Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hemingway and the power of Midnight downpours

A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway's devastating tale of romance between an American volunteer in the Italian army and a British nurse, set during the First World War, is among my favorite books by one of my favorite authors. Hemingway's prose is terse and insightful, muscular yet somehow lyrical. Few writers have the ability to deliver an emotional gut-punch to me like Hemingway can.

Mired in a stalled Italian military column, Hemingway's ambulance-driver protagonist sits in his vehicle in the dark, a heavy rain pouring down, and slides into a dream. What follows is one of the loveliest passages Hemingway ever put down on paper, capturing the fey logic that exists between waking and dreaming, where the border between awake and asleep becomes porous. The ache of loneliness for an absent lover, the hypnotic drumming of night rain, a need to be up and away from where one is...Hemingway captures all this and more:

In bed I lay me down my head. Bed and board. Stiff as a board in bed. Catherine was in bed now between two sheets, over her and under her. Which side did she sleep on? Maybe she wasn't asleep. Maybe she was lying thinking about me. Blow, blow, ye western wind. Well, it blew and it wasn't the small rain but the big rain down that rained. It rained all night. You know it rained down that rained. Look at it. Christ, that my love were in my arms and I in my bed again. That my love Catherine. That my sweet love Catherine down might rain. Blow her again to me.

Just perfect.

1 comment:

  1. I shall have to re-read Farewall to Arms I realize now, but this time not a translated version. Your post makes me feel like I've missed something!