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In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from the good fight For Whom the Bell Tolls 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 to Hemingway after reading the manuscript no one ever so completely performed it Greater in power broader in scope and intensely emotional than any of the author's previous works it stands as one of the best war novels of all time

10 thoughts on “For Whom the Bell Tolls

  1. says:

    'Robert Jordan sits on the pine needle floor of the pine forest the scent of pine drifting through the pine trees which surround him Gazing through the pines he sees a mountain which reminds him of a breast It is domed like a breast but without a nipple unlike a breast The breastness of the mountain is superb If only it was covered in pine needles and pine trees and had the scent of pine wafting around it Then Robert would truly be happy' For Whom the Bell Tolls is allegedly a novel by Ernest Hemingway Set during the Spanish Civil War it is a story about an American dynamiter who is attempting to blow up a bridge in order to counteract Franco's forces Our main character Robert Jordan who is essentially a bad haircut personified might win the title of 'most boring protagonist to ever appear in print' Robert spends most of his time sitting on the forest floor and thinking about breasts Poor Robert his life really stinks When he isn't thinking about boobs he goes off on fifty page long flashbacks to his life before the war when he was a young American in Madrid cornering young girls at house parties and telling them how Kid A is actually the connoisseurs' choice when it comes to Radiohead albums but he has a soft spot for Pablo Honey What Robert needs is a feminine foil A woman who can really stand up to him and someone the reader can truly get behind So Papa Hemingway shits out Maria a woman so badly written that the only thing I can remember about her is that her nipples point upwards Possibly the most lamentable aspect of Maria's character is the fact that she was raped by a group of fascists a tragic backstory that Hemingway glosses over into order to talk about what a fantastic rack she hasHemingway's prose has always been an easy target I would never ever stoop so low In fact I will say thank god for Hemingway's prose If For Whom the Bell Tolls was actually written at a literacy level higher than that of a kindergartener then it would genuinely be unreadable On top of that Hemingway makes the frankly strange decision to self censor all of the obscenities throughout the novel 'What the fuck' becomes 'what the muck' and so on Hilariously he also often substitutes obscenities with the word 'obscenity' So there are genuinely moments in this novel where characters say 'what the obscenity are you doing?' and 'go obscenity yourself' My advice to all of you is to stay well away from this mess There's nothing to see here folks If you are interested in a book on the Spanish Civil War read Orwell's Homage to Catalonia If you want a good book about a bridge and hey who doesn't read Willa Cather's Alexander's Bridge God for whom the bell tolls? It tolls for me

  2. says:

    Ok before I commit the sacrilege of dismissing this classic permit me to establish my Hemingway bona fides I have read and loved just about everything else he wrote and have taught Sun Also Rises Farewell to Arms and many short stories and had a blast doing it I've read Carlos Baker's classic bio and numerous critical articles on H I've made the pilgrimage to Key West and taken pictures of his study and the hordes of 6 toed cats I dig Papa ok?But I can not stand this book I should say up front that I've never been able to tolerate it long enough to finish it twice First time was nearly 30 years ago and as a fairly recently discharged Army troopI took up this book with much anticipation and excitement I couldn't get past about half way through I found the prose so incredibly flat and dull as to be soporific and yes I fully understand and appreciate H's famous Iceberg Principle of writing the thing left unsaid etc The problem wasn't the thing left unsaid; the problem was too many things said and in a very boring fashion How could a book with such a dramatic plot be so dull I wondered in shock? It's all in the language or lack thereof I have a theory that great short story writers often don't make great or even good novelists because the voice and style that works so well in the shorter genre just doesn't translate to the longer one John Cheever case in point; IB Singer to a lesser extent Now of course H did write great novels; this just isn't one of them Take away the language in H's novels and what are you left with borderline juvenile adventures and fantasies or at best semi journalistic accountsCompare the opening of Bells with the opening of Farewell to Arms be honest and tell me if you hear even one faint echo of the magical rhythm of that famous opening in Bells anywhere not just the beginning? And the dialogue sweet jesus joseph and mary I've heard corporate phone recordings with intonation and human warmthA few months ago our book club selected this novel At first I kept my opinions to myself and hoped I would have a different response reading this time I readily acknowledge that my reading tastes have evolved matured I hope significantly over the years and maybe I just had a tin ear 30 years ago Not the case I couldn't even get beyond the first 6 pgs this time That flat voice was duller than ever Waterboarding would be tolerable than reading 400 pages of this stuff I thought I've choked down some mediocre books before for the sake of fulfilling my civic duty as a long standing member of our book club but I couldn't do it this timeThis is not to suggest that the rest of you are wrong I have a dear friend who's read great literature than I can remember and he loves this book and expresses great shock when I tell him how much I hate it But there it is

  3. says:

    ”No man is an Iland intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea Europe is the lesse as well as if a Promontorie were as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; 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” John Donne Robert Capa’s iconic 1936 photo of a falling soldierBetween 1936 1939 a war happened in Spain The world refers to it as the Spanish Civil War but to the citizens of Spain it is called The Civil War It was a war for control of the soul of a country It was fought between the Republicans who were democratically elected and the Nationalists a Fascist group wanting to overthrow the government Most people were not aware at the time but really this Civil War was a precursor a warming pan for World War Two The Soviet Union and a coalition of other future allies who stayed behind the scenes provided help and advice for the Republicans Germany and Italy provided support for the Nationalists There were international brigades formed up of volunteers from all over the world who came to Spain to fight against fascism They lost Francisco Franco leader of the Nationalists was the dictator of Spain until his death in 1975 Ernest Hemingway went to Spain as a war correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance and was hoping to find some great material for a book The dialogue is written in an archaic style implying that it is the most correct translation from the Spanish The thees and thous are distracting and certainly added some ponderousness to a book that was set in the 1930s not the 1630s Hemingway in SpainRobert Jordan is an American who has been trained to be a dynamiter He joins a band of gypsy freedom fighters up in the hills of Sierra de Guadarrama with orders to blow a bridge that may or may not be important The chances of survival are slender because they are too few and the timeline too tight He meets Maria who has been saved by the band from the Fascists who had tortured and raped her He falls head over heels in love “I loved you when I saw you today and I loved you always though I have never seen you before” It could be the added tension of facing certain death coupled with her very real vulnerability that made him protective and lustful for her Their relationship uickly goes medieval with her begging him for ways to help him shining his shoes pouring him wine mending his clothes or fetching him something to eat She is constantly insecure about her appearance because the Fascists had cut off her hair and she only had a stubble grown back The relationship is built on the most shallow grounds It is difficult to conceive that it would have survived a move back into a regular life “But did thee feel the earth move?” I’m not sure if this is where the concept of sex being cosmic originated but it certainly provided some eye rolling moments for this reader Especially when the gypsy witch Pilar tells Maria that she will only feel the earth move three times in her lifetime Why three times?It is not known but Pilar is most certain it can only happen three times There is a 1943 movie starring Ingrid Bergman and Gary CooperJordan’s relationship with the rest of the band is one of uncertainty and shifting alliances He certainly is stepping on the toes of the original leader Pablo who used to be a man of great courage but had lost his desire to want to kill or be killed He is considered a coward or in my opinion maybe he’d just had his belly full of it He commits an act of treason in an attempt to save the band but decides in the final moment to come back and help In some ways he is the most interesting character in the book A man who is evolved past mindlessness and wants reason for blowing a bridge or killing people than just to follow orders The best scene in the book is the death of a band of guerrillas who are lead by El Sordo They are trapped on a hill by the Nationalists and it is some of the most compelling writing in the book as the action shifts between Jordan’s band who want to help but know it is suicide to help and the band on the hill wondering if help will arrive Courage is something Hemingway respects and cowardice is something he worries about The potential of experiencing his own bout of cowardice or finding it in others is a theme of his life Jordan’s father had committed suicide an act of cowardice as far as Jordan was concerned He is worried that he will be captured and would be forced to kill himself like his father It puts into uestion his whole feelings about his father and the way he died I found myself wincing as I was reading these passages seeing Hemingway’s own mind so glaringly revealed Hemingway's father killed himself as did his sister and brother The curse continued into another generation with the suicide of his granddaughter Margaux If Hemingway felt the way Jordan did I believe he did I do wonder if he finally forgave his own father when he became the mechanism of his own death or did he maybe blame his father for cursing the family with suicidal thoughts? Hemingway posing with his favorite shogun Later he used it to end his lifeI read this book as a teenager and was suitably impressed with Hemingway at the time I’d read The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms and enjoyed them I approached For Whom the Bell Tolls convinced I would love it as well Rereading it now at this point in my life was a struggle The story is actually very simple but this is a book that has fallen in a barrel of water and been bloated beyond recognition Hemingway is famous for his concise sentences and for the precision of his plots but in this novel he certainly moves away from both of those concepts There is a wonderful short novel here hidden behind too much ink The plot actually becomes tedious and repetitive Words I thought I would never use to describe a Hemingway novel I can’t begin to convey how disappointed I felt It makes me fearful to read others of his books that I have such fine memories of reading This book was very popular and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize

  4. says:

    I obscenity your transmission I obscenity in the milk of your ancestors I and always and forever I; wandering I mucking I obscene obscenity forever and always and milking and transmissing and mucking wandering amongst the forever and the always I; obscenity obscene mucking milking milk ancestral forever and ever to have and to hold and to be and now and always and forever; this now wandering now transmissing now mucking now milking now obscene obscenity now ancestral now forever to be and to hold and to have always

  5. says:

    587 For Whom The Bell Tolls Ernest HemingwayFor Whom the Bell Tolls is a novel by Ernest Hemingway published in 1940 It tells the story of Robert Jordan a young American in the International Brigades attached to a republican guerrilla unit during the Spanish Civil War As a dynamiter he is assigned to blow up a bridge during an attack on the city of Segovia The novel is regarded as one of Hemingway's best works along with The Sun Also Rises The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Armsعنوانها زنگها برای که به صدا درمی‌آیند؛ ناقوس برای که به صدا در می‌آید؛ ناقوس عزا برای که می‌زند؛ نویسنده ارنست همینگوی، تاریخ نخستین خوانش در ماه آگوست سال 1976 میلادیعنوان زنگها برای که به صدا درمی‌آیند؛ نویسنده ارنست همینگوی، مترجم رحیم نامور، تهران، صفی علیشاه، 1329، در 280 ص، چاپ دیگر تهران، کتابهای جیبی، 1342، در 315 ص، چاپ چهارم 1345، در 325 ص، چاپ دیگر صفیعلیشاه، 1367، چاپ دیگر تهران، نگاه، در 360 ص، شابک 9643513939؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، امیرکبیر، چاپ اول 1389، چاپ پنجم 1392، در 364 ص، شابک 9789640013267؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان فرانسوی تاریخ جنگهای داخلی اسپانیا از سال 1936 میلادی تا سال 1939 میلادی سده 20 ممترجم علی سلیمی؛ تهران، سکه، 1350، در 585 ص، چاپ دیگر تهران، پیروز، 1362؛ در 585 ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، جامی، 1389، در 488 ص، چاپ دوم 1393؛ شابک 9789642575930؛ مترجم عنایت الله شکیبا پور، تهران، دنیای کتاب، 1396، در 416 ص، شابک 9789643463694؛ عنوان ناقوس برای که به صدا درمی‌آید؛ نویسنده ارنست همینگوی، مترجم کیومرث پارسای، تهران، ناژ، 1394، در 484 ص، شابک 9786006110103؛ عنوان ناقوس عزا برای که می‌زند؛ نویسنده ارنست همینگوی، مترجم پرویز شهدی، تهران، افکار جدید، 1396، در 656 ص، شابک 9786009862863؛ ترجمه از متن فرانسهاین رمان روایت داستان «رابرت جورد»ن، سرباز آمریکایی ست، که در میانه ی جنگ‌های داخلی «اسپانیا» به بریگاد بین‌المللی پیوسته‌ است وی به‌ عنوان متخصص مواد منفجره، وظیفه دارد، پلی را که بر سر راه دشمن قرار دارد، منفجر کند «جفری مایر»، نویسنده ی «زندگی‌نامهٔ همینگوی»، باور دارد، که این اثر یکی از بهترین آثار «همینگوی»، در کنار «پیرمرد و دریا»، «وداع با اسلحه»، و «خورشید هم طلوع می‌کند»، است سراینده ی صلح، در جایی گفته «وقتی دیگران حرف میزنند، مردمان خوب گوش نمیکنند، راستی زنگها برای که به صدا درمیآیند» ا شربیانی

  6. says:

    At some point in high school I decided that I hated Ernest Hemingway Was it the short story we read in English class? Was it the furniture collection named after him at Gabbert's? Something made me decide that Hemingway was a prick and after that I dismissed him entirelyThis book was beautiful I don't even like books about war Case in point I scanned half of War and Peace I think which half is obvious But this book took five hundred pages to blow up a single bridge There were tanks to count grenades to gather diagrams to be drawn and generals to contact Somehow all of this managed to be completely enthralling to a reader whose eyes would otherwise glaze over at the mere mention of battalions I have to admit a big part of my interest in it was likely due to the whole American escapes America to live in caves and drink absinthe with the gypsies thing Who doesn't want to fantasize about that? And sleeping on pine needles and falling in love with the gypsy girl YESBut mostly I love how Hemingway writes his dialogue as though it were being directly translated I love the slow sense of living the feeling of being in the open air the way you enter his main character's head through his stream of conscious ramblings And I love that Robert Jordan is referred to as Robert Jordan throughout the entire book the way you refer to famous people historical figures the names you must commit to memory

  7. says:

    “If we win here we will win everywhere The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it”Set in the middle of the Spanish Civil War 1936 1939 For Whom the Bell Tolls tells the tale of one Robert Jordan an American who is given an assignment to work with a republican guerrilla unit to blow up a bridge during an attack on the city of SegoviaThe story explores various wartime sentiments such as thoughts of mortality the possibility of suicide to escape torture and execution at the hands of enemy camaraderie betrayal different political ideologies and bigotry Ernest Hemingway center in 1937 with Ilya Ehrenburg Russian author left and Gustav Regler German writer right during the Spanish Civil War 1936 1939 The book garnered much attention for Hemingway's incorporation of a strange semi archaic form of English to represent text translated from Spanish Several real life figures of Marxist background who played a part in the war are mentioned in the text as well The book was unanimously recommended for the Pulitzer back in 1941 but the decision was controversially reversed by the board and no award was given that yearSide notesHemingway himself was involved in the Spanish Civil War as a journalist In 1937 Hemingway agreed to report on the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance NANA arriving in Spain in March with Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens Ivens was filming The Spanish Earth a propaganda film in support of the Republican side He wanted Hemingway to replace John Dos Passos as screenwriter since Dos Passos had left the project when his friend José Robles was arrested and later executed Hemingway center with Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens and German writer Ludwig Renn serving as an International Brigades officer in Spain during Spanish Civil War 1937

  8. says:

    Not my favourite Hemingway a little bit too slow But the topic of the Spanish Civil War makes it a good read and the John Donne poem that gave the novel its title should be yelled shouted sung recited hummed and whispered by heart over and over again especially in these times of outlandishly islandish people destroying the world again 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 any manner of thy friends 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 Thank you Hemingway for being involved in mankind

  9. says:

    Suffice it to say I am not a Hemingway fan

  10. says:

    Just when I'd decided that Hemingway only ever wrote books about people getting drunk in cafes and thinking about how miserable they are he surprises me and comes out with something like this Naturally the characters still get drunk and think about how miserable they are but they do it while being guerrilla fighters in the Spanish Civil War which makes it awesome In The Things They Carried Tim O'Brien writes that If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie I kept coming back to that uote as I read this book because it proves that Robbins was absolutely right For Whom the Bell Tolls is not an uplifting story and it's not moral And when you're writing about a ragtag bunch of rebels fighting a fascist army that's not easy to do There are no good guys in this story and no bad guys not even the fascists Good and Bad in this story isn't divided by such clear lines Instead the biggest enemy that the protagonist I won't use the word hero Robert Jordan faces is within the rebel group itself a lot of strong personalities are drawn together by this war and throwing them all together and making them live in a cave maybe wasn't the best way to go about things The result is a fascinating portrait of a small group of people under enormous pressure all trying to do the right thing even as they uestion what the right thing really is Even when you're fighting fascists nothing is black and white Another observation having previously believed that Hemingway was incapable of writing compelling female characters I am now forced to revise that opinion There are only two women in this book but they are both fully realized and compelling Other reviewers found Maria one dimensional but I thought she was fascinating because of what was hinted at but not revealed about her Her staggering understatement to describe her time as a prisoner of war Things were done to me is wonderful She was tragic and sweet and on a related note Hemingway writes some surprisingly good sex scenes so there's that And Pilar Holy crap Probably one of the most well done characters I've ever read she's alternately the mother figure the best friend the confidante and the villain Pilar is my new spirit animal A war story without heroes or villains full of hollow victories and rage against the bureaucracy of war and what people under pressure can be forced to do filled with some very good meditations on killing and war and love and the importance of acting beyond personal gain Well done Mr Hemingway I should also add that Campbell Scott who read the audiobook does a fantastic job he makes the characters' voices different enough for you to tell them apart without difficulty and his Robert Jordan voice is exactly how I imagine Hemingway sounded in real life If you're considering reading this I'd recommend tracking down the audio version