thumbnail of As others read us: American fiction abroad; Ernest Hemingway, part two
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
That now I would like to reoccurred gentleman to the title of the entire series of readings and cholic ways of which ours is one unit. I think this is an appropriate moment right after Mr. pare has given us such a comprehensive and such an incisive summary of the history of Hemingway's impact on Europe. The title of the whole series is as others read us I emphasize others and us for a purpose. I want to point out that there's a double inference in one of the two pronouns involved in this title a reference for others is not d'Abo it means other readers than Americans including the writers who have already been mentioned readers in other countries and in other cultures than our own especially European readers. It's the pronoun us from which significantly two lines of meaning run. One is referring to certain of our American authors including Hemingway and the other US as referring to us Americans both as individuals and types and as participants in something called American culture. Now up
to this point in our discussion we've followed the first line of reference for the US we've been considering the process by which Europeans have come to experience the impact of Hemingway as an American author. And then the nature and extent of this impact the fluctuations in this process in going on from this point. Let me ask you to follow for a while. The second line of reference if you will and consider this question how through the lens of Hemingway's writings have others particularly Europeans visualized as Americans and our American culture. It has been claimed. We will recall that it is through Hemingway that Europeans have chiefly come to know us. If so it is important for us to see what picture of us these others have derived through Hemingway. Now both experts and laymen in our country have often said that Hemingway's fiction is mainly concerned with tough people with violence and with a merely negatively pessimistic view of life.
Everyone is familiar with the kind of thing I mean. For instance the opening of Hemingway's short story called The Light of the world when he saw us come in the door the bartender looked up and then reached over. If did you do it. Cut the top off of this spatula and then the glass in his hand I put the neck on the word and he looked toward me. What's yours. Beer. He drew that beer and cut it off. Money all the money. He pushed the beer across to Tom. What's the matter. The bartender didn't answer him. Tom Ridge over took the glass off the free lunch ball. It was a ball pickled pigs feet were wooden thing that worked like Cessna's with two wooden Fox at the end to pick them up with no. The bartender put the glass cover back on the bowl. Tom held the wooden scissors fork in his hand put it back. You know where. But to reach the hand forward under the bar watching us both. I put fifty cents on the word and he straightened up. What was yours dear. Before he drew the bear he uncovered both the balls. God damn big speech stank. He had his mouth on the floor.
He stink. All you punks stay he says with punks is and let's get out. You'll scare the hell outta here. I said we were going out. It wasn't your idea. We'll be back. No you won't tell him how wrong he is. Come on. What the hell kind of a place is this. This is a familiar and recurrent note in the criticism of Hemingway's books my queries then and I put this to both of you. Is this have European readers regarded this toughness and readiness for violence as the dominant characteristic of Hemingway's characters. Have they regarded this pessimism and negation as dominant in the themes that they've read out of Hemingway. What has been the story there. It's different. It seems to me that most of the French criticism I've read Hemingway has represented pretty much the same kind of response that's
occurred in the United States. In other words the only the most superficial literary critics amongst the French and the Italians have been content to define Hemingway as no more than a violent and crude and vulgar. Just as in this country the genteel literary critic has found the same qualities in Hemingway but as any teacher who has presented a short story like the killers to a class knows that this is no more than the surface of Hemingway's point of view which is reaching complex one frequently. The class will discover with the teacher that his point of view indeed is a sensitive one and to use this word would have seemed bizarre to them when they first thought of Hemingway. But like many Europeans I think this sensitivity is a thing that they have discovered beneath the surface of Hemingway Yes Mr. Fenton in the killers I believe this sensitivity may well be seen in the
closing passage. The setting is our small town lunchroom. Nick Adams was probably in his teens watches and listens to two gangsters who are waiting to kill the next prize all. Anderson Anderson however doesn't come to the lunchroom and the gangsters leave. Nick then goes to the X prize fighters room and warns him. Nick finds Anderson a man resigned to his fate will make no attempt to escape it. Nick then returns to the lunch room and talks with George counterman. George was inside back of the counter. Did you see only. Yes. He's in his room and he won't go out. Open the door from the kitchen. When he heard Nick's voice I don't even listen to it he said and shut the door. George went on to tell him about it. Sure I told him that he knows what it's all about. What's he going to do. Nothing. I'll kill him. I can stay with him. You must have got mixed up in something in Chicago. I guess so. Hellova
thing it's an awful thing. He did not say anything. George reached down for tone. Wipe the collar. I wonder what he did. Double crossed somebody. That's what they kill him for. I'm going to get out of this town. Yes that's a good thing to do. I can't stand to think about him waiting in the room knowing he's going to get it. It's too damn awful. Well you better not think about this I think is the sensitivity you are talking about Mr. Fenton. Next reaction is the point of the story and his reaction is one of our most abnormal sensitivity or is there more to it than that. Mr. pare more on that. But I should like to take up again with Mr. Fenton has said not to disagree with him but to agree and perhaps make it a little more precise from my own French or European background and point of view. Obviously the Europeans are delighted when they can call Americans tough guys and when they find them as violent and somewhat primitive. Ever since the 17th entry in the 18th or so and so on. They love to think of
Americans as new primitives and kind of young barbarians at play as Matthew all of them say some of the English men at Oxford quoting Byron. That of course they have found in modern American literature and especially in Hemingway. But that being said for one thing of course there is a lot of that in Hemingway that is perhaps more a case of arrested development on young man the other fellow always tries to look back to his youth and sometimes even tries to write like an adolescent. Huckleberry Finn say out of Mark Twain. But obviously there is far more than that. And I think the Europeans realized right away as Mr. Fenton rightly said that there is also of course in Hemingway's characters courage and idealism and tenderness and the beautiful feeling for love which is absent from many of the American writers including Faulkner I believe also the Europeans realized very soon that what they need to do in Europe was a good dose of that American and that J and even of that American violence the man who in some ways the closest thing to Hemingway in European fiction was perhaps a great artist. Anyway he's on the loop
on all of them. In 1945 in an interview which he gave to an English Review will called Horizon said this to my mind the essential got eristic of contemporary American writing is that it is the only literature I was creators are not intellectuals. They are obsessed with fundamental men and my rule. Either that the problem for French literature and this applies also to Italian. The problem is that could be getting literally is now for that literature in Europe to intellectualise itself without losing its direct approach and of the clothes. In other words it was exactly that that the French didn't want done that the Italians especially the two eminent Italian novelists were being most profoundly influenced by Hemingway namely Victorine NHS or I believe it. It is exactly that sort of thing that they wanted then and instead of saying their fault or a sign of other lessons interiority soin fact in that sign of greatness I think Mr. Parrot would perhaps agree with me that the first truly great popular success that Hemingway had in Paris was with for whom the bell tolls which after all
is a thoroughly affirmative novel. And and here again there's a parallel in the United States. This was the first great popular success which Hemingway had in his country and I think it's interesting that most of the perceptive French critics have rejected to have and have not. Which tends to be a kind of parody of violence as Hemingway has expressed in the Callie's Mr. Perry has spoken every single missing from that novel and they Richar in the great Spanish epic for whom the bell tolls certainly has plenty of violence in it. But I agree with you as to the presence of the affirmative quality you mention Robert Jordan the hero always a soldier and more than that specifically a dynamiter a destroyer. Yet as we see him in his inner dialogues we realize that the killing which is where it may involve is neither an end nor a pleasure for him. He's where he is doing what he's doing for a positive affirmative calms a political ideal for which he's willing if
necessary to kill and certainly willing to die himself. Perhaps you remember this passage. Robert Jordan walked through the pines feeling his way from tree to tree to the edge of the meadow looking across it in the darkness lighted here in the open from the starlight. He saw the dark bulks of the picketed horses he counted them where they were scattered between him and the stream. There were five. Robert Jordan sat down at the foot of a pine tree and looked out across the meadow. I am tired he thought and perhaps my judgment is not good but my obligation is to bridge and to fulfill that I must take no useless risk of myself until I complete that duty. Of course it is sometimes more of a risk not to accept chances which are necessary to take what I have done this so far. Trying to let the situation take its own course if it is true as the gypsy says that they expected me to kill Pablo
than I should have done that. But it was never clear to me that they did expect that from a stranger to kill where he must work with the people afterwards is very bad. It may be done in action and it may be done if backed by sufficient discipline. But in this case I think it would be very bad. Although it was a temptation and seemed a short and simple way. But I do not believe anything is that short no that simple in this country. And while I trust the woman absolutely I could not tell how she would react to such a drastic thing. One dying in such a place is very ugly dirty and repugnant. You could not tell how she would react without the woman. There is no organization or any discipline here and with the woman it can be very good. It would be ideal if she would kill him or if the Gypsy would. But he will not. Or if the century Augustan would
and Tsomo Well if I ask it though he says he is against all killing. He hates him I believe and he already trusts me and believes in me as a representative of what he believes in. Only when the woman really believe in the Republic as far as I can see. But it is too early to know that yet as you say this far more here than just violence and the toughness sensitivity there is tenderness in a way. Although I think there is tenderness already in a farewell to arms and to my mind in some I think it's a more perfect work of art than perhaps a great lover it had success both as a movie and also as a book in Europe. But as you say the impact of that really was fulfilled late when the second great novel came out. It's very difficult to get a Frenchman to concede much about for whom the bell tolls because they are Malraux has written to the civil war. They are very different books however and they can hardly be compared except as far as the subject comes to mind.
As others readers then Mr. pare would you like to sum up for us what in your rich experience Hemingway in Europe has been reading of us in Europe. Yes it's a very ambitious thought that you asked me to perform in a few minutes. But I shall try to do so. The first point I would say is thus is this and we have already discussed it and that is the toughness and the violence and that kind of the primitivism that the Europeans have seen in giving way and sometimes generalizing unduly and bringing a little of their anti-Americanism. Sometimes the Europeans of course have misjudged Hemingway and American literature and America generally speaking. But secondly an inference is really nothing but the assertion of the need which the people secretly feel. And in this case I think we should repeat that the Europeans were so tired by 1930 40 of that kind of psychology which even Jois uncertainty proves. And before them Henry James had displayed in their works that they wanted to find another approach which had to be a more behaviouristic approach starting from the outside in order to get as it were to
the in a man but all was radiating from the inner man outside. But again we are discussing about writers who are writers and therefore artists. Of course we can't leave out another aspect of Hemingway's art on which Mr. Fenton is probably more confident than I am to talk and that is the art and the technique. There again although Hemingway is probably not the writers are used to study the hour or two from what I saw at that time you seem to bring the French back to a new appreciation of those writers in their own past away from Proust and the number of very involved prose writers whom the French are that not in the 1920s but whom by the way all at all tied with. I mean of course by this what they enjoyed most in the Hemingway was a certain dissonance in the prose itself and brevity is the ultimate punch in the dialogue. The avoidance of big words something which was far closer if you like to stylize the real dialogue in real life the vigor and as you say punch of Hemingway's dialogue has indeed drawn a great deal of attention from the critics
as we all know. And it seems to have been one of the earliest distinctive marks of the characteristic Hemingway style. As far back as the appearance of the Sun Also Rises in 1926 we find passages like this lady Bret is being entertained. Let's enjoy a little bit more of this. I pushed her glass forward and the Count spoke very carefully. My idea. And now you enjoy it. That slowly and then you can get drunk drown. My dear you are chanting when you are drunk. Listen to the man Count quarter glass fall. Mr. Bond She is the only lady I have ever known who was as charming when she was drunk when she was sober. You haven't been around much have you. Yes my dear. I've been around very much. I've been around a very great deep drinking wine. We've all been around say Jake here is seen as much as you my dear I'm sure Mr. BARNES. Seen a lot. I don't think I don't think so sir. I've seen a lot too. Of course you
have no idea. I was only ragging I've been in seven wars and four revolutions So Jimmy. And sometimes my dear Dan guys got our old wounds. Have you ever seen our show. Have a look at the crowd stood up and buttoned his first opened his shirt. He pulled up the undershirt onto his chest and stirred his chest black big stomach muscles bulging under the law and you see them below the line whereas Rebstock were to raise white on the back when they came out of the small of the back with the same two skulls raised as thick as a finger. I say those are some clean through the camp talking shit. Where did you get those in Abyssinia when I was 21 years old. What were you doing. Were you in the army. I was on a business trip. My dear I told you he was one of us didn't I love you count. You're a darling. But Jake is not always with Brad and her friends. He goes up into the mountains to fish for
trout with his friend Bill Cotton who is just over from New York. It was very hot on the dam so I put my worm can in the shade with the bag and got the book out of the pack and settled down under the tree to read until Bill should come up for lunch. It was a little past noon and there was not much shade but I sat against the trunk of two of the trees that grew up together and read the book was something by E. W. Mason and I was reading a wonderful story about a man who had been frozen in the Alps and then frozen in a glacier and disappeared and his bride was going to wait 24 years exactly for his body to come out of the Marraine. While her true love waited too and they were still waiting when Bill came up. He had his rod in his bag and his net all in one hand and he was sweating. I hadn't heard him come up because of the noise from the dam get any sex. What did you get. Bill sat down opened up his bag laid a big trouble on the grass he took out three more each one a little bigger than the last and
laid them side by side in the shade of the tree. His face was sweaty and happy. How are yours smaller. Let's see them they're packed. How big are they really. They're all about the size of your smallest. You're not holding out on me. I wish I were. Get them all on worms. Yes you lazy Bob. Bill put the trout in the bag and started for the river swinging the open bag. He was wet from the waist down and I knew he must have been waiting the stream. I walked up the road and got out the two bottles of wine. They were cold moist you beat it on the bottom and as I walked back to the trees I spent the lunch on a newspaper and uncorked one of the bottles and leaned the other against the tree. Bill came up drying his hands his bag plump with ferns. Let's see that bottle. I'll pull the cork out. That makes my eyes ache. Let's try the wine. It was icy cold and tasted faintly rusty. Not filling the wine the cold helps. I am wrapped the little parcels of lunch
chicken as hard boiled eggs. Find any salt. First the egg then the chicken. Even Brian can see that he's dead. I read it in the paper yesterday. No not really gentlemen. I reversed the order for Brian's sake as a tribute to the great commoner. First the chicken then the egg. Wonder what day God created the chicken. Go out and we know we should not question our stay on earth is it not for long. Let us rejoice and believe and give. They eat and he Bill gestured with the drumstick in one hand and the bottle in the other. Let us rejoice in our blessing. Let us utilize the powers of the our. Let us utilize the product of the vine we are to utilize a little brother after you Brother Bill took a long drink utilize the little brother. Let us not doubt brother. Let us not buy into the holy mysteries. Then go with Simeon finger. Let us accept on faith and simply
say what shall we say brother. Let me tell you what you will say. And I for one am proud to say and I want you to say with me on your knee. Brother. Let no man be ashamed to kneel here in the great out of doors. Remember the words are God's first temples. Let us kneel and say don't eat that lady. That's Mankin. Isn't that the sort of thing you mean Mr. Peyre the kind of dialogue that is that was attractive to the French critics and to the French readers to take them as representative of the European hero when they discovered it and Hemingway. Now the French have lost the sense of that for a number of years and they rejoiced when reading the way they found the prose which would appeal to the common man. Many writers including sort of made that point very forcibly in a magnificent book by salt and titled What is literature. He made the point that literature could not be content with writing in the same way as Joyce unposed and even Kafka write that in a way the literary
style of the old fashioned way is full of draperies and so on have to be given up and that literature had to become one of the common mass media with the French to get their own French prose which is always in danger of being other the world in the rather too flowery and rather too literate a little too close to what the average man once. I would add one thing only to have that Exxon statement of Mr. Paris and that would be that I think there is a subtlety of texture in Hemingway's prose which the friendship and particularly responsive to Hemingway you remember once said that good prose was like an iceberg five six seven it I'm in the water and this is peculiarly attractive to have either the sensibility that the cultivated European in particular has. This is quite true and it explains of course why it's almost word for even those puzzles and even some of those I've not scored the same success in Europe as Hemingway has. But the reason if I may say a few more years there is another aspect also the literature of the form as we say if we can distinguish the form from the call that endlessly. But there is also something
content in Hemingway although Hemingway himself does not underline it and there is a content in these American literature which has appealed to the Europeans very much in a few words or two words I think we should bring that on the two headings and those would be to my mind tragedy as I call it pessimism. There is in Hemingway and there is in all these modern American literature very powerful sense of tragedy we should never forget. And Mr. Fenton did in his book that Hemingway was profoundly influenced by his experience in World War One and of course on the Italian front. On that one that you see when he was very young in a way southern approach to death which was that in many of his heroes are funded by and by suffering and by war if you like that live if you like that were in existence on the brink of something which might be destruction as was having was ongoing during the war and that of course has brought him very close to the French when they suffered in the war years in 1939 45 years brought him very close to the existentialists who also are obsessed by the same theme. Susan if you like is it's an imposing man to rise above suffering
through the proximity of that to find that the world is a fine place to live in one of the characters in Hemingway I think it is. Jordan says well the world is a fine place and with the fighting for and facing that I take very much to leave it this to the French when they needed that kind of energy and tragic sense of life of a hero struggling against all kinds of frustration under way against the gods which is the essence of tragedy in order to find himself. Your reference to the strong tragic sense in Hemingway because to my mind Robert Jordan's thoughts at the end of for whom the bell tolls when he's been wounded and laughed at his own insistence to have one last shot at the fascists in order to delay them a bit more if possible. He knows that in a little while he will be dead and these stunts run through his head. I hate to leave it as always. I hate to leave it very much and I hope I have done some good in it. I have tried to with what talent I had.
Have you mean all right. Have I fought for what I believed in for a year now. If we win here we will win everywhere. The world is a fine place and worth fighting for. And I hate very much to leave it. And you had a lot of luck he told himself to have had such a good life you've had just as good a life as grandfathers. No not as long you've had as good a life as anyone. Because of these last days you do not want to complain when you have been so lucky. I wish there was some way to pass on what I've learned. And to that we might add the wonderful passage from Hemingway's most recent novel The old man and the sea where the fishermen find out and alone in his small boat first battles the shark the Sharks swung over and the old man saw his eye was not in the mine. Then he swung over and once again wrapping himself in cool loops of the rope.
The old man knew that he was dead but the shark would not accept it. Then on his back with his tail lashing and V's jaws clicking sharp plowed over the water as a speed boat the water was quite obedient. Three quarters of his body was clear above the water. When the rope came toward shivered and then snap at a shark lay quietly for a while on the surface and the old man watched him. Then he went down very slowly. He took about forty. The old man sat them down. He also kicked my heart and all the rope he saw. And now my face bleeds again and there will be others. He did not like to look at the face any more since he had been mutilated when the fish had been here. It was as though he himself were here but I killed the shark that hit
by the sword. And he was the biggest. Then to show I have ever seen. And God knows I have seen big when it was too good to last he thought. I wish it had been a dream now and that I had never hoped to finish and I was alone in bed. The newspaper man is not made for defeat he said. A man can be destroyed but not defeated. I am sorry that I killed that things. He thought now the bad guy is coming and I do not even have the harpoon again to show he is cruel and able and strong and intelligent. But I was more intelligent than he was. Perhaps he thought perhaps I was better or don't think I don't man he said aloud. Sail on this course and take it when it comes.
And on this note of strong and courageous affirmation as close this discussion closed with thanks thanks to you Mr. Fenton and to you Mr. Pell for this illuminating colloquy that we have had on the impact of Ernest Hemingway Anjar up the discussion you just heard on the foreign reputation of Ernest Hemingway. Isn't six of a series of programs entitled as others read us American fiction abroad produced and recorded by the literary society of the University of Massachusetts under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. This program is distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the ABC radio network
As others read us: American fiction abroad
Ernest Hemingway, part two
Producing Organization
University of Massachusetts
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-2j687148).
Episode Description
In this program, the second of two parts, critics Henri Peyre and Charles Fenton discuss the works of Ernest Hemingway.
Series Description
This series analyzes European views of the works of American authors.
Broadcast Date
American literature--Europe--History and criticism.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Guest: Fenton, Charles
Guest: Peyre, Henri, 1901-1988
Moderator: Goldberg, Maxwell Henry, 1907-
Producing Organization: University of Massachusetts
Subject: Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-22-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:06
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “As others read us: American fiction abroad; Ernest Hemingway, part two,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 23, 2024,
MLA: “As others read us: American fiction abroad; Ernest Hemingway, part two.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 23, 2024. <>.
APA: As others read us: American fiction abroad; Ernest Hemingway, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from