The Old Man and the Sea is perhaps Hemingway’s most well loved, and certainly his most well known novel. He even saw it as probably his greatest piece of writing – the remarks which he made while it was being published certainly give that impression.
It’s also, of course, the story which was mentioned by the Nobel Committee in 1954:
“for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style”.
There is no doubt that The Old Man and the Sea is a fantastic piece of writing. The Nobel Committee’s comment on Hemingway’s influence on contemporary style is also certainly true. As the ‘About the Author’ section in my copy mentions:
“His direct and deceptively simple style of writing spawned generations of imitators but no equals”.
The terse descriptions throughout this short novel give an assurance of the value of each and every word. As has surely been recognised before, there are no wasted words here – it is easy to imagine that this novel began life two, or perhaps even ten, times the length which the final version is. Impressive work for any editor, especially so for a notoriously heavy drinker…
Another interesting point to consider is the use of language – it seems that Hemingway must have had a good-to-fluent grasp of the Spanish language. This shines through in the text, and only serves to provide greater depth and interest throughout.
There is no need to go into detail about the story here, for it is short and best to savour without any prior knowledge. The below photo of Hemingway and his friend Henry Strater will give you a clue though…
Pick it up from the library, order it, or even audiobook it, read it somehow – it’s worth it. When you have let us know what you thought in the comments below?