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For Whom the Bell Tolls (Forum Locked Forum Locked)
 Ernest Hemingway Message Boards : For Whom the Bell Tolls
Subject Topic: A Context for the Book: 1937-1940 Post ReplyPost New Topic
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Joined: 27 March 2006
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Posted: 07 October 2006 at 8:46am | IP Logged Quote RonPrice


Hemingway arrived in Spain in March 1937 along with fellow journalist Martha Gellhorn and co-worker Joris Ivens with whom he would collaborate on a fund-raising film for the Spanish Republic. Meanwhile Andre Malraux, the French philosopher and novelist, had returned to France in early 1937. He went back to Spain again in July of 1937. Hemingway, unlike Malraux, had missed the decisive first eight months of the war on which Malraux's novel L'espoir was based. When Malraux returned to France for his novel’s publication in 1937, Hemingway, perhaps envious, accused him of pulling out of the war too soon. He accused him "of pussyfooting off to resume his career of opportunist, high-wire artist, and political charlatan…..while the Spanish Republic bled to death from its wounds."

Despite their emerging antipathy Malraux and Hemingway were much alike. In their lives and works they projected a total artistic construct, what Bickford Sylvester calls "an orchestrated amalgamation of fictional texts and fictionalized authorial persona." They both manipulated the public into identifying their novels with their lives. They were also cat lovers, middle class, short on formal education and had fathers who committed suicide. They were both going through marital break-ups in Spain and were starting over again with new partners. They distrusted intellectuals and they adored T. E. Lawrence, the quintessential man of action who was also a writer.--Ron Price with thanks to Ben Stoltzfus, "Hemingway, Malraux and Spain: For Whom the Bell Tolls and L'espoir," Comparative Literature Studies, Vol. 36, No. 3, 1999, pp. 179-194.

On May 1st 1937 Shoghi Effendi wrote: "….prosecute uninterruptedly teaching campaign inaugurated….in accordance with Divine Plan."

I wonder what a fictionalized chronicle

of the first months of that spiritual war

would be like?1 Changing perspectives,

an alternation of dialogue and action,

from one city to another, character

development and linear chronology,

in the context of a mission sublime—

these descendants of heroes

of an age gone by—just ended.2

In this newborn war the novelist

might present moments of crisis

when men become aware of destiny,

when they become aware

of their human condition, its tragedy,

its glory and its potentialities

as they try to transform into consciousness

as vast an experience as possible.3

1 L’espoir was a fictionalized chronicle of the first months of the Spanish Civil War.

2 In 1932 the last remanant of the heroic age died: the Greatest Holy Leaf.

3 Malreaux’s aim in writing and his aim for human beings.

Ron Price

May 24th 2005



married for 37 years, teacher for 30 years; Baha'i for 47 years, living in Australia for 34 years.
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Posted: 07 October 2006 at 11:20am | IP Logged Quote docnme

"1937 A Big year"   All of the above, a very good post.


Edited by docnme on 07 October 2006 at 11:22am

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Posted: 07 October 2006 at 5:42pm | IP Logged Quote hijo

To put in context the social forces at work in Spain at the time of the Civil War, those truly interested should read "Dona Perfecta," by Juan Benito Perez Galdos - to whom EH referred as "The Spanish Balzac."

Written and published 60 years prior to the Civil War, it deals with the volatile confluence of forces in monarchy, supported by a politically-relevant and monarchy-protected church; Republic, in which the people strive for their own secular, education-thirsty voices to be heard, and the military comprised of people from all walks of life handed the job of maintaining order as the sand shifts beneath their feet.

60 years before Franco's invasion from Morocco, Galdos saw what was happening to his country in the microcosm of a small town named for its most famous product - Garlic (ajo). It would have been a satire, had it not been so sad and accurate a portrayal of the ways in which people bring about conflict where initially, none exists until one group feels its privilege threatened by others wanting just the same for themselves.

The Hindi term for brother, by the way, is Bhai.

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