The last novel Ernest Hemingway saw published, The Old Man and the Sea has proved itself to be one of the enduring works of American fiction. It is the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his supreme ordeal: a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Using the simple, powerful language of a fable, Hemingway takes the timeless themes of courage in the face of defeat and personal triumph won from loss and transforms them into a magnificent twentieth-century classic.
This is a very short story, one that is considered, his best novel. I can’t go on and say it’s the best one, as I haven’t read them all. I’ve been reading a-lot of great literary reads this month and it actually can be overwhelming. However, what I can say, this novel is brilliant.
Hemingway starts off with a simple story, of an old fisherman and his fish. Turns the story into an ode to life’s struggles. The way he does that is so natural; it’s brilliant.
“He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride.” It reminds me slightly of Fitzgerald’s writing style. As a lot is said in fewer lines.
He doesn’t build the psychology of the characters using dialogs or external narrators like most writers would. He lets you create the sense of each protagonist using how they behave and act. Just like in real life. I would argue that’s the reason why Hemingway makes you feel you can change his characters.
It is a novel that, despite being short, walks you through the perfect story arch.
By the end of the read, you can feel the sea breeze on your skin, feel the desperation, the loneliness, the fight and the decay of age. “Fish,” the old man said. “Fish, you are going to have to die anyway. Do you have to kill me too?”
I cannot recommend this book enough. Not that much from a story perspective, which in and of itself is rather simple, but from the technical side, which is an exercise on concise and extraordinary prose.