Posted on | July 20, 2010 | 20 Comments
I have an absolutely ancient copy of this book lying around, and it’s actually bizarre that I’ve not read the book yet – it’s just 114 pages long! Published in 1974, the book cost just 30p at the time (US$0.45)! The book costs £7.99 now… let’s keep that musing for another day!
The Old Man and the Sea is an extremely ‘concise’ book, for the lack of a better word. The plot is uncomplicated, with minimal dialogue. It’s literally about an old man and the sea, as the old man (Santiago) tries to change his luck, after going eighty-four days without catching a fish.
Santiago’s protege, Manolin, has moved on to a “lucky” boat, as per his father’s wishes, and so, when the old man heads out to the waters on the eighty-fifth day, he’s all alone, without the boy he trusts.
On this fateful day though, Santiago’s luck does change, as he catches what appears to be a giant fish, and an epic battle begins at sea between the fish and the man, as he is not able to haul the fish onboard. Thus begins a great game of waiting and patience (and impatience) as the old man bides his time, and ponders upon many-a-thing, including how useless his left hand his (when it starts cramping), how much he misses the old boy, and how he would have made some changes in his journey, had he known better.
He could feel the steady hard pull of the line and his left hand was cramped. It drew up tight on the heavy cord and he looked at it in disgust.
‘What kind of a hand is that,’ he said. ‘Cramp then if you want. Make yourself into a claw. It will do you no good.’
While I’m glad I read this book, I still thought it dragged on a bit, by recounting the story of the old man’s stay at the sea and his battle with the fish. Ironic that I’m saying the above about a book which is only 114 pages long, but there you have it. I guess I’m not interested in fishing, and while I understand the basic jargon, I don’t really get what a lot of it means. For that matter, I don’t quite understand fishing techniques either. So, maybe that’s just me!
The old man’s characterisation was fantastic though, as was his dialogues with the various natural things around him, including his victim – the fish. The way he handled exhaustion, cramps, hunger and thirst was mind-blowing, and I couldn’t help but sympathise with him at those times. Even when I finished the book, I felt slightly despondent – but I reckon that’s an emotion the book is expected to evoke.
The writing was brilliant – not poetic, but very real. The language was simple, and easy to read, while simultaneously bringing alive some of the scenes from the book. There was no superfluity, but all the words came together as though essential to form the whole story.
It’s the first Hemingway I’ve read (yep, I know that’s embarrassing!), but was wondering if you have read any of his works. If yes, what would you recommend?