I wish I could say I re-read Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises because I was called a eunuch two days ago, but it was more coincidental than that. I’m doing this re-reading of books from my early undergraduate days and it seemed a natural fit. (Also, I was – without prompting – called a unicorn at work today, so clearly there’s something going on in the zeitgeist around me.)
Now the reason this comes up is because the protagonist in The Sun Also Rises was injured in the war. Ten years ago I completely missed how he was injured. Only afterwards, reading Hemingway criticism, did I realize he’d lost his testicles. I remember going back to the book and re-reading every bit where he mentions being injured and was relieved to find it was never flat out said. “Hmph,” I thought in dismissal, “It’s the kind of thing you have to know before you read it to get the references because they’re so subtle as to be non-existent.” And I put the book in my stack of Hemingway that was okay but not great.
I have to say that 19-year-old Justin was not nearly as smart as he thought he might be. Yes, I knew about the injury this time so I was looking for this stuff, but really. It’s all there in the first fifty pages if you take the time. I must have been reading to get through the book back then. Just adding it to the collection in my Hemingway phase. Yeah. I apologize to whoever needs to be apologized to for that. Maybe just me.
Now, with some time to breathe while I read it, I think this might be my favourite Hemingway. I re-read A Farewell to Arms when I was in China and it was still good but didn’t tighten up my insides the way this one did. It’s just so achingly sad and perfect. Maybe not perfect. But so damned good I hate to think about it too hard.