by their soldiers. Much like the principal characters in "A Farewell to Arms," the wartime romance is accelerated and Jordan undergoes a transformation due to his love for Maria. He begins to question his role in an increasingly futile conflict. He spiritually takes Maria for his wife with hopes and dreams for the future. When it becomes evident that the guerrilla attack will be doomed, Jordan must decide between escaping with Maria or staying true to his ideals and do his duty with honor in the face of impending disaster. The entire story takes place in four days.I really liked "For Whom the Bell Tolls." It gets beyond the politics and the ideologies and more into the nature of war, showing that there is good and bad on both sides of any conflict. Hemingway points out that the best soldiers don't necessarily win a war - the ones with the biggest weapons do. "To make war all you need is intelligence. But to win you need talent and material." Other memorable gems from the text include, "Nothing is done to oneself that one does not accept," and "If you stop complaining and asking for what you never will get, you will have a good life. A good life is not measured by any biblical span." The apt title itself comes from the John Donne quote, "...And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee." Thus is the nature of any conflict, regardless of the politics involved. One reason Jordan, an American, is fighting in Spain is because he is concerned with the rise of bigotry and fascism in his own country. This belief is made all the more ironic by the treatment of the book by the Pulitzer committee and Nicholas Murray Butler in 1941, on the very eve of America's entry into WWII against Nazi Germany.Do not be intimidated by "For Whom the Bell Tolls." On the surface it reads like a great adventure story with compelling characters. It is so much more than that, however. As with the very best of novels, its themes and messages are truly timeless, ringing true during the Spanish Civil War, WWII, Vietnam, and today. This is an excellent book, and I recommend it very highly.


Amazing Love Story

by Edward J. Barton
(5/5)

For Whom the Bell Tolls is perhaps one of the greatest books of the 20th Century. Set in revolutionary Spain about 1933 or so, the book covers less than a week of real time, as American Republican Partisan Robert Jordan assists a band of guerrillas in blowing up a bridge in preparation for a major Republican attack. Hemingway is a master storyteller, and the weaving of love, life, death, and the horrors and deceit of war are well developed. You know the ending at the beginning, and yet the development of the story and characters are so rich and so complete that there is little to do but wistfully tear up during the last chapter. The book is a page turner, and a must read treasure of 20th Century literature.


Which Hemingway first?

by Electric Squid
(5/5)

Hemingway spans quite range. If you have just finished reading The Great Gatsby and are interested in the jaded, bored-with-life, spoiled and rich who drink and drink, read The Sun Also Rises. If you've just finished Dr. Blade #57, you like senseless action, and just want to say you've read Hemingway, try To Have and Have Not. But if, like me, you come from a background of JRR Tolkien, RL Stevenson, HG Wells and Jack London, and perhaps you have already read a few Nick Adams tales or The Old Man and the Sea, then don't be daunted by this story's length - this is your book.While it's true this book slowed down a few times, that rang true. It mirrored the reality of my military experience. Then again, there are some chapters of this book burn into the memory: how the Communists first dealt with people after taking their hometown, the stand they took on the hilltop, the final scene, and others. There characters were clear, the action realistic, the inaction tense. Read it.


Not my favorite Hemingway

by Erez Davidi
(3/5)

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" tells the story of young American Spanish teacher who goes to volunteer in the Spanish civil war. The entire novel takes place over 72 hours in which Robert Jordon, the young American, is responsible, as part of a bigger attack, to bomb a bridge and by that ensure that the Fascists won't be able to send reinforcements after the attack has begun. During those intense 72 hours, Robert Jordon falls in love with Maria, a Spanish girl whose family was murdered by the Fascists. (Isn't it amazing how Hemingway's characters always manage to fall in love faster than it takes one to finish smoking a cigarette?) The story follows Robert Jordon's preparations for the attack and his relationship with Maria and the guerrilla fighters who will assist him with the attack.I am fairly puzzled by this novel, which is considered by many to be Hemingway's best. It offers brilliant observations into the mind of his solider and the psychological aspects of participating in war and how Jordon copes with the hardships of it. While reading some parts of this novel, I was fully absorbed and captivated. In others, I felt it was rather long-winded. Perhaps some editing would have been handy. Although I don't think it is Hemingway's best, I do recommend it to Hemingway's fans.


Rendering one language into another

by Eric Maroney
(4/5)

Of course For Whom the Bell Tolls is in English, but everyone speaks Spanish. Hemingway tries to create Spanish sounding English by stretching the syntax of English nearly to its breaking point, by rendering Spanish-ism into odd English phrases, like "what passes with thee?" for que pasa, a common Spanish greeting.Hemingway also uses archaic English usages to present forms that exist in Spanish, but are gone from English, like thee and thou for the second person pronoun. It makes for strange but captivating reading. Here is a writer rendering English into Spanish forms. The results are startling and not always enjoyable; but it always gives you the impression that you have entered another world.If the novel was written in more fluid English, the result would not have been so unusual. The very clumsiness of the language reminds the reader that this is a novel that is taking place in another, somewhat more formal language. And the English bears that imprint.When we read For Whom the Bell Tolls we can see English both reaching into its past to create diction of current usage, as well as using an odd and foreign syntax to give the illusion of another language. Often, this effect was criticized. But an open reading of this novel shows what an effective technique this is and how well it does the heavy lifting of expressing another culture's values on the level of language from one tongue to another.


Superior novel about idealism, treachery, and guerilla warfare

by Ethan Cooper
(5/5)

Hemingway published FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS in 1940, just after the end of the Spanish Civil War. Surely, one of Hem's goals in writing this novel was to capture in fiction the full human and political complexity of this war, which was, for a time, the great international cause. This may explain why this novel, despite its great craftsmanship and virtuosity, reads a little long. Hem, you see, had to get everything in.IMHO, the best feature of this terrific book is its wonderful Spanish characters. These participate in the war, which is a great cause for Robert Jordan, the novel's protagonist. But they participate because of family loyalty, fascist war crimes, or class rage and soldiering is mostly peripheral to their personalities. What the reader remembers is not their support of the Republic but the integrity of Anselmo, the dignity of Fernando, the humor of Agustin, the simple loving sincerity of Maria, the harsh surface of Pilar, and the murderous treachery of Pablo. These are, basically, ordinary Spaniards caught in a gruesome tragedy, not ideologues or idealists who are transformed or energized by the cause.Hem also handles Robert Jordan skillfully. When Jordan first appears, he seems to be concerned only with his duty to the cause, which, on this mission, is to blow up a bridge. But quickly, Jordan meets the loving Maria. Then, through this relationship, Hem explores Jordan's thoughts and feelings on life and death. While Jordan is not an extraordinary man with breakthrough thoughts, he is an extraordinary character who, thanks to Maria, both examines the rationale for risking his life and identifies the beauty of what may be its final few days.There are many great scenes in this novel. Among my favorites are the appearance of the planes and Pilar, at fireside, telling the story of her matador lover. And--surprise!--Hemingway is funny in FWTBT, not in a hilarious Robin Williams style, but with the dexterity of a witty companion. With Hemingway's misogyny, competitiveness, alcoholism, and depression now raised to critical prominence, I was surprised to see that the man could be a good guy.FWTBT is number 74 on the Modern Library's list of 100 Best Novels... a bit low in my estimation.


Its sum is bigger than its parts

by fra7299 "fra7299"
(4/5)

In this novel the sum is more consequential than the parts. That is, if you read this novel chapter by chapter expecting to find some amazing answer or significance it probably is not there or very subtle at best. However, if you spent some time reflecting after having read the novel for a bit, then the novel has a greater deal of substance to it, mainly for the larger issue that is covered in the book-- what death and duty means for individuals in war time. We see this issue repeatedly in both the dialogue and inner thoughts of Robert Jordan, and Hemingway has a superb way of intertwining these two forms of prose and narration, something most authors probably couldn't do as effectively.Perhaps the biggest negative in the work is the depiction of Maria as too submissive and shallow. She seemingly just goes along with whatever Robert Jordan wants and is not able to speak a stronger voice against anything the characters are experiencing. Not only this, but she doesn't bring anything to any of the other characters, and has few lines of importance. Certainly, the fact that she has had a rough background and has endured personal tragedy (being raped, the death of her mother and father) plays a part in her submissiveness, but there are times that she comes across as just a "stock" damsel-in-distress type who will do anything for the hero, or, in the case of Robert Jordan, tragic hero.Robert Jordan appears to be a tragic hero because he questions many times why he is there, and why he is seeing this mission through. He goes back and forth in his conscious about what blowing up a bridge means, and contemplates the duty of why people kill when they have to in a war time setting. He doesn't appear to be completely sold on this cause in Spain, and while he seemingly never leaves this area physically, mentally he challenges the essence of being there time and time again so he can reassure himself that this is the just thing to do, and for the right cause.This is not an easy read in the sense that there is much more to what is going on than meets the eye. There aren't big explosions every page or intense actions scenes with many fighting war; most of the action is internal and underscored. However, this is a powerful book in many points, if just for the effort of Hemingway to really get inside a protagonist's mind and show the insight that goes with it.One final note about this particular edition (Scribner paperback edition from 1995): I don't know if other's editions were the same, but there were a few typos in this one. For this reason, if you plan on getting For Whom the Bell Tolls, I recommend you choose another edition.


ONE OF THE GREATEST BOOKS IN AMERICAN LITERATURE

by Gail Cooke
(5/5)

Few who saw the film version of Hemingway's classic "For Whom The Bell Tolls" with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman forget it. It remains today, some 60 years later, one of the most watched movies.For many, their first exposure to truly fine literature may well have been a Hemingway novel. Whenever our introduction to this author took place is probably etched in our memories. His stories are related with such impact that they remain with us.And now, with this audio version there is another unforgettable experience available as actor Campbell Scott's narration takes us back to 1937 and the Spanish Civil War. Raised in Boston, Scott still has a touch of that city in his voice, which only adds to its richness. He reads with a steadfastness that pleases the ear and an intimacy that holds listeners.We hear, "He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees. The mountainside sloped gently where he lay; but below it was steep and he could see the dark of the oiled road winding through the pass. There was a stream alongside the road and far down the pass he saw a mill beside the stream and the falling water of the dam, white in the summer sunlight."For many those are familiar words yet they continue to command attention as the story of Robert Jordan, a demolitions expert who has come to blow up a bridge, begins. He hopes to enlist the aid of Pablo in his mission. However, Pablo is more than reluctant, having seen enough of war he just wants to be left alone. Further he wonders what right a foreigner has to tell him what to do.Of course, there is the beautiful Maria with whom Jordan falls in love, and Pablo's wife, Pilar who is still willing to fight for the cause.Many consider this to be one of the greatest books to be found in American literature. Listen, and see if you don't agree.- Gail Cooke


Lazy and messy

by Gary Malone
(2/5)

The Spanish Civil War was surely the most brutal and tragic civil war of the twentieth century. It not only pitted Spaniard against Spaniard, but became a kind of bloody curtain-raiser for World War II, with Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Italy lining up on the side of Franco's insurgents and the USSR backing the embattled left-leaning Republic. (The Western democracies - who might have prevented Spain from going fascist - followed a pusillanimous "hands off" policy which only emboldened the insurgents and their supporters.) Into this vortex came many writers and intellectuals. They were to witness brutality, betrayals, great valour, the corruption of ideals, and the consequences of ruthless Realpolitik.So with all that in mind, here's an interesting question. If you were an author trying to write the great Spanish Civil War novel, would you choose to (1) sequester your handful of characters up in the mountains away from the main action; (2) write 500 pages covering a mere three days during which time nobody has anything to do; and (3) make the central character non-Spanish?500 pages about three days of waiting is the book's central problem. It turns the novel into the opposite of an epic. To have taken a canvas as sweeping as the three years of the Spanish Civil War and shrink it down to such a compass-point was an unfathomable decision on the author's part. From this self-inflicted literary ambush there is no escape for Hemingway: you either need excellent descriptive prose or superb psychological insight to carve a good story from such crooked timber, for, after all, what else is left to describe in such a situation save inner musings and the outer landscape?The prose is the next problem. Much has been made of Hemingway's 'deceptively simple' writing style. However, I found it impossible to read "For Whom the Bells Tolls" without forming the impression that that his reputation for putatively well-masked complexity is itself the deception. Consider the following extracts [from the Vintage edition]:A hole in a hillside is described as:"both deep and profound"[p. 444]Characters exchange such dialogue as:'Well, then. Oh, then. Oh, then. Oh.'[p. 166]'Maria.''Yes.''Maria.''Yes.''Maria.''Oh, yes. Please.'[p. 272]'But use thy head. Thou hast much head. Use it.'[p. 444]Which brings us to the Hemingway penchant for meaningless repetition:"In an impossible situation you hang on until night to get away. You try to last out until night to get back in. You are all right, maybe, if you can stick it out until dark and then get back in."[p. 174]"So a woman like that Pilar practically pushed this girl into your sleeping bag and what happens? Yes, what happens? What happens? You tell me what happens, please. That is just what happens. That is exactly what happens."[p. 175]Followed by some impressive run-on rants as the author becomes completely carried away describing love scenes (How many women - even in the thirties - were seduced by being repeatedly called 'rabbit'?)My favourite passage is when one of the characters reveals to Joaquín that la Pasionara has a son in Russia. Instead of naming the character, Hemingway chooses to write the following clanking line:"'If we insult them a little?' the man who had spoken to Joaquín about la Pasionara's son in Russia asked."[p. 324]On and on it goes like this. For three days. In a cave. This book has now gone into the umpteenth printing and neither the spelling nor grammar have been corrected ("... the flakes was dropping diagonally ..." [p. 185]; "... and then brining it down ..." [p. 213]; "... the felling when the Inglés gave the order ..." [p. 380]; at one point André Marty is referred to as "Mary" [p. 437]).So it needs to be said openly. Hemingway pundits who make excuses for this sort of thing have a lot of explaining to do: otherwise they are obliged to defend similarly poor writing when they find it outside the world of Nobel laureates.


A few days with partisans in the Spanish Civil War

by George Coppedge
(3/5)

According to the book's jacket, 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' is Hemingway's finest novel. I disagree. While the book does a fine job of describing the life of a partisan, its 490 pages only cover a few days' time. So, don't expect a lot of fast-moving action. This novel is basically a character study of the different persons in American volunteer Robert Jordan's hosting partisan band. Therefore, if you enjoy character studies then you will indeed enjoy this book.The plot is that Jordan is sent to blow up a bridge in the Spanish hinterland. He is to contact a local partisan band and secure their assistance in helping him destroy the bridge. Once he arrives at the band's secret refuge internal power struggles immediately begin as Jordan's mission will endanger the survival of all the band's members. In addition, there is the inevitable romantic subplot between Jordan and the mysterious Maria.Utilizing the flashback as a vehicle, Hemingway defines each actor's traumatic personal history, his/her decisions, and his character. Jordan the idealistic young American university professor becomes the daring, charismatic, and ideologically indifferent demolitions expert. Pablo the angry peasant becomes the murderous, avaricious guerilla leader. Pilar the ugly yet happy wife of a diminutive bullfighter is widowed and becomes the overbearing, honorable wife of Pablo. Maria the fragile, innocent virgin becomes the emotionally-scarred, vulnerable lover of Jordan. Anselmo the venerable old peasant becomes the determined, brave guerilla fighter. And so it goes with many of the other book's characters.The book is a good character study and portrait of life as a Spanish partisan, but I found it to be much too slow moving for my taste. This is decent novel, but it's not really a war novel. In my opinion, Farewell to Arms is a much better war novel and is Hemingways's best book.


I obscenity on thee!

by HardyBoy64 "RLC"
(4/5)

It cracks me up how Hemingway refuses to write swear words and the word "obscenity" becomes a verb, ie. We are obscenitied!The obvious Spanish syntax is interesting as well and I imagine that those not fluent in Spanish would find the English both twisted and awkward at times.(example, Hemingway writes, "For a favor, do this!, which seems a direct translation of "Por favor".Another example is "How many years to you have?" (Cuántos años tienes) instead of the proper English "How old are you?". It's as if Hemingway wrote the dialogue in Spanish and then translated it word for word into English. I'm not sure if this is genious or annoying.Regardless of this goofy English, the novel is a good read and I recommend reading it.


Truly an American classic!

by Hilde Bygdevoll
(5/5)

I only started reading Hemingway last year, yet he's become one of my very favourite authors. Of course I am humble enough to I ask myself "What more is there to say about "For Whom the Bell Tolls" that the reviewers and others haven't said already?" Yet here I am... writing another review about Hemingway's masterpiece..."For Whom the Bell Tolls" is the tale of two of man's most cherished and hated traditions: Love and War. We enter the story somewhere in Spain, in 1937, under the Spanish Civil War. We follow Robert Jordan -the American (teacher, now a demolition expert), and a group of guerrilla loyalists; Pablo leader of the group, his woman Pilar and the girl Maria (a prisoner rescued by Pablo).We follow the group, and especially Robert's, effort, fighting for the Republic against the Fascists. The entire novel only covers a span of three days, so we truly get a sense of the time passing. While the story develops we recognise that the real leader of the group is not Pablo, but his woman, Pilar. We watch Robert develop an intense love for the girl Maria and reading the part where Robert and Maria are taking farewell brought tears to my eyes...It is not possible to not genuinely care for each individual in the story, because the characters are few, and they are all very well developed. In fact, they must be the most complete characters that I've found in any novel that I've read. They say that good novelists write books with strong main characters. Great ones make even the minor characters memorable. And so it is with "For Whom the Bell Tolls", the old man Anselmo is as well developed as Robert Jordan or Pilar.From beginning to end, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" held my attention. This novel shows Hemingway's masterful command of the English language, and I think this novel is one of the best anti-war novels of the 20th century. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" most definitely deserves its "true classic"-label.I couldn't recommend it more highly!


Interesting, important, and well-written

by JackOfMostTrades "Jack"
(5/5)

Hemingway displays his narrative powers and his command of English prose in this novel that has a standard plot, i.e., a man on a mission, with the paradox that ambiguities always come with standing up for an idealistic cause. Robert Jordan has committed himself to his wartime assignment: to go behind 'enemy' lines so as to blow up a bridge to help the Republican cause prior to a critical battle. Unlike the obsessive focus of a novel like 'Bridge on the River Kwai,' Hemingway shows the fallibility of idealism, how revolutionaries that are not immune to disillusionment, and the self-serving actions of those who have fought for a selfless cause but get more and more self-involved as their nerves and wits are constantly challenged. The band of partisans, for example, Augustine, Pilar, a gypsy, a disillusioned commander who live behind enemy lines are seen to have their idealism slowly unravel while holding on the the core belief they have in the "Republic." Robert Jordan splits his attention between dealing with the conflicts among the partisans and focusing on his profession as an explosives expert. This dichotomy allows Hemingway to present the proposition that the idealistic face we show to the world cannot but be tempered by doubt. This novel succeeds in showing 'ordinary' people dealing with extraordinary events.


An American Masterpiece About A Pivotal Point In World History

by Jana L. Perskie "ceruleana"
(5/5)

"For Whom The Bell Tolls" has long been my favorite Ernest Hemingway novel. A compelling action adventure, this is a tale filled with mystery and suspense, peopled by a cast of extraordinarily vivid characters. It is also the author's finest, and most emotional love story. Although his use of language seems simple, it is deceptively so. Hemingway deals effectively with broad themes here - love, loyalty, trust, courage and honor are some. And of course, "For Whom The Bell Tolls," set against the brutal violence of the Spanish Civil War, is probably the definitive work of fiction about this pivotal period in European, and world history.Generalissimo Francisco Franco's fascist troops invaded Spain in July 1936 in order to overthrow the newly established Republic headed by the Popular Front, (composed of liberal democrats, socialists, anarchists, trade unionists, communists and secularists. (If I have left anyone out, I am sorry - this was a truly complex and unique political situation.)The country was basically divided into Red Spain - the Republicans, and Black Spain, represented by the landed elite, committed to a feudal system and Franco's cause, Fascists, the urban bourgeoisie, the Roman Catholic Church, and other conservative sectors. The number of casualties is only an estimate, but suggests that between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people were killed. Many of these deaths, however, were not the results of military battles, but the outcome of brutal mass executions perpetrated by both sides.During the war in Spain, 2,800 American volunteers took up arms to defend the Republican cause against Franco, who was aided by Hitler and Mussolini. Those who fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, from 1937 through 1938, believed the defense of the Republic represented the last hope of stopping the spread of international fascism. These Americans fought alongside approximately 35,000 anti-fascists from fifty-two countries. Most of the volunteers were not political, but idealists who were determined to "make Madrid the tomb of fascism." Hemingway's protagonist Robert Jordan, an American professor of Spanish from Missoula, Montana, was one such volunteer.Robert Jordan, an explosives expert, has been ordered to make contact with a small band of partisan fighters in the Guadarrama Mountains of fascist controlled southern Spain. His mission, of critical importance, is to blow up a bridge, at a specific time, to facilitate a simultaneous Republican attack on the city of Segovia. Most of the novel deals with Jordan's relationships with members of the guerilla fighters, including the girl Maria with whom he falls in love. Jordan is described as, "a young American of slight political development, but a great way with the Spaniards and a fine 'partizan' record." Neither a Communist nor a Marxist, he is anti-fascist. As is the case with most foreign fighters, he is under Communist discipline/direction, because, in the conduct of the war, they eventually run the "show" and provide the most effective opposition.Pablo is ostensibly the band's military leader. He has become disillusioned with the fight, cynical and bitter. He is no longer willing to die for any cause. A smart man, but brutal, and cunning in a mean way, he is a complex character. He does have a conscience. Pablo spends much of his time in an alcoholic stupor. When Robert Jordon enters the picture, Pablo's level of animosity reaches new heights, and his comrades, along with Robert, are afraid he will sabotage the mission. He undergoes several changes during the 3 days and 3 nights in which the story takes place.Pilar is Pablo's woman, an extremely strong and savvy person, she is steeped in gypsy lore and superstition, and is probably the novel's most colorful character. She is a fine warrior who can be counted upon to cover one's back in battle. Pilar possesses a big heart. She has cared for Maria and brought the girl back to health. When Robert Jordon joins them, Pilar takes the leadership position over from Pablo, whom she no longer trusts, but still loves. She commands the allegiance of the guerrilla fighters and organizes them into a temporary alliance with "El Sordo," another exceptional character. She is the force behind many of the novel's events - stimulating movement, motivating or manipulating people to take action - but for good purpose. Pilar, relates various war stories, and anecdotes, which reflect the cruelty and inhumanity of civil war.María's life was shattered by the outbreak of the war. Her father, the mayor, along with her mother, and many of the local citizenry were shot before her eyes by the invading Fascists. Since her mother was not a Republican, but a devout Catholic, she shouted, "Viva my husband, the town's mayor," before she died, rather than the more typical, "Viva La Republica!" Maria was then taken away and brutalized, physically and emotionally, by Franco's soldiers. When the guerilla band blew up the train on which Maria was a prisoner, they carried the dazed and broken girl to their mountain hideaway.A thrilling subplot is developed when Andrés, a guerilla, must take an urgent message across the lines to a Republican general. Roberto's entire mission, and much more importantly, the offensive, depends upon the successful and timely delivery of the dispatch. Another important character is old Anselmo, for whom Robert develops a strong attachment.A major portion of the novel is told through the thoughts of Robert Jordan, with flashbacks to meetings with Russians in Madrid, and some reflections on his father and grandfather. Jordon's inner monologues fascinate and clearly demonstrate Hemingway's skill with language and character development. Jordan, at one point comments to himself, that he is his own best companion. Because of his wartime responsibilities, he cannot allow himself to be overcome by emotion, which he considers a luxury. Whenever he feels anger, deep love, disappointment, foreboding, fear, anything that will distract him from his purpose, he talks himself down and refocuses. In such a relatively brief period, he begins to love life as never before, because of his feelings for Maria. Even here, however, he accepts that if anything happens to him, he is fortunate to have experienced a lifetime in three and a half days.Again, I cannot write enough in praise of Hemingway's use of language. It is sparse, direct, and extremely beautiful in its descriptiveness. He translated the Spanish intimate "tu" form into English. I speak Spanish, and although this may seem a bit awkward initially, it gives a much more accurate feel for the local idiom and the dialogue between Maria and Roberto, (as he is called), and between Roberto and the partisans.This is not only an extraordinary novel, but is one of the most important in American fiction. Hemingway worked as a correspondent in Spain during the Civil War, as a reporter for the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA). He raised money for the Republicans in their struggle against the Nationalists under General Francisco Franco.JANA


Ernest Hemingway's Books

by J. Blackburn "Sherpa"
(5/5)

This is the first EH books I have read. I love reading history and war related books because I want to get a sense of what it would be like to live in a desperate time under extreme conditions. I found this book to be exciting with excellent characters and an excellent story. I will probably read more of his works. I recommend.


Vivid portrayal of the morals of people involved in war

by Jeffrey Van Wagoner
(4/5)

Note that this review is for the audio book version of this novel. The narrator was Campell Scott. The audio quality was excellent and the narrator did a good job; he spoke with a slight Spanish accent, which seemed to fit well with the narrative. He did some characterizations with his voice, but not much compared to other narrators I've listened to.This is the second time that I have read this novel; the first time was over 30 years ago in high school. It's amazing to me how differently I looked at this book this time around. The first time I read it; I saw it as an adventure story with some interesting character development. The second time around I read it as a fascinating look at how war brings out the best and worst in people.I feel that Hemingway accurately captured how certain people would act in a civil war; the cruelty by some and acts of courage by others. In all cases, the characters were in a situation where there were no great options. He also accurately showed that there are good people on both sides of a conflict; that soldiers do suffer by taking the lives of others.As a Spanish speaker; I enjoyed Hemingway's use of language. Most of the unique use of English is actually a direct literal translation of Spanish. I hadn't heard the phrases directly translated that way before, but immediately recognized them as common Spanish slang.This is a book worth reading; you will learn that life is not always black and white.


The difference one man makes

by Jesse Rouse
(5/5)

A number of previous reviewers have noted that this book is about the difference one man makes in the world. Unfortunately, I think a number of reviewers have missed what Hemingways is saying about the issue. He is not saying that one man makes all the difference in the world, or that one man is meaningless compared to the whole. What he is saying is that the world continues without him regardless of whether he changes the world or not. The title of this book, and its theme, comes from John Donne's 17th Meditation, which says that"...No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee..."Hemmingway masterfully tells the story of a man, Robert Jordan, who becomes involved with some Spanish gypsies on his mission to blow up a bridge to help his side win a war. He begins thinking that it does not matter whether he lives or not, as long as he accomplishes his goal. However, he falls in love with Maria, and suddenly wants to live. He takes great pains to make sure that he will be able to do his job and blow up the bridge. He finally does it. Then he dies in the escape. And the world continues on without him. Hemingway is trying to say what Donne was saying: life is not tied in the individual, though the individual may be important. The individual is a part of the collective whole. The issue is not whether the individual is valuable or not, but rather the issue is the individual's relation to the complex web of human existence. Perhaps the best illustration of this idea is in Hemingway's beginning and conclusion of the book. It begins with Robert Jordan lying in some pine needles planning his life. It ends with him lying in pine needles dead. The whole middle of the book simply details his part in the complex web of human existence.Hemingway also explores the concept of war through Robert Jordan, who is fighting a war he does not need to be in. Robert begins to question why he is fighting and why the war is happening. Some have complained that Hemingway glorifies war. I do not disagree. I disagree when they say that it is wrong to glorify war. It is not at all wrong to glorify the Allies side of World War II, is it? It is wrong to glorify war for war's sake, but I'm not sure that Hemingway does that. He glorifies the willingness to lay one's life down for what one loves, not simply dying and killing meaninglessly (which makes his own suicide later in life rather ironic).Whether you agree with Hemingway's thesis or not, it is very well written and very interesting to read. The characters are very real, and it is neat to see what Spanish gypsies were like in the early part of the 20th century.Overall grade: A


Inspirational despite some flaws

by JfromJersey
(4/5)

Hemingway is a master storyteller, and FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is a fine example of that mastery. The strengths lie in character development, and thematic presentation. The weaknesses lie in it's style, and language. For example, the use of what passes for colloquial Spanish, particularly in it's profane form, seems artificial and clumsy. I also think elements of the plot tend to weaken or dilute the overall effect of the climax, like when Pilar reads Jordan's palm to tell his future, thus foreshadowing events to come.That being said, this is a very inspirational book, and Hemingway has a knack for grabbing the reader's attention, and keeping it. He is especially good in his short fiction, and an excellent example of that can be found within this novel, when Pilar tells the tale of her village. It is perhaps,the single most riveting and effective part of the novel.FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is of course one of the great novels to deal with sacrifice for righteous causes, and devotion to higher ideals. It reminds me, in a way, of A TALE OF TWO CITIES, in that respect. It is a great noble work, and an indictment of war. There is also a great personal love story here. Hemingway writes (maybe intentionally) very cinematic novels.


Riveting and powerful, one of the ten best novels of the 20th century

by J. Norburn
(5/5)

For Whom the Bell Tolls is quite simply one of the best novels ever written. Honestly, I had relatively low expectations before reading it. I read A Farewell to Arms and found the terse, repetitive prose and stilted dialogue underwhelming. For Whom the Bell Tolls is superior to A Farewell to Arms in every way. This is a complex novel with some of the most memorable characters in modern literature.This mesmerizing novel neither glorifies war, not does it vilify it. Hemmingway's detached prose is world weary, exposing both sides of the conflict, allowing us to see that war, inevitable and futile, is never simple. Characters on both sides of the conflict struggle with their own fears and regrets. Both sides commit, and are subjected to, the atrocities and horrors of war. As different as each side may think they are from the other, in the end, they are all human and are not as different as they think.For Whom the Bell Tolls is riveting and powerful, easily one of the ten best novels of the 20th century. I can't recommend this book highly enough.


Wow! The bell tolls for thee...

by JoeyD
(5/5)

"War is not a life: it is a situation, one which may neither be ignored nor accepted."T.S. EliotFirst off, let me preface this review by stating that I have never been a big fan of war novels. Secondly, I would definitely not classify myself as an ardent aficionado of Hemingway's work. I highly respect, admire and appreciate his contributions to American Literature, yet he wouldn't quite make it into my top 10 list of favorite American authors. So that being said, I had my reservations and trepidations about what I was getting myself into right from the get-go. So many books... so little time...Published in 1940, this is a story about a young American man (Robert Jordan) who is in the International Brigades and attached to an anti-fascist unit during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Jordan is an expert w/ explosives, and his mission is to blow up a bridge during an attack of the city of Segovia. Most of the novel is told to us from Jordan's perspective, which is obviously motivated by Hemingway's own experiences while living in Spain during this violent, chaotic era. The story is essentially about the three days leading up to Jordan's mission and takes place in the mountains just north of the capital of Madrid. It is here, that he meets a truly unforgettable, colorful cast of characters - Maria, Anselmo, Pablo, Pilar, Fernando, El Sordo, Agustin, Rafael, et al..., all fighting the good fight with our hero Senor Jordan.Jordan, like most of Hemingway's male protagonists, is full of testosterone, a bit aloof and apathetic, disillusioned, and of course, heroic. Papa Ernie describes him further, early on in the novel: "He was serving in a war and he gave absolute loyalty and as complete a performance as he could give while he was serving. But nobody owned his mind, nor his faculties for seeing and hearing, and if he were going to form judgments he would form them afterwards." Like Ernest himself, Robert is a rough and tough, cynical, macho man. However on the flip-side of that coin, he is also a very sensitive and vulnerable soul, a flawed, complex character full of contradictions. He is a realist and a dreamer. He is a passionate lover and a fighter/soldier, a trusted, loyal friend and a bitter, vengeful enemy, etc... In other words, one big ball of paradox!Many reviewers have criticized Hemingway's characters for being too simple and unsophisticated. For example, the beautiful Maria, Jordan's love, especially takes a beating, for being so shallow and two-dimensional. However, I don't agree with that assessment at all. We have to remember that she is a simple, country girl who has been brutally treated by the enemy (I will not disclose how) and is caught up in trying to survive the savagery of a war. What do expect her to be like - Isabel Archer? Emma Bovary? Yes, Maria is a bit too simple and submissive for most strong, modern-day women to relate with. But Hemingway's creation of Pilar, well, there is a dame of different colors completely! She is one of the most fascinating and also one of the funniest creations in all of literature - a truly singular and intriguing character indeed!This was quite a nice surprise for me. I have only read five of Hemingway's pieces, yet this one is not only my favorite, but also has enticed me to pick up a few more of his classic works. It is the type of book that you either are going to love or going to hate and you will know which side of the fence you will fall on right from the get-go. Hemingway was a true minimalist, and spins this heart-pounding, intense yarn in a simple, straightforward manner. He doesn't develop his characters a la Austen, Balzac, Tolstoy, James, et al... but yet, few authors can do so much with so little like old Ernie could. And this classic is a prime example! Fiercely and austerely told, it is one hec of an intense ride!Highly recommended


A Bit Slow For Me

by John G. Hilliard
(2/5)

I want to offer a little dissent here. I thought the book to be a bit dull and slow. I really labored to get through it and becuase of it completely turned me off to the rest of his work. It could be that I spend too much time reading action fiction so I need a fast paced book to keep me interested.


Is Life Worth Living, Fighting For, and Dying For?

by John Panagopoulos "John Andrew Panagopoulos"
(5/5)

***This review may contain spoilers.***The title of my review is the question that encompasses and permeates Hemingway's deceptively simple and straightforward war saga in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (hereafter FWTBT). This existential question certainly torments FWTBT's protagonist Robert Jordan, an American ex-patriate, Spanish professor, and bridge demolitions expert allied with several Spanish communist guerrilla fighters against the fascists in their late `30s civil war. Robert certainly doesn't want to deal with this abstract dilemma. An efficient, meticulous professional, he merely wants to destroy a strategic bridge in order to slow the fascist advance. But, this task is not so cut-and-dry as it seems. Like an unemotional surgeon, Robert has to time the explosion precisely in order to delay the fascists enough so that the main communist forces led by General Golz can arrive in time to retaliate. This means there is plenty of idle, "dead" time to not only plan the demolition, but also to somewhat unwillingly get drawn into the lives, hopes, and fates of the guerrilla fighters.And what vibrant, compelling, unforgettable characters these fighters are! One of the most admirable fighters is the elderly but capable and loyal guerrilla veteran Anselmo who helps Robert execute the complicated demolition and attack lookout logistics. Despite his war experience, Anselmo wrestles with qualms about killing others, since it conflicts with fading but still strong religious convictions, but he constantly convinces himself that it is for the good of "The Republic". In spite of himself, Robert mirrors the same misgivings, even though he is a self-professed atheist. An even more conflicted guerrilla veteran is the swinish but cunning Pablo, who was once a dedicated insurrectionist but may have lost his nerve because of new materialistic longings, especially for horses. His allegiance to the cause is uncertain, especially to Robert. There is the alluring, violated, seemingly fragile and traumatized, but nevertheless determined revolutionary Maria, with whom the surprisingly (to him) smitten Robert shares a passionate relationship. Then there is the plump, matronly, wise, outspoken and totally indomitable amazon Pilar, wife of Pablo and fierce protector of Maria, the equal of (and probably superior to) any man. She provides Robert comforting adages, observations, and moral support. She has her own misgivings about war, fighting, and killing like the rest of the group, but her patriotism and the promise of a fair Republic, as well as her sturdy personality, keeps her going.As I said, despite his best efforts to distance himself from the guerilla fighters' personal dramas and remain practical and professional, Robert finds himself drawn in. Although FWTBT gives the lie to war's depiction as continuous, monumental action (in the novel, it is often quiet and dull with only occasional, sporadic bursts of fire and action), it seems to see the Spanish civil war as meaningful and important, unlike a lot of wars. FWTBT hints that Robert sees this war the same way and that he wants to contribute to the communists' worthy cause of freedom and autonomy. Not only that, it also seems he wants to perpetuate his grandfather's heroic Civil War legacy, and expunge the cowardly shame of his father's suicide.Nevertheless, even worthy wars can demand actions that can be unconscionable in peacetime. For example, Pablo's potential for betrayal prompts the guerrilla band and Robert to debate whether to kill Pablo. Again, killing is supposed to be wrong,but in this case may save the lives of others. But as counterpoint, Pilar relates the grisly tale of how Pablo, she, and several citizens of a Spanish town captured several fascists (including priests) and made them run a deadly gauntlet. Even though it felt right and pleasurable to beat and humiliate this evil enemy, and even though they were "losing their religion", Pilar still felt remorse for such barbaric actions. Not only were they barbaric, they were futile; the fascists took the town anyway. No wonder Robert struggles to keep a clinical, impersonal perspective on this war; he fears that if he cares too much, he can't do his job effectively.Even in his intimate relations with Maria, Robert keeps this arms-length attitude. Make no mistake, he appreciates her company and feels she has made his life sweeter and more substantial, but he also resents the fact that it happened too late and in war time and that war could end it. But of course Maria's mixture of unjustly tarnished innocence, her fierce devotion to him, and her staunch revolutionary parentage endears Robert to her and evokes protective feelings equal to Pilar's. He even goes so far to say that he is "married" to her and one with her and describes plans on how they will live their lives together in Madrid post-war, though FWTBT is a wee bit unclear as to how sincere Robert is about all this.As the war continues, and the bridge demolition time nears, this existential struggle plays out, most tellingly in Robert's internal monologues. Throughout FWTBT, his admiration for the guerrilla fighters rises and falls, his opinion of the war oscillates between worthwhile and incompetently chaotic, and his will to live and fight waxes and wanes. The chapters on the fascist's horrific besiegement of stalwart communist guerrilla fighter El Sordo, the Robert's guerrilla fighters' noble but impractical desire to help El Sordo, and guerrilla fighter Andres' resolute but probably futile efforts to get Robert's message to General Golz to delay his attack because the advancing fascists were not vulnerable enough - all this reflects Robert's vacillating thinking.To the very end of FWTBT, Robert struggles. Does it matter whether he blows the bridge up or not? The fascists will come anyway. Robert and his band must retreat, including Maria, whom he may not ever see again. Finally, a leg injury forces Robert to make a choice between two terrible actions that might be considered dishonorable at most times. However, in war time, either action might be seen as a noble self-sacrifice. Whichever Robert chooses, it will finally convince him that, in at least this circumstance, life is indeed worth living, fighting, and dying for.Some observations:1. Like Hemingway's other war novel "A Farewell to Arms" (see my Amazon review if you are interested) FWTBT deals with the pain and the elation of war, love, and inevitable death. I believe FWTBT is the greater novel because unlike "A Farewell to Arms" it finds hope where there is no hope to be found.2. The "thees", "thys", and "thous" in the dialogues between Robert and the guerrilla fighters sounded a bit artificial to me. Of course, FWTBT is based upon Hemingway's experience, so I must assume the dialogue is authentic. Still, it sounded like an Amish community.3. As in "A Farewell to Arms", the love interest Maria in FWTBT is decidedly compliant, obedient, and almost worshipful to her man. Of course, the circumstances in both novels explain that most un-feminist attitude. Still, it can sound like Hemingway's private romantic fantasy, especially with that unintentionally comic (to me) phrase, "Did the earth move?".4. If you haven't read FWTBT and plan to, keep a Spanish dictionary handy. Hemingway does translate most of the Spanish phrases he uses, but not all of them. Furthermore, be warned: many of the Spanish phrases are obscene, if amusingly so.


Gotta love Hemingway

by Jonathan Carr
(4/5)

The last time I read Hemingway's novels was some ten years ago in Spain. I thought I was pretty cool. I read "The Sun Also Rises and A Farwell to Arms." I don't recall what I thought of them. But one thing I do know is that it is sometimes difficult to separate the legacy or mystique of certain writers from the work at hand.I thought most of the book was very well done. The reality of war was crafted in a way that compares well to more modern portraits of war ("The Things They Carried," "Apocalypse Now," "Deer Hunter," "Jarhead"). The true violence of humiliation, dehumanization, and violation are hauntingly evoked. There are scenes in this novel that I will not forget: the killing of the fascists in Pablo and Pilar's village, the rape of Maria and the murder of her parents, the death of Anselmo at the bridge. The portrayal of men and women, those who try to hold on to some sort of moral clarity and those who lose their bearings, was brilliant. When it comes to men at war, the book shines.A technique that I found interesting was the way that Hemingway created the absent character of Kashkin. He serves as a counter point to Robert Jordan and as an example of all that could and eventually does happen. The absent character adds depth to the novel; it gives a skeleton upon which to hang the clothes of the past.However, there were places in the book where I felt uncomfortable, like watching the awkward intimacies of adolescents. The love scenes in the book were failures. And I keep trying to figure out why.One reason perhaps is that they happened without enough development. Like some romantic comedy, the two lovers see one another and almost instantly fall in love. Granted, the entire novel takes place in three days, but every other part of the narrative is carefully developed. Though the timeframe is compact, there is plenty of space in the narrative. The book is nearly 500 pages long. The sex, the declarations of love, the intimacy, it all seems hollow.In every other place in the novel there is complexity, nuance. But when it comes to romance, to the issue of love, the novel falls into absolutes and clichés. Robert Jordan is too righteous in his love for Maria. He is too loyal, too gentle. They love each other fully and doubtlessly. And in a novel that creates such a real portrait of war and moral ambiguity; complexity in loyalty, politics, allegiance, nationality, and idealism, to offer the reader such an ordinary, pop-song rendition of love nearly justifies skipping every section where one sees the words "little rabbit."Hemingway attempts to integrate language into the story by employing the occasional Spanish word along with an antiquated sort of English, full of thou and thee. This is supposed to simulate Catalan. But it does not work. It just makes characters that talk funny.But of course, it is after all Hemingway. And everybody should read it.


Could have been better

by Joseph Guillaume
(3/5)

I learned a very important lesson here; take a good peak at the book before you get it. The Scribner publication (paperback) of this Hemingway Novel wasn't the one I believe most people read. This was spattered everywhere with "Thee" and "Thou." That really detracted from the story. Unfortunately I don't think even with out that distraction the story wouldn't have been much better. It also would have helped me had I known more about the bigger picture. I'm not that familiar with Spanish history and wasn't sure who represented what. Also a strange personal quirk; I keep thinking of the protagonist Robert Jordan, and transposing him in my mind with Di Vinci Code protagonist Robert Langdon. I guess it's the common name Robert.


Banal romantic dialogue.

by J. Rodeck
(2/5)

Trite, by the numbers love story with spectacularly banal romantic dialogue. The author doesn't bother with much setting or character development. The two lead characters are two dimensional, with the girl too good to be true.He drinks on practically every page: Wine, beer, cognac, vermouth, brandy, whiskey and soda; morning, noon or night.It's hard to imagine what anyone thinks is so great about this book.


Powerful Statement

by K.A.Goldberg
(4/5)

Author Ernest Hemingway spared little in this searing look at the Spanish Civil War. Readers see that hatred, loyalty, doubt, atrocity, ideals, and emotional wear were all part of this tragic conflict. The story centers on American volunteer Robert Jordan and his anti-fascist comrades, a band of Spanish Loyalist guerillas operating in the hills behind enemy lines in 1937. Jordan is planning to blow up a Fascist-held bridge as part of an upcoming Loyalist/Republican offensive. His comrades include Pablo, a once-dependable leader now unstable and sick of war, Pilar, a woman of remarkable fiber, and Maria, a victim of fascist atrocities with whom Jordan falls in love. These guerillas hide in the hills while Hitler's bombers fly overhead helping the fascists. Readers learn of atrocities committed by both sides, and see that ideals can die along with those that fall in battle.This 1940 novel makes a powerful statement, despite losing some effect from Hemingway's wordiness and too-lengthy descriptions. Despite this flaw, readers see the cruelties of war, and sense the author's heartsickness at this dreadful conflict.


Leaden

by kennedy19 "kennedy19"
(3/5)

Please don't dismiss me as one of those idiots who can't spell and says a book is "boring" because it's long and they'd rather be listening to heavy metal music. I read "Moby Dick" and did not find it boring. I read "Bleak House" and did not find it boring. I read "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" and did not find it boring. But "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is, well, boring. Here's why: I never gave a damn for this Hemingway hero Robert Jordan. He seems like a pretty aimless tough guy, making love every fifth chapter and cussing around trying to be cool. The ending was entirely unsatisfactory - we end up having gone just about nowhere. Fortunately, Pilar is an interesting character who adds some spice to the proceedings. The only real point to this novel seems to be conveyed by its fine title, a reference to a John Donne poem. Loosely, the poem conveyed the idea that whatever happens to any human being ought perhaps to be the business of all of us. In the case of the novel, Hemingway draws attention to the largely overlooked Spanish Civil War and its suffering. But he does so with the title page alone; the rest of these 400 pages add little to this noble premise. Hemingway needs a better plot to devote his fine style to.


What More Can You Ask For?

by K.M. Weiland, Author of Historical and Specul...
(5/5)

I read many, many books. I read many good books. But I read few books that are masterpieces and that I *know* are masterpieces before I've even finished them. This is one of them.Hemingway is a writer of many virtues and his share of faults. All his virtues and few of his faults are on display here. He brings to life a little skirmish in a "little" war that would perhaps be largely forgotten by most of the world were it not for this very book. His characterizations (with the exception of Maria, who however well she serves her purpose, is still, frankly insipid) are brilliant. Jordan is easily one of his most likable and relatable heroes, Pilar one of his best female characters. The conflict, and especially the climax in the last fifty pages, is electric.Thought-provoking, moving, entertaining - what more can you ask from a book?


A Story of Life, Love, Lost and Ultimately Death

by Leonard Seet
(5/5)

Ernest Hemingway's FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is not only a war novel but also a story of life, love, lost and ultimately death. Robert Jordan lives to fight with the republican guerillas and he dies fighting alongside them. He lived a life that meant more to him than living in American suburbia with his wife and two children and a dog, working a nine-to-five job. That wouldn't be Robert Jordan, or Ernest Hemingway.Hemingway's minimalist writing reflects the pristine snow trails and pine forests, which reflect loneliness and death but also love and hope. Like a full moon reflected in a still lake. A poetry of war and camaraderie, where the violence of the writing would only temper the tragedy of lost. To experience these feelings is to experience the beauty of Hemingway's writing. For a war novel, there aren't many battle scenes. But we get to feel Robert Jordan's subdued emotions against the violence of war. The power of his love for Maria is that it couldn't be consummated. In the end, he chooses the only path consistent with his other choices: to fight to the end and risk capture and torture rather than have his comrades shoot him.


good descriptions of the calamities of war

by L
(4/5)

The book chronicles an American dynamiter's mission to blow up a bridge controlled by Spanish fascists. The book doesn't focus on the war as a whole but rather on the toll war takes on the people living in it. The main character, Robert Jordan, bands with a guerilla group of which the war took its toll. One man once a great fighter has now become a hopeless drunk who's only form of comfort other than the bottle is taking care of horses left behind. His wife who had been beautiful once now has aged and lost her vivacity. Another young woman lost her parents in a brutal confrontation with fascist forces and dehumanized in the process. Hemingway's style of writing was a little too wishy washy but some of his emotional descriptions of the things that happened were intriguing. Two of the more emotional scenes were some of the characters flashbacks of what they had gone through during the war mainly having to do with killing an enemy and being captured by an enemy. There have been many stories about war and although war isn't something anyone can be used to this book took a perspective that has been thoroughly explored by today's standards. At the time the book was written there was a lot of censoring where the word "obscenity" was substituted hence the book was intended for a wide audience. During Hemingway's time it is understandable how this book can be grappling to an American audience. But since then World War II and the Vietnam War have pushed aside this conflict in the minds of Americans with their tales of calamity and loss and pretty much reiterating the themes of Hemingway's book. This is the reason why a typical American reader may not find pathos for the book. Maybe if the book talk more about Franco, ideologies and the bigger picture of the context of the war then it may be more interesting to contemporary readers. But this book still has a story that will be valuable for future generation. In other words, this is a good book for students.


A classic that I am glad to have read

by Linda Linguvic
(4/5)

This 1939 novel is set during the Spanish Civil War, a war that most American know little about. The hero of this book is Robert Jordon, an American volunteer hoping that this rebellion would make a better world. He wants to do good and be a hero but whether or not this happens is basically left for the reader to decide.The book is about his mission to blow up a bridge and the people he meets along the way - Spaniards hoping for a better life and getting caught up in warfare. Naturally there is a love interest between Robert and Maria, a young woman who had been very mistreated by bad guys and is now seeking refuge with the cave-dwelling freedom fighters of the revolution.The writing is sparse and meaningful. The setting is depressing. People struggle. People die. The future looks bleak.This is fine story, well told. However I was annoyed by some of the narrative. Hemingway doesn't uses curses and so the word "obscenity" is used where a curse would logically go. I don't know if this was in only the edition I was reading but I found it very annoying and it broke my concentration.This is the only Hemingway book I have ever read and I did like the writing. I found the plot easy to follow and I identified with and pitied all the characters. It is a classic of a time and a place and a writer who will long be remembered.


Hemingway's prose begins to grow a spare tire

by M. Buzalka
(4/5)

For Whom the Bell Tolls is Ernest Hemingway running a bit to flab. A master of constructing concentrated scenes of great power, often using dialogue alone, or with vividly rendered details sparsely catalogued, Hemingway I think starts to get lost when he begins piling up the words, and nowhere did he pile them up more than in this work, his longest ever. That's not to say that as a consequence the novel is a failure. In fact, there are many fabulous scenes in this novel, from the excruciating narration of how one village executed its fascist sympathizers and another executed its Republican mayor and his wife, to scenes where characters verbally joust while the underlying tension almost sweats from the walls. There are also vivid battle scenes where we feel the intensity experienced by the characters and another involving a sojourn across the battle lines to deliver an important message.Unfortunately, there are also a number of scenes where the dialogue spins off into desultory BS sessions to no great purpose, and extended internal monologues that feel like Hemingway never edited down his raw rough draft. Perhaps worst of all are the intimate interludes between the central character, Robert Jordan, and the heroine Maria, which to me are some of the silliest sex scenes I've ever read ("little rabbit"?). These scenes cartwheel into the offensive when they imply that the worst thing about the gang rape Maria experienced is that it might be a turn-off for Jordan. Frankly, I found Hemingway's vicarious need through Jordan to be the virile but sensitive manly man to the naive, submissive, sexually and psychically damaged Maria rather creepy.As for the length of For Whom the Bell Tolls, I think it was very deliberate on Hemingway's part. When the novel was published in 1940, Hemingway was coming off a lackadaisical decade in which his only major works were a pair of rather self-indulgent nonfiction works about two of his hobbyhorses, bullfighting (Death in the Afternoon) and big game hunting (The Green Hills of Africa), and the slipshod "novel" To Have and Have Not, which reminded nobody that the same guy had also written The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. True, he had also produced a number of very fine short stories ("The Snows of Kilimanjaro," "The Short Happy Life of Francis MacComber") during this period, but Bells to me just seems like Hemingway's deliberate attempt to show that he can produce prose in volume with the best of them. But like I said, that's not playing to his strengths.One other note I would like to mention is Hemingway's take on the internal politics of the Spanish Republican side, which were dysfunctional to say the least. He seems remarkably sanguine about Soviet influence, which seems very naive compared with the much more measured view taken by George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia. Of course, by the time For Whom the Bell Tolls was published, in late 1940, the verdict was in in Spain (the "good guys" lost) and the fascists (Germany and Italy) and the Communists (the Soviet Union) had gone on to other predations.I'm sorry for dwelling more on the faults than the virtues of this book in this review. I really did enjoy reading it again, but I figured the virtues were already well documented by the many five-star reviews here, so I thought I'd give my thoughts on things that haven't been mentioned as much but which I think are important to keep in mind when reading For Whom the Bell Tolls.


The Best Of Hemingway

by M. Galindo
(5/5)

I had put off reading this book because I felt it would be "boring." I was so very, very wrong! Granted, I have not read everything Hemingway has written, but I find it difficult to believe he could have written anything to surpass this novel. I am thankful that I read "A Farewell To Arms" and "The Sun Also Rises" before reading this book, as it would have set the standard too high.In the previous books by Hemingway that I've read, he didn't seem to develop the characters fully and many of the scenes were only the sparcest of details. It seemed much had to be filled in by the reader. But 15 years after writing "The Sun Also Rises" Hemingway breaks through with "For Whom The Bell Tolls!" In this book, Hemingway gives depth to his characters - the reader comes to know, understand, and identify with each character in this book. Hemingway also provides a wonderful description of the area. One can almost envision the mountains and villages and the bridge, which plays a central role. During the scenes involving fighting, the reader can almost hear the gun shots and watch the anguish of those injured or killed. Even in the quiet times of the book, the reader can easily place themselves at the same table as the characters and truly feel they are a part of the story.The ending is easily figured out, but that doesn't seem to matter. Even though the reader might suspect or even know what is to happen, the events leading up to it keep the reader enthralled.This book is a real page-turner, and Hemingway at his best. This is not just a "guy's book" - not at all! This is a story for both genders. Treat yourself to a literary masterpiece! You will not be disappointed!


Great Novel Read Forty Years Apart [30][68]

by Miami Bob "Resurgent Reading"
(5/5)

Written in typical Hemingwayesque ploddingly simple style, this book morphs English and Spanish in a unique manner for its period (1940), which subsequent writers have copied or embellished. Spain is Hemingway's love. During this time, most loved Paris - like friend Fitzgerald,. But, dry heat and bull running mania were for for this man.Spanish sayings abound in this novel about simple people asked to do a job - perhaps simple - in the name of the cause: blow up a bridge. But, the pithy and poignant statements of implyingly illiterate gypsy Pilar cannot be matched by 17th century philosophers. For example Spain, in her words, is "where blasphemy keeps pace with the austerity of religion."When protagonist Robert Jordan speaks English for a short time to some of the group, Pilar tells him to revert to Spanish as "no language is truer." She later concludes that "Spanish is shorter and simpler."And, Hemingway's influence on this language shows as some verbs are paradoxically used -- each time the root of Spanish for English usage. One example is to constantly implement Spanish molestar in English sentences to ask that people stop molesting one another, when the translation is not to bother one another.But, these linguistic nuances are the special effect, the unique style, the cutting edge to the Nobel winning writing style of Hemingway. It is the sentences of Spanglish or otherwise, compounded with his ever seemless simplification, that make this novel resound.I enjoyed this novel also for its slow beginning and its heightening to a crescendo for its ending. His language and other writing angles seem to mature as the novel progresses. He slowly captures the reader, and has you under his exclusive control the last third of the book.Although Hemingway makes this a love story at a time of war, parts are seemingly unreal. Knowing that he is going to die the next day, Robert Jordan meets one last time with beautiful Maria. And, as they are about to start doing the deed, he stops and asks if she hurts. I am sure that you can interview many a disagreeing soldier under similar circumstances and ask if the concept of pain to the sexual partner ever entered their mind when they were having what would perhaps be their last moment of heaven on this man's earth - they would all agree that this was not exactly what they had in mindBut, this is a classic and worthy of reading. I waited over 40 years between readings and received very different messages. Each time good.


An incredible look at humanity

by Michael Delaware
(5/5)

Hemmingway touched my heart as a reader in a way no author ever has. I cannot put down in words to describe the kind of masterpiece this novel is.


A powerful tale of the Spanish Civil War

by Michael J. Mazza
(5/5)

Set during the Spanish Civil War, Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American who is serving as a demolitions expert for the Republican cause. The novel follows his experiences with a band of guerrilla fighters as he undertakes a mission to blow up a strategic bridge. The whole novel, except for some flashbacks and reminiscences of various characters, covers just a few days.Although the novel focuses on a small number of characters in a fairly compressed time period, Hemingway attains a real epic feel with this book. The novel is fairly lengthy (471 pages in the 2003 Scribner edition), but I found it to be a swift read--indeed, often difficult to put down. There is much that is noteworthy about this novel. It offers a compelling perspective on war from the viewpoint of guerrilla forces, rather than conventional forces (interested readers might want to check out Mao Tse-Tung's "On Guerrilla Warfare" for some theoretical and historical perspective). The novel also deals with the phenomenon of ideologically committed foreign forces in Spain's Fascist-versus-Republican conflict.Hemingway deals with the issues of love and sex in a combat zone, as well as with the roles of women in a guerrilla force. Other significant issues include loyalty, leadership, communications, military hardware, the impact of weather and terrain, and the connection between guerrilla and conventional forces. Particularly interesting is Hemingway's portrait of Robert Jordan as a technically and tactically skilled guerrilla fighter, and as a leader of guerrilla fighters. Thus the book should interest not just lovers of literature, but also serious military professionals and students of the history of warfare.Hemingway offers a grim and graphic look at the brutality of 20th century warfare. War is not glamorized or sanitized, and atrocities are described in unflinching detail. The characters explore the ethics of killing in war. As the story progresses, Hemingway skillfully peels back the layers of Jordan and other characters to reveal their psychological wounds. But the book is not all about pain and violence. In the midst of war Hemingway finds the joy and beauty that keep his characters going. He also incorporates storytelling as a powerful motif in the book; his characters share stories with each other, recall missing untold stories, or resist a story too hard to bear. In Hemingway's world storytelling is as essential a human activity as eating, fighting, and lovemaking.Hemingway's writing appeals to all the senses as he creates some vivid scenes. He demonstrates his mastery of the art of fiction; he continually makes interesting choices and creates some really striking and beautiful passages. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is an exceptionally haunting work of literature; I consider this rich and rewarding text to be an essential volume in the canon of war fiction. For intriguing companion texts that also deal with the Spanish Civil War, I recommend "Spain's Cause Was Mine: A Memoir of an American Medic in the Spanish Civil War," by Hank Rubin, and "The Confessions of Senora Francesca Navarro and Other Stories," by Natalie L. M. Petesch.


Good passages, but not Hemingway's masterpiece

by Michel Baudin
(2/5)

This book has great passages, as other reviewers have pointed out, like Pilar's tale or El Sordo's last stand, but is otherwise too long. It has three major flaws:1. The hero's love interest, Maria, is a uninteresting and unattractive. Most of the other characters feel like flesh-and-blood, flawed people, but, for reasons I can't fathom, the author gave Maria the psychological depth of a pet.2. The hero's dialogs with Spaniards are in a distracting and ridiculous form, resulting in lines like "Eatest thou always onions for breakfast?"3. The characters' swearing is clumsily bleeped out, with lines like "Obscenity thy mother!" At first, I thought that the Kindle edition I was reading had been censored, and returned it. I switched to Scribner's 1968 print edition, and found the same. I cannot believe that Hemingway actually wrote that way.Another strange passage that is also dating the book is one where the hero views himself as "taking part in a crusade," adding "That was the only word for it although it was a word that had been so worn and abused that it no longer gave its true meaning." And what exactly is the true meaning of "crusade"? Historians have long known that crusaders were nothing but thugs rampaging through the Middle-East. Even Voltaire wrote about it in the mid 18th century;The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, 23 years ago. Yet Europeans and Americans have, until recently, used the crusades as a symbol of a generous and benevolent undertaking. EvenCrusade in Europereferred to the liberation of Europe as a "crusade."


A riveting novel of loyalty and courage

by Midwest Book Review
(5/5)

Ernest Hemingway was one of the most popular, influential, and charismatic of the American 20th century novelists. Books On Tape has undertaken to publishing an unabridged audiobook edition of Hemingway's body of work. Ably narrated by Alexander Adams, For Whom The Bell Tolls is Hemingway's classic story of Robert Jordan, an American fighting with anti-fascist guerillas in the mountains of Spain. This riveting novel of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, inspired idealism and battlefield disenchantment is a timeless testament....


Sparse, it's not

by M. Pickering "m1471"
(3/5)

For Whom the Bell Tolls, is equally very engaging and very dull. Occasionally this novel cracks with energy, the tension among the characters is quite potent, and then at other times it bores you near sleep. The rambling monolgues can be great(like when Pilar is detailing Pablo's once fervent commitment to the cause) and then at other times the words seem to be an annoying roadblock that you have to wade through to get to the meaty parts. All in all I respect this novel and do think it is a good work, but I can't give it more than 3 stars, because of the chores it sometimes put me through.


Oft tedious tome---

by Nelson Aspen "Author/Journalist"
(3/5)

I love almost all of Hemingway's novels, but this one was a daunting effort. Line by line, or a paragraph at a time, the writing is Hemingway at his best. Yet, inexplicably, I found that as one chapter segued interminably to the next, the story and style became muddled and could not sustain my interest. There is much, however, that is worth the time...themes of monogamous love, war/conscience, life/death. The heart wrenching finale illustrates the notorious he-man's mastery to convey softer, "feminine" sensitivity. Definitely not the one to kick off a reader's Hemingway exposure.


Great Book

by Nick
(4/5)

If I had to recommend a single Hemingway book that would probably be this one. It's not your typical early Hemingway, and that's not a negative critic. The book is emotional, some passages are just really impressive. I think it's the one I preferred of all the books by Ernie that I read.One thing that makes this book special is the direct speeches. If you read this book you will not fail to notice a certain touch of 17th century in the way people speak to each other. I thought I would explain the reason for this as it is not self-explanatory for people who are native english-speakers. Spanish is a language where you have two forms of second person, "you"; as in french, and formerly English. This is the difference between the "you" and the "thou", which is used in this novel. Formerly, the "you" was the polite form, and the "thou" the familiar form (not the religious form as many might think since the only use where you actually hear it anymore is for religious stuff). So whenever you see "thou" being used in the novel you know it means familiarity, as in old english. If I remember correctly, Hemingway also uses turns of phrases in such a way that it makes them sound "latin", the way it would be done in Spanish, which is the goal. This is a bit weird I have to admit but you'll get used to it, just keep in mind it's used to approach more closely the reality of the Spanish language, and thus have a better "translation".Worth reading.


Radical Transformation

by Patrick Doherty
(5/5)

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is a great book if you are interested in the history of the Spanish Civil War. It is also useful if you are seeking insights into Hemingway. So much of the novel is taken directly from the author's experiences as a foreign correspondent in Spain for the North American Newspaper Alliance.There are many facets of the book which contribute to its outstanding reputation. Hemingway's treatment of Robert Jordan, the protagonist, is exceptional. Jordan is a very complicated man who is radically transformed by the events described in the book. He is also the first Hemingway hero to contemplate suicide.El Sordo is a leader of another guerilla band which is operating in the same territory as the band in which Jordan serves as an aide. The description of El Sordo's last stand on a hill against the Nationalists is an example of Hemingway's best writing.


His Masterwork

by Paul McGrath
(5/5)

Just about anything Hemingway ever wrote was pretty good and you really can't go wrong with him if you're looking for a good read. He is at his very best, though, in this one. It was written at the peak of his power and is rightly considered one of the great novels of the twentieth century.Like all great novels it gives you new insight as you reread it over the years. When a teenager, I recall being enthralled by the love story and the pure adventure of it. As a young adult, it was the tragicomic nature of the characters which was so engrossing. Later on as an adult, I was struck by Hemingway's view of the bleak, futile nature of human endeavor. This time around it was the political discourse I found to be thought-provoking; sections of the novel that in the past I had pretty much glossed through.A lot of the talk--from all of the characters--was that in order to make change, it was necessary to kill those who stood in the way of it. Each of them to varying degrees agreed with this. And it struck me that this was the prevailing worldwide philosophy of the time. Hitler and Stalin, of course, were the extreme examples, but this kind of thinking was prevalent here as well. There was an awful lot of sympathy in the good ole U. S. for what the Soviet Union was trying to accomplish, and although we never got to the point in this country where people were getting killed, FDR wielded his power like it was his personal possession. The point, I think, is that there is always someone in the world who is absolutely sure they know what's best for you. When someone like this gets in power, watch out.In any event, Hemingway is pretty even-handed about it and this commentary is actually only a small part of the novel. The story, as everybody knows, is about American Robert Jordan, who is sent by his communist masters during the Spanish Civil War to the mountains in order to blow up a bridge. There he is assisted by the guerrilla band led by Pilar and Pablo, which is comprised of the most memorable set of characters you will ever meet in literature.There is old Anselmo, perhaps the noblest of them all, dedicated and faithful to the cause, who agonizes over those he must kill and prays that he will be forgiven. There is Rafael the gipsy, incapable of staying at his post as he delightedly snares a couple of plump rabbits. There is the stolid and dull Fernando, oblivious to wit or double-entendre. There is the fierce Augustin, utterly committed to the cause.And then there is Maria, the nineteen-year old refugee--with deep, horrible secrets--and with whom Roberto falls hopelessly in love. It is the kind of love affair that is utterly captivating to the reader and the kind of thing that only great authors are able to pull off. Robert is drawn to her coltish, long-legged grace; her cropped, red hair; her brown, swarthy skin. Hemingway spends a lot of time on Robert's thoughts about her, and a lot of time with the two of them together. Their spoken endearments to one another--often playful, sometimes silly, occasionally solemn--could have easily slipped into the realm of the ridiculous, but never does under the sure hand of the great Hemingway. It is instead extremely moving and it should be mentioned that this is extremely risky to pull off.And Pablo. Once the fiercest of the Republicans, he is now well-fed and content in his mountain hideaway, has a dozen or so horses that make him rich, and knows that the actions contemplated by Roberto will bring an end to his safety. He is a schemer, Pablo, a clever, ruthless wretch, and many of the plot twists stem from his machinations.And finally, Pilar; the spectacular, magnificent Pilar; Pablo's wife. Her character is justifiably recognized for her description of the smell of death, and her description of the day that the loyalists drove the fascists out of her town--by forcing them to jump to their deaths, one at a time, over a cliff--but to me it is the smaller things that make her such an unforgettable character. She is bitter when the young man turns away from her when he is asked to kiss her, understanding that she has never been beautiful, and knowing now that she is, to him, repulsive. She describes in memorable detail her love affair with a matador in Valencia, and how she drank cold beer with the sweat dripping off the glass while he napped in the room behind her. She is coarse and often crude, but never cruel; she is hard as stone, but as deeply compassionate as anyone. She is a gipsy and a saint and the greatest creation of Hemingway's career.There is much more to talk about. The style of course, is all Hemingway, typically descriptive and insightful. But this novel is much richer. For once, with his excellent use of interior monologue--a practice he had been experimenting with for years--we finally get to know his characters in depth, rather then just viewing them from the outside like they are on a movie screen.Typically, his use of language is direct and to the point, but again, he is at his best in this one, so much so that he occasionally treads into the realm of the delightful. For example, by design or by necessity, Hemingway did not use obscene words in the novel. His creativity, though, in expressing the vulgar is nothing less than a thrill. Here are the first words out of Pilar's mouth, early on, as she castigates the gipsy: "What are you doing now, you lazy drunken obscene unsayable son of an unnamable unmarried gipsy obscenity? What are you doing?" Absolutely hilarious, and there is no way this could have been done better using any kind of vocabulary.Plot, characters, theme, everything. One of the greatest at his best. A novel not to be missed.


One of my Very Favorite Novels

by Prauge Traveler
(5/5)

For Whom the Bell Tolls is a story that will be with you forever after you have finished the last riveting page. All other books will be judged by standards set by Hemmmingway in this one. The Tragic story of Robert Jordan and his love Maria is more amazing than any other I have read, seen or heard. El Sordo's final stand reads the way the greatest symphony is heard. Tension and crescendo that builds and builds until you become one with the characters and their struggle. I have never read a book that ends like this one, and chances are a first time reader has not either. Get this book. Read it. This IS writting.


No man is an Iland ...

by Professor Joseph L. McCauley "Joseph L. McCauley"
(5/5)

I like this Hemingway book even better than A Farewell to Arms. It "stayed with me" long after I had forgotten most of the details. I read the book as a university freshman, then reread it after it came strongly to mind in summer 1987. I was standing on a steep, green meadow in Schwarzwald, reshuffling the deck of life. Like a Hemingway character, I was traveling around Europe living an adventure.Descriptions of many scenes are memorable. Reading as a twenty year old, dynamiting the bridge and the part where Maria crawls under the blanket with Robert Jordan were the strongest. One still likes those descriptions twenty-five years later, but one then also pays attention to the long description of old dead roses as the essence of the odor of death. And one never forgets the powerful ending. Here's how I remembered the ending before rereading it yesterday: Robert Jordan, mortally wounded, sends the pregnant Maria toward safety with the rest of his escaping band of comrades. Lying on his stomach on the steep meadow, as Franco's fascist troops come up the hillside into sight, he pulls back the bolt and takes a bead on the lead officer on horseback ....Because all dialogues in the book should take place in Spanish, Hemingway wrote partly in the early seventeenth century English of John Donne (readers familiar with the king James Version of the Bible, translated early in the seventeenth century, will easily recognize the language). This has the advantage of giving the reader the sensation of reading 'not-English'.It's still a very powerful book. In the context of history, Hemingway was impregnated with the Teddy Roosevelt brand of heroism.


One of Hemingway's best

by R. C. Kopf "curtis kopf"
(5/5)

I revisited this book in my early 40's and came away resold on Hemingway as one of America's greatest writers and an artist who stands the test of time. It's a shame, in fact, that Hemingway's caricature-friendly persona, life and writing style have sometimes obsured his work. Forget the macho image and the stories of drinking and hunting. He is an artist of the first order.For Whom... is a novel about the important things -- life, love, death, fear, the attraction and horror of war. What struck me throughout was how innocent the characters are and how genuinely Hemingway depicts the most difficult subjects, be it war (in this case the Spanish Civil War) or the love between Maria and Robert Jordan.Hemingway is a writer we need in our times. He focuses on the big, important issues without cynicism, and never shies from exposing what is in our hearts and minds. A classic.


Simply Complex

by Rehan Dost
(4/5)

This is one of several Hemingway books I have come to read, actually in this case, listen to.I loathe idling about so I decided while I wait, wherever that maybe, I would listen to an audiobook. I prefer the unabridged versions which in this case was quite long.I found the subject matter mysteriously complex ( who doesn't find love complex ) yet simplistic in it's exposition true to Hemingway's style.Each character is carefully developed and his/her relationships meticulously crafted and consistent with their dispositions.Hemingway explores humanity and allows us a glimpse of it in the most trying circumstances....love and war.It really is very hard to discuss the book without ruining details and the outcome so I will stop here.I would suggest getting the audicopy on ipod and listening to it on your next long journey overseas.


A Difficult Romanticism

by Robin Friedman
(5/5)

Hemingway's novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (1940) is toughly realistic in its depiction of the butchery of warfare. The book has the no-nonsense, fact-intensive style of a reporter. Yet, in its themes of love, death, heroism, and human brotherhood, Hemingway's novel is, in spite of itself, romantic in outlook, but romantic with an edge.The novel is set in Spain in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The Spanish Civil War was a multi-sided conflict between the democratically-elected government, the Republicans or loyalists, and its right-wing anti-communist opponents, the nationalists (fascists). The Republicans during this conflict had the assistance of the USSR. Their enemies, the nationalists, were assisted by Nazi Germany and by Italy. Hemingway was a correspondent in Spain at the time. His novel tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American instructor in Spanish at the University of Montana who had earlier spent much time wandering through Spain. In 1936, with the outset of the conflict, Jordan volunteered his services to assist the Republicans and became an expert in explosives. Jordan idealizes his grandfather who had been a hero in the American Civil War. Jordan's father had committed suicide. When the novel opens, Jordan is assigned to destroy a bridge in furtherance of a Republican offensive. He works with a group of guerrillas in the mountains.The story unfolds over a time of three days. Hemingway's book offers portrayals of a group of Jordan's Spanish compatriots, in addition to Jordan himself. Chief among them is a 48-year old woman, Pilar, physically unattractive, earthy, and strong-willed. She is the de facto leader of her group and is as central to the story as is Jordan. Pilar is the "woman" of Pablo, who was once a formidable fighter but who has become disillusioned by the conflict. The novel includes several scenes of high tension and near violence between Jordan and Pablo. In his efforts to blow-up the bridge, Jordan is assisted by Anselmo, an aged man who despairs of violence and killing but is devoted to the Republican cause. And, in the three days of the novel, Jordan meets and has a passionate love affair with Maria, a lovely 19-year old who has been saved from the nationalists by Pablo.Hemingway is known for a terse, elliptical writing style, and it is on display in this book. But the writing is highly varied, with long stream of conscious digressions by Jordan as he reflects upon his past life and upon the conflict in which he has thrust himself. Much of the writing is both figurative and digressive. Hemingway tried to transcribe much of Spanish idiom directly into English, particularly the use of "thou" for the intimate Spanish "you." He also makes considerable use of untranslated Spanish phrases. The book captures the speech patterns of soldiers under tension, with much use of colorful language. Hemingway does not reproduce this language directly but, in English, uses phrases such as "obscenity" or "unprintable" in place of the words themselves. In addition to telling the story of the bridge and its destruction, all the characters engage in long discussions of their thoughts and their prior lives. These discussions generally are directed to the brutality of the war. In an outstanding passage, Pilar tells of the destruction under the command of Pablo of a group of fascist leaders who are forced to run the gauntlet before being thrown down a cliff.Hemingway was in love with Spain, both for its beauty and its brutality. The novel has many discussions of bullfighting, largely told by Pilar as she recounts her experiences with earlier lovers. Pilar also has a power of clairvoyance in the story, especially as it relates to impending death. The book includes several vivid battle scenes. One of these scenes tells of the gunning-down by aircraft of a group of five of the guerillas assisting Jordan at the top of a small hill.(Aircraft has a large and fearsome presence in the book.) Another effective battle scene tells of the difficult destruction of the bridge and its aftermath.The love relationship between Robert Jordan and Maria comes to dominate the novel. The two become passionately attracted to each other and quickly consummate their relationship. The passages describing the couple's lovemaking are central to the story and effective. The inhumanity of war is juxtaposed against human commitment and the beauty of the everyday. Robert Jordan realizes that he is in love with Maria, Spain, and with life. This love, in the book, reaches its peak in heroism and self-sacrifice. Jordan comes to realize what in life he values. It is because of his realization, that he ultimately must give up the things he comes to cherish. Within its language of toughness and machismo, this novel has the theme of inevitability and of romantic tragedy.This is a book I read in high school many years ago when it was far beyond me. It is not an easy book, and not every part of it is successful. But it is an extraordinary novel. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to revisit the book when I was able to try to appreciate it.Robin Friedman


Feeling the earth move

by Roger Brunyate "reader/writer/musician"
(4/5)

I don't think I have ever taken so long to read a book and still finished it. This was my first major Hemingway and, so far from finding it direct and pithy, as the author is reputed to be, I thought it tedious and repetitive, turgid in its inner monologues, and astoundingly old-fashioned in its dialogues. And yet, and yet.... Hemingway, who saw the Spanish Civil War from the inside as a reporter, has a remarkable gift for describing places such as a guerilla camp in the high mountains, capturing the undertones between people who do not really trust one another, evoking the tension before a dangerous action, then setting out the course of that action in simple concrete terms. My reading accelerated as it went on, and in the end I could hardly put the book down.I turned to this after reading a much more recent book about that war, Dave Boling'sGUERNICA. Despite the more approachable style of the later writer, Hemingway clearly has the larger vision. Whereas Boling writes a sweeping family saga, Hemingway confines himself to a three-day period in a single area. The hero, Robert Jordan, is an American instructor from a college in Montana fighting the fascists with the International Brigade. He is sent behind enemy lines to blow up a bridge spanning a mountain gorge. To do so, he must recruit the aid of local guerrilla bands, who may or may not trust him or each other. From this simple assignment, the scope spans out in thought and flashback to a much wider canvas, not so much of place and time but of moral vision. For Hemingway (clearly anti-fascist, but no card-carrying red either) is concerned at every turn with human dignity, the liberty which makes this possible, the love and hope which makes it worthwhile, and the apparent impossibility of preserving these values in wartime. This is a novel of substance.Unfortunately, neither Hemingway nor Boling avoids the temptation to romanticize the common people of another culture. Most of Hemingway's guerrillas are two-dimensional at best, and rather difficult to tell apart. The exceptions are Pablo, the once-fearless leader now turned cautious, and his wife Pilar. But Maria, the rape-survivor with whom Robert falls in love (or at least into bed), is a male fantasy of eager compliance; he even addresses her as "little rabbit"! Worst of all is Hemingway's extraordinary decision to render spoken Spanish by means of an exaggeratedly literal translation, leading to lines such as: "And what thinkest thou of this of the bridge?" and the immortal post-coital question: "Didst not thou feel the earth move?" And his description of the act itself, a breathless homage to James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, may be a literary tour-de-force, but in that simple context it is laughably overblown. Hemingway had a better connection than most to people's souls and the movement of the earth; if only he did not go to such lengths to prove it!


Two Thumbs Up

by Sargon
(5/5)

This book gathers momentum slowly, but I guarantee that if you stick with it to the end you will be very well rewarded. I enjoyed this book for insight into history as well as military tactics. It's almost like you are behind enemy lines, eavesdropping on what is happening. But the last 40 to 50 pages swiftly gathers momentum both in action and emotional impact. But intertwined is this heart-wrenching love story, at least at the end it's heart-wrenching. I've read four of Hemingway's books, but this one ranks easily at the top. There is so much emotion and character in this book, the stuff that makes us human and heroic, and that makes Hemingway so great. The last 40 pages or so builds so much emotion, suspense, and excitement you cannot put it down--the mission climaxes, the love story climaxes, what a ride!!!


I man's gota' do, what I man's gota' do

by Scott Walker
(4/5)

Hemingway has a way of getting into our heads. The characters are plain spoken; almost Shakespearean at times; with powerful, philosophical paragraphs sprayed in. His interest in bullfighting is obvious if you have read any of his work; and is not ignored here. Against the rules of writing he uses the Spanish tongue; although irritating, he gets away with it.Set in the mid 1930's, and centered around an American munitions expert fighting to help the cause of removing the Germans, Italians, and the rest of the fascist armies from out of Spain. He links up with a group of cave dwelling partisans outside of town. Much of the book is spent on his relationship with this group and him falling in love with a young girl, whom he can never have.Some may object to the ending, but I found it fitting; "I man's gota' do, what I man's gota' do"Wish you wellScott


Maybe my favorite book ever

by Shawn
(5/5)

As inspired as I was after "The Sun Also Rises", I am even more crushed by this one. If you have any idea of writing something real someday, steer well clear of "For Whom the Bell Tolls." What a genius work of character development and atmosphere.


Sorry, but not so great

by shiftingsandy
(3/5)

On the back cover of this paperback it's noted that Hemingway is known for his "terse" sentences. Did the person writing this "blurb" read the book? Probably not. In parts of this novel the author writes as if possessed by James Joyce, in a stream of consciousness style with long sentences. That's OK, or would be, if they added to the novel but, sorry, they don't. The author is also repetitive, repeating the same point over and over in some cases. But there is no reason in terms of the plot in writing the same point over and over in this book except to (in my opinion) stretch this novella out into almost 500 pages. The first couple and the last couple of chapters are essentially where the action is. One has to ask why this story is so revered and I think the answer is because the author was so admired. The press especially hero-worshiped Hemingway and perhaps this explains the too-much praise for this work. Still, not a bad book and when it's good, it's very good.


For Whom the Bell Tolls

by Spider Monkey
(5/5)

This is another masterly work from Hemingway. When he gets it right, he gets it OH so right. You have more tight, evocative language that conjure up the landscapes the characters live in, and wonderful characterisation so that you fully engage and sympathise with them. This is a great look at the Spanish civil war from the guerrillas point of view, with the assistance of an American explosives expert. It has romance, chivalry, betrayal, adventure and the rougher side of human nature. What more could you want from one novel? If you like Hemingway then this is another great novel and if you're new to him, this may not be the best starting place, but you'll still not be disappointed.Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.


A long repetitive novel about a cave

by sporkdude "sporkdude"
(2/5)

I've read two other previous books by Hemingway. Feel free to read those reviews as well. In his best piece, Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway describes a man's courage and conviction in a mini-epic struggle between and elderly man and the greatest catch of his life (a giant marlin). In another book, The Sun also Rises, Hemingway paints a very rich and colorful portraitt of Spain and Pamplona that I could not sum up in a few sentences. Both books create a vivid picture almost unequaled in literature.This book, however, does nothing of the sort. Excluding a side story that concerns the massacre of a town of locals, it is repetitive, boring, and provides little insight. The majority of this 450 page book takes place in one cave and provides very little substance. Personally, no picture was painted for me, no human character was exposed, and no real lasting meaning came from this book.I grew tired of the cave, tired of the speculation about killing the Guerilla leader Pablo, and bored of the lightweight, unreal romance. An editor could have spliced away pages 200-400, and the book would have not missed a beat.If you're a casual reader like myself, stick with other Hemingway works.


My favourinte Hemingway novel!

by S. Schwartz "romonko"
(5/5)

This book is definitely a "desert-island" book for me. I love all of Hemingway's extensive body of works, but this novel is by far my favourite. The story is about a young American man who is fighting voluntarily against Franco's Fascist forces in Spain. This man ends up leading a band of guerillas in what turns out to be a totally useless military foray. The novel itself only encompasses seventy-two hours, but in that time Robert Jordan, our American hero, loses his comrades in battle, falls in love, and is badly wounded. Hemingway's writing is masterful in this classic! This book, even more than "A Farewell to Arms" outlines Hemingway's thoughts on the futility of war, and the effect that war has on one single man. Even though the novel encompasses such a short time, Hemingway makes use of flashbacks to bring the reader into the series of events that led to this particular point in Jordan's life. Again, Hemingway makes use of personal experiences for this novel. He was actually involved himself in this Spanish civil war. His writing style is spare, although incredibly vivid. This is a truly wonderful book, that I feel encompasses all the best of Ernest Hemingway.


A Real-Time Classic

by Stacey M Jones
(5/5)

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS takes place in the space of three days, and Hemingway narrates nearly every moment in 471 pages. When reading large sections in one sitting, I really felt the weight of the experience settle on me. The novel also begins to feel increasingly existentialist as the absurdity of the structures of war and death play out for the characters involved. During "marathon" reading sessions on three different days, I came to see this as a literary, "real time" adventure, as Hemingway details almost every moment in the characters' lives.The novel starts out with the protagonist, Robert Jordan, lying on the forest floor. Jordan, an American, is in Spain fighting on the side of the Republicans in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Jordan is apparently a "code hero," a protagonist of Hemingway's who lives according to a code of behavior. He is a Spanish teacher from Montana who loves Spain, and is fighting, carrying out explosives missions, against the Fascists, who have a vast war machine.At the beginning of the novel, Robert Jordan is teamed up with a band of guerrilla fighters in the mountains near a bridge he must blow as part of a Republican offensive. Anselmo, an old man who knows the land well, helps Jordan scout the bridge. Other members of the band include Pablo, a formerly great fighter, we are told, who has now "gone bad." He cares primarily for his horses. His "woman" Pilar is a leader of the band, and she narrates on the first full day that Jordan is with them how the Republicans rose up against the Fascists in her town. The story is brutal and demonstrates the atrocities committed by the Republicans in the war as they bludgeon the town's Fascists to save bullets. Others in the group include Agustin, Eladio, Andres, Fernando and Rafael, a Gypsy. And Maria. Maria is a young woman who was the victim of atrocities in her town. She was rescued by this band of Republicans and now lives with them in the mountains. She is the "love interest."I love Hemingway's voice, and this novel continues to demonstrate his ability, with that spare, journalistic style, to narrate loneliness like no one else. The seemingly simplistic style evokes a real pathos, and is especially suited to writing of war and the human spiritual conflicts such situations impose upon its participants. The reader is explosed to the morality issues of war, how characters feel about killing, what is its necessity, when is it moral, when is it wrong, etc.The story becomes existential, very Kafkaesque, as well, when one character's interactions with command are relayed by Hemingway. I laughed allowed at the absudities, but was struck by the dire consequences of these ridiculous desicions and actions. These situations show the war machine's indifference to individual human life and the ridiculous scenarios that arise from various leaders' individual conceits and worries.I think that the book's time frame of only three days makes a strong point about war and the people one serves with. For the reader, the band in the mountains are basically the only people Robert Jordan knows (though there are brief flashbacks). One can see how those who fight together can bond so deeply in a short period of time, as practically every moment is laden with portent and their fate as a group turns on such small things as an evening snowfall.I unequivocally recommend this book.


Typical Hemingway

by Steven M. Anthony
(4/5)

This is my third experience with Hemingway, and while I fully expect to complete the entire Hemingway collection, I can't quite find it within myself to award five stars to any of the works I've read to date.In each of the novels (The Sun Also Rises and Farewell to Arms being the other two) I've been entranced at times by the hauntingly beautiful writing, however there have been periods where the story drags, where the almost stream of consciousness style grinds the action to a halt. Not long enough to kill the story, but enough to impact the overall reading experience.This novel is set in Spain, during the Spanish Civil War, the idealogical precursor to the Fascist/Communist clash soon to come on the Eastern Front of World War II. The story primarily involves American Spanish professor and converted Republican partisan, Robert Jordan and the 72 hours he spends with an anti-fascist partisan force in the hours preceding a Republican offensive.The characters crafted by Hemingway are fascinating, most specifically the partisan leaders Pablo and Pilar. The interaction between the rebels and with Jordan are spellbinding. The character of Pilar is especially haunting and her story of the execution of the fascists (a/k/a prominent citizens) in her small Spanish village is some of the best and most captivating writing I've ever read.Unfortunately, in my opinion, this 470 page novel is about 100 pages too long, as it is interspersed with periods of inaction, punctuated by stream of consciousness meanderings, which admittedly many may find enjoyable.Some may find the style of language irritating (Thee, Thou, Thy mother, etc.) but I found this to be a minor issue. More problematic to me is what I can only guess is the censorship (either self censorship in light of the times or editorial censorship) whereby all instances of profanity or coarse language is omitted and replaced by bizarre alternatives. For example, these beauties from the mouth of Pablo, "I obscenity in the milk of all," and "Go and obscenity thyself." I find it hard to believe that Hemingway actually wrote this, and if not (or even if he did), these bizarre omissions cannot be rectified.Despite these minor complaints, this is an extremely educational piece of work, both from the standpoint of literature and for the insight it provides for an extremely important and interesting period of world history. Highly recommended.


DRESS REHEARSHAL FOR WWII

by Steven Travers "AUTHOR/WRITER"
(5/5)

EXCERPTED FROM "GOD'S COUNTRY" BY STEVEN TRAVERS"For Whom the Bell Tolls" is based upon Hemingway?s support for the anti-Communists fighting in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. He and many other Americans went over to fight in the war, which some say was a "dress rehearsal" for World War II. It did not materialize into the kind of idealized Spanish government that many had sacrificed for. The fascistic Francisco Franco ended up ruling an isolationist Spain until the 1970s. While the nation is now Democratic, the Franco regime was the final event that took Spain from greatness to mediocrity. Hemingway also wrote a stageplay about the Spanish Civil War called "The Fifth Column".


IMHO Hemingway's masterpiece...

by Surface to Air Missle
(5/5)

For Whom The Bell Tolls is a tour de force in more ways then one and ends being Hemingway's best work because of how accesible it is to a general audience.The first time I read this book I was 17 and I couldn't put it down which is a stark contrast to some of Hemingway's other works. Works like The Sun Also Rises, and Farewell To Arms I think require a bit more maturity to appreciate but FWTBT is a good pick for a more advanced high school student. The novel is more plot driven than Hemingway's other works and thus a bit more exciting and readable for the general public. Hemingway's story of an American demolition expert caught up in a mission amidst the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War is both compelling, suspensefull, thoughtfull, brutal and heartwarming all at once.Like many "classic" this book excels in most elements that are required for an amazing piece of literature. The charactization is superb. Robert Jordan and the supporting cast are fully fleshed out three dimensional characters. Of course the book is written in the classic Hemingway style. His own style of prose will put you into story as you live this three day adventure with the main characters. Finally there are many layers and themes to this book as it has something to say about war, man, personal honor and the usual Hemingway themes.This was Hemingway's second to last novel and the last of his more well known works. Having read most of his books, I think Hemingway really hit his peak here and fine tuned his craft. A truly amazing piece of work, FWTBT should really be read by everyone. If you only read one Hemingway book in your life this should be it. You don't need to be "well read" to appreciate this.Bottom Line: There is a reason why certain books are deemed "classics". FWTBT is the perfect example.


Great adventure story

by Thomas Hofer
(5/5)

Ernest Hemingway wrote another great adventure story with FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. His style is very vivid, and reading the book is like being on the scene of the Spanish Civil War itself. Prior to reading FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, I had read all his short stories while taking a short story course in college, then THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA. The short stories vary in style, except that they are also written in short sentences, just as Hemingway preferred. THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA tends to be boring, but FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is fascinating throughout. I just wish I had the time to read more of Hemingway's novels, just to see what they are like.


A Great Book About War, Love, and Devotion to Duty

by -_Tim_-
(5/5)

For Whom the Bell Tolls is a great book with large themes: war, love, devotion to duty, and the clash between modern, rational values and more traditional ones. At a higher level, it is about connections between people: indeed, the book opens with the following quotation from John Donne:. . . any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.Hemingway takes us inside a guerilla band during the Spanish Civil War, mostly through the eyes of Robert Jordan, an American professor-cum-demolitions expert. Jordan is a Communist - at least he is strongly drawn to Communism - who has come to Spain to fight fascism. He has character and a sense of duty. Since, from our vantage point, at the beginning of the 21st century, it seems that not many people do, this gives the book a kind of "long ago and far away" feel. Readers in 1940, when the book was published, no doubt experienced it in a more immediate way.This book includes many memorable secondary characters: among them Pilar, the wise leader of the band of partisans, Pablo, her drunken, amoral, but capable husband, and Maria, the love interest in the story.Like every Hemingway novel that I've read, this one is well written. Hemingway uses the archaic English "thou" for the Spanish "tu" and translates literally from Spanish to English to better convey an impression of Spanish dialogue to English readers. These devices are initially distracting but are actually very successful at taking the reader inside the minds of the Spanish-speaking characters in this book.This is a distinguished work and an exciting one. It deserves its acclaim.


Deserves to Be Called a Classic

by T. Karr "mild-mannered accountant"
(5/5)

Robert Jordan is a young American fighting against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. He is sent into the mountains to make contact with a small band of guerillas to blow a bridge in support of an offensive.Hemingway's tremendous strength of drawing characters that the reader comes to know and care about is on full display in "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Jordan falls in love with the young woman, Maria, who is seeking refuge from a world that has robbed her of her childhood innocence. There is Pablo, the former leader who has seen the futility of the war and cannot face the day without dulling his mind with wine. There is Pilar, Pablo's mate, who longs for her youth, but has now assumed the role of leader and mother to the small group of fighters.Robert Jordan and the reader come to know the dynamics of the group quite well. Jordan wrestles with the necessity of endangering the group of people for "the cause." This book depicts the contrast of war's brutality with the camaraderie of friends."For Whom the Bell Tolls" is considered a classic for a reason. This is a book that has aged well and will stick with the reader for a long time.


Hemingway in Full

by T. Leach "Jr."
(5/5)

If you read only one, perhaps this should be it. I am not a trained student of Hemingway, or of literature for that matter. I know what I like, and I can recognize junk. You don't have to be an expert or even fully understand the author and his times to appreciate what a superb novel this is. As I was reading it, I could realize why Hemingway was so honored, even during his lifetime. The story is basic, though the setting is in unsual one for most American readers (who today probably would guess that the "Spanish Civil War" has something to do with General Lee and the Alamo). The main character, Robert Jordan, is an American leftist attached to a guerilla unit in the Spanish mountains. Like Hemingway, Jordan is intelligent, deliberate, controlled, passionate, and motivated by his ideals. Through him the reader encounters the chaos of this amateur war that is being played by foreign professionals. The entire book, which is of some size, revolves around one mission and take places over only a couple of days. In addition to a political statement and a philosophical autobiography, this is a superb war novel. The book build up the mission (to destroy a bridge) so much that by the closing pages of the book, as the mission is unfolding, my heart was literally racing and I could not put the book down. I won't spoil it - but this one ends like so may of EH's books, and like EH thought life itself would end . . . .Great book - don't miss this classic.


Love, duty, courage, and sacrifice

by Utah Blaine
(5/5)

This rich novel explores many fundamental human themes including love, duty, perseverance, and sacrifice. Like all great literary works, it transcends the era in which it was written and speaks to readers for generations after the author has passed away. This is a great novel by a great writer, and I can't understand how anyone would rate this less than five stars. The novel spans only a few days, and contains the story of Robert Jordan, a volunteer in Spain who is sent on mission to blow up a key bridge with a band of guerillas behind the Nationalist lines as part of a Republican offensive. The novel is primarily a dialogue between Jordan and the members of the guerilla band. The tension builds to the final confrontation at the bridge. There are several extensive sidebars not directly relevant to the main plot, including the discussion of the fate of Pilar's village, and the last stand of El Sordo's guerilla band. These are probably the best written, most detailed, sections of the novel. Some would say that these distract from the main story, but I argue that they add richness and depth to the characters and to the events of the main plot.EH writes with a direct, readable prose. His characters are complex and multi-dimensional, and often conflicted. One may argue as to whether this is his best work or not, or whether he was a better writer of short stories or novels. What does it matter? This is one of the greatest war novels, indeed one of the greatest novels, ever written. In terms of richness and depth, only Zola's La Debacle is comparable to this work.One thing in particular struck me about this story that make it an unconventional war novel. Most war novels either take the philosophic position of patriotic glory for the homeland or war as a pointless exercise in destruction. Robert Jordan has a unique perspective in this book in that he is an outsider fighting for a cause, not for a country or a government. He isn't driven by patriotism, or love of country. He isn't fighting for the national army of his homeland. This gives him a unique perspective to question why he is fighting and what he is fighting for, particularly after he falls in love.


Psychological Tale of War

by Utah Mom
(5/5)

I fell hard for Ernest Hemingway in high school.I read A Farewell to Arms my sophomore year and fell in love with Hemingway and great literature. I read it over ever few years just because I can't get enough of the love story and Hemingway's gift for writing. Oh, he had a gift. I've also read The Sun Also Rises multiple times--sometimes because it was assigned and sometimes for fun. I've long heard that For Whom the Bell Tolls is supposed to be Hemingway's masterpiece and it's been on my to-read list for some time. (I have to admit that I have little to no desire to read about an old man in the sea. Sorry.)In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan is an American supporting the Republic in the Spanish Civil War. Jordan has been given the assignment to work with a small band of guerrillas to blow up a bridge at the moment of the Republic offensive. Over the three days he spends with the guerrillas the reader gets into his head and experiences the physical and psychological experience of being in war.I sat in my car waiting to do a family photo session this morning and finished this fabulous novel. It is powerful and emotional and just confirmed my belief that Hemingway is one of the greatest writers. I'm gushing, I know. He's not for everyone. I've pushed my husband to read both A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises and he's not a fan. My husband thinks Hemingway is just an angry drunk. He might be right but I'm going to encourage him to give Hemingway another chance and read For Whom the Bell Tolls. I think he will be glad he did.


A Classic that Keeps You Thinking

by Walt Steinbeck "Cabildero"
(5/5)

I have an original copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls that my grandfather gave me. For years I read the poem at the beginning of the book, (which has the same title as the book itself) but had never read the content. It is amazing that after years of reflecting on that poem, that reading the actual content of this classic meant so much more. As I am sure was Hemingway's intention, you can literraly reflect on that poem back through every single chapter in the book, and each time the poem will have a new meaning for the reader. This is a true sign, in my opinion, of a great author. I need to read this novel again, to pick up on some of the hidden inuendos and nuances I might have missed the first time, but that too will be time well-spent.This is a phenomenal book, by a bona fide, talented classic author. It is worth reading, reflecting upon, and reading again.


High Adventure and Historically Intriguing!

by wancow
(5/5)

Wrote this review for the Livermore Public Library 2013 Summer Reading Program:Blow up a bridge. That is the mission assigned to Robert Jordan.Blow it up at at the perfect time for it to be blown up, and that time is not set... he must know when to do it, and he has to figure that out himself.This is how the story of Robert Jordan, an American Expatriot opens, in the midst of the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway does a great job setting the scene, describing just enough detail to put you there. He also manages to give you a nice taste of Spanish culture, and it's various attitudes.The Spaniard's love of seafood is featured in Pilar's description of Valencia, Spain is second only to Japan in seafood consumption.What is very interesting is the dialogue. Hemingway goes to great lengths to accurately translate the way Spaniards speak to each other with formality. There are a lot of Thee's and Thys, and the structure of the speech is a little difficult to get used to.It took me a while to understand why I kept reading things like "I have indescribable and unprintable and I have forgotten the obscenity password." Indescribable, unprintable, and obscenity probably have more to do with the censors of 1940 than anything else. Still, it does a nice job of conveying the notion that an obscenity in Spanish carries a lot more weight than does one in English.This novel is high adventure, and Robert Jordan, his political affiliations notwithstanding, is a hero's hero. If you decide to look into reading a book that sits among the list of classics, here's one that truly deserves the title!


For Whom The Bell Tolls

by Wayne A. Smith
(4/5)

I am not usually a literature guy (preferring non-fiction and popular novels), but I read this because it is a classic and I wanted to experience Hemingway beyond my high school reading of "The Old Man and the Sea." (and honestly, because while dating my wife she revealed this as one of her favorite books and that aroused my curiosity.)This is a story that deals with the larger questions of life (and essential truths) and man's place in the world or at least in a challenging situation. So that qualifies as literature according to my wife's definition when I asked her what made literature "literature" a while ago.Protagonist Robert Jordan is an American volunteering with the Republicans fighting Franco's Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. A demolitions expert, Jordan's task is to blow a key bridge as part of a larger Republican attack. While waiting with a small band of guerilla's he meets and falls in love with Maria, a victim of the war and symbol for all innocents caught in aggression's path.Thus we have a literary work that addresses commitment to cause, love, and the battle between individual wants and the needs of and obligations to a larger cause.Hemmingway has a way with description and his prose is very well done and evocative - particularly one passage I liked when he described holding Maria's hand with ripening grain in an untrammeled field. His story is slow, however, for my tastes and the descriptions and inner conversations of Jordan are much more prevalent than scenes where anything called action could be said to be occurring (though the action scenes are pretty good when they do occur). I imagine the ending will be unsatisfying to some, but for literary minded folks be the source of discussion as to how the final scene may have played out and what it meant in terms of tying the story's themes together.


the best american novel about the spanish civil war

by woodrow locksley "tdlockwood"
(5/5)

For Whom the Bell Tolls is one of Hemingway's masterpieces.The novel is set during the Spanish Civil War and at the center of it is Robert Jordan an American who has joined the international brigades supporting the democratic Spanish government against the Fascist insurgency led by Fransisco Franco. The focus is onJordan and the loyalist guerillas he is with and their mission of blowing up a key bridge which would enable the loyalists to trap a fascist army, The other part of the novel focuses on Jordans relationships with the guerillas particularily a young woman named Maria. Jordan and Maria fall in love and it is a compelling story but Jordans relationships with the guerilla leader Pablo and his wife Pilar as well as the other loyalists are also compelling. The novel has an air of tragedy about it for the fascists destroy a large loyalist army before the bridge can be demolished and we know that the Fascists end up winning the war. Jordan is one of Hemingways most compelling heroes and he carries the novels. You see Spain through his eyes and Hemingway makes you believe you are in Spain in late 1938. This is a great novel and I recommend it highly


The Bell Tolls for Ernest

by Yan Timanovsky
(4/5)

Perhaps the bell tolled for Ernest and his bid for literary greatness with the passing of this book. Did Hemingway exhaust all his courage, strength, and virility in this work?FWTBT is leagues away from The Sun Also Rises, taking themes from A Farewell to Arms to another level. To the extent that Hemingway wanted to reach the apex of truth in storytelling, and to find a suitable language to express it, this book is a great achievement. Hemingway chooses Spanish modulation of English words to power his narrative - from the start, the reader senses the honor, strength, and spirit every sentence spoken carries with it.Ernest is not just translating from Spanish to wow us; the reader feels that when he wrote this book, Spanish was the only language that could express his happiness, his sadness, his pleasure and suffering. Maybe Spanish contained the words and meanings Hemingway and those involved in the war for Spanish liberty sought desperately every night by the campfire - words of fear and love.To me, this book was Hemingway's most significant attempt at articulating his life philosophy. It is ominous in the hero's struggles with his personal and family history - of duty, resignation and death, inability to hope or believe, or believe that happiness can last. You might argue that El Sordo's last stand is followed by Hemingway's personal literary last stand - against fascism, fear, and life's various illusions. This is Hemingway's last battle. Thereafter, he is honorably discharged to a life of fishing and beautiful memoirs.


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