Friday, October 3, 2008

A Book Recommendation

Moments ago I finished reading For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway. I didn't anticipate liking it at all and found it shockingly good - so good that for the past few days it has been hard for me to convince myself to do anything other than read. The novel portrays the horror of war in tangible and straightforward language, not withholding a single stark detail. The novel takes place over three days and yet it doesn't feel drawn out. It is replete with personal insights of characters, with a depth of emotion and of detail. The most famous and most powerful scene in the novel, which takes place during the Spanish Civil War, is when one character recounts witnessing the brutal mob murder of fascists in a town taken over by revolutionaries. One by one the narrator tells of each fascist's reactions to the mob that is waiting with agricultural implements to beat him to death and then throw him into a gorge. With these simple and concrete images you can see their faces and truly hear their screams. I am not exaggerating to say that I cried while reading this chapter, and that it will haunt me for a long, long, time. Despite the horrors of the novel, it also portrays perhaps some of the most equisite love scenes I've ever read, also simple and straightforward, but passionate and pure, and full of longing and desire. I feel so surprisingly moved by this novel - I read it quickly and approached it with an expectation that I would dislike it and here I am unsure of how I will move out of the realm of the novel and back into my life - how I can possibly do something as mundane as study Hebrew when I have left the main character lying in pain, awaiting death. If you have the time and the energy, read this novel - and I look forward to talking about it with you.

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