on June 8, 2000
Hem is hunting both big game and big literature in "Green Hills." On this 1933-34 African safari, his jovial, Socratic drinking pal "Pop" is actually Phillip Percival the famous white hunter who conducted Theodore Roosevelt on his first African safari. As a young man, Hemingway owned a copy of TR's book "African Game Trails," and it is undoubtedly one of the reasons he went on this safari, which was financed to the tune of $25,000 Depression dollars by his wife Pauline's uncle Gus, part owner of Richard Hudnut cosmetics. Further evidence of Hem's fascination with Africa can be seen in the way Jake Barnes teases Robert Cohn in "The Sun Also Rises." In chapter two, Jake says, " Did you ever think about going to British East Africa to shoot?" Cohn's lack of enthusiasm for an immediate trek to Mombassa seals his fate as a jerk. "Green Hills" vindicates Hem's real aficion for hunting--filled with long descriptions of the arduous and sometimes futile tracking of game, not just celebratory "kills." Finally, the best preparation for reading "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is to hike and sweat through these 300 pages of African "country." The long, crescent-horned sable which Hem was painstakingly stalking at the end of "Green Hills" never turned up. But instead, the experience of his African safari, was distilled into those two incredible stories--one about a coward who gets a chance to redeem himself and the other about a washed-up writer whose approaching death stimulates him to dream about--and the reader to enjoy--the fiction he never got to actually write. Unless you've got a rich uncle or wife, this is as close as you'll get to an East African safari, and it is very, very fine.
on September 5, 2000
"Green Hills of Africa" was Hemingway's first non-fiction book, written after a 1933 trip to Eastern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania). It went a long way in establishing Hemingway's reputation as a hunter and adventurer. Though non-fiction it has the organization of a Hemingway novel and reads much like his other works. His descriptions of the landscape, local people, other hunters, and especially animals, hunting, and killing are superb. Hemingway also shares, mostly as dialogue, his thoughts on life, war, fate, and notably literature and the literary life. His often-quoted idea of all American literature being descended from one book by Mark Twain is presented here, as are his thoughts on how America destroys its writers. Some knowledge of Eastern Africa (such as a basic history, a guidebook, an encyclopedia article) might be useful as Hemingway often does provide much introductory material. With "Green Hills of Africa" Hemingway follows in the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt's "African Game Trails"; both did much to popularize among Americans the idea of recreational travel in Africa. Hemingway went on to write two fictional stories set in Africa: "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber". A good book, moreso for fans of Papa and those with an interest in Africa.
on January 28, 2001
Much credit is given 'Papa' for his writings on Africa. I can only attribute this to the fact that he is a famous author and more people have read his Africa books/two short stories more than any others. Much like Roosevelts game trails this book is a chronicle of Hemingways two month safari. And like Teddys book comes across as just that. After all they only both went on one safari. If you are really interested in reading about African big game hunting there are two books that communicate the vibrancy and feel of hunting dangerous game in Africa better than Hemingway or Roosevelt. Death in the long grass by Peter Hathaway Capstick and Pondoro by John Taylor are my two favorites. Both are men who spent their lives living and hunting in Africa. Capstick as a Proffesional hunter and game warden in the latter half of this century until 1975, and Taylor as an Ivory poacher from the 1920-30's(?) to the late 40's. If you are anti-hunting forget it but if you are in-between and looking for something more on Africa then Please take a look. I am not saying that Hemingway is bad, it's just that in my opinion Taylor and Capstick bring African hunting alive in a way Hemingway can't touch in the best parts of Green Hills. Hemingway may be the master when it comes to other types of literature, but when it comes to describing hunting dangerous game in Africa Taylor and Capstick reign supreme.
on October 8, 2006
In this rare non-fiction work from Ernest Hemingway he brings to life a month long hunting expedition that he spent with his wife Pauline in Africa in nineteen-thirty-three, but he writes it in the true Hemingway tradition. Rather than having it read like a documentary he writes it in the form of a novel.
Both entertaining and exciting it makes the reader hungry for the hunt. At times there is a bit of embellishment, such as making a clean kill on a Rhino at three-hundred yards with a Springfield rifle, (probably with open sights) in chapter four. Such probable exaggerations can be overlooked when we read his descriptions of the land and of the Masai and feel the remorse in his heart after wounding and losing a magnificent Sable Antelope to the jackals.
It's my opinion that Green Hills of Africa is one of the finest hunting stories that has ever been written. Not for the sheer content of the story itself, but for the style, for Hemingway's style, ... and for the way that he recounts a true life adventure in the style of prose that has always proven so riveting in his fiction.
I wanted to like Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway but I found it more boring than exciting. I have read Death in the Afternoon by him and it was a brilliant book in the whole sense of the word. This one lacks the entertainment value I was hoping to find reading about safari life in Africa. Surely has its moments but mostly they are all sitting by the fireside and long blocks of dialogue with Papa?, back and forth, forth and back, and less and less describing the wild life of the immense region that is Africa. I do not contest the fact that Hemingway has been in more exotic places than most of us can ever hope to be, for he strikes me as even royalty in some cases the way he thinks and acts. I am glad I bought this book used together with another book on the subject of safaris. The other one was heads and tails so much full of life and situations compared to this one. I guess he earned a living even while on vacation and documenting his itineraries was profitable enough. When he was on Africa he wrote of the place, when in Spain he wrote some masterpieces about that place as well. He gets started with dialogue that seem to me self aggrandizing, too full of himself and that is when is time to tune in to animal planet. Average reading for an obviously talented writer, a powerhouse of world wide recognition. I thought this book was going to be quite a book but I found myself skipping more and more pages. Don't have time to admire the name of a famous writer if the the story does not merit it. 3 Stars.
on May 3, 2001
"Green Hills of Africa" by Ernest Hemmingway in a nonfiction, journalistic style biography. It's a day-to-day or event-to-event synopsis of his journey in Africa with his wife Pauline in 1933. We soon learn that Hemmingway has a keen interest in hunting kudu and he's fascinated with the sport of it. He tries to exemplify the luring of hunting and the grace and revival of African grounds. He captures the beauty of the landscape-the essence of Africa-, how it's being threatened by mankind, and how he's a part of it. Hemmingway uses a series of rich descriptions, he identifies rarety and strangeness and promotes the passion of a personal experience and the joy he got out of it at its depth. By transforming his journals into a novel, Hemmingway attempts to unveil the great game of hunting and the great name of literature. The issue is that any Hemmingway reader, expects to mature through the strength of his fictional literature. "Green Hills" is Hemmingway's experiment presenting the exact opposite: his biography is a depiction of who he is including his passion: the African hunt. Of course he's renown for his usual fictional literature, and in it comes success, unlike his non fictional biographies of which audiences have a difficult time relating to. The day-by-day synopsis of his experience and travel is headed more so toward the game of hunting. This seems controversial in the way that "Green Hills" now becomes the story of a hunter, when, in fact, Hemmingway is nothing of the sort, nor has he any experience at it. It is therefore hard to succeed in something outside the realm he's created for himself. Although, as a good writer of literature, Hemmingway captivates the individuality of his tracking of the game as opposed to a sole dedication to the famous `kills'. His enthusiasm towards this evokes the potential for him to dream what he could never write as a fictionist.
I could not attempt to predict one certain target audience for `Green Hills". It's, essentially, a story written by a man about his won personal passion and hobby. It is not directed as good literature, towards hunters or followers of the game, for it is not as sharp as a hunter's biography; its author is simply a writer. But similarly nor is it targeted toward classic literature readers, for it's a simple story and it's not fictional, of which his accustomed audience has a trained mind. Hemmingway was only in Africa once and for a month at length. He may have had a good deal more of content to satisfy his targeted hunters audience, or a better understanding of Africa to relate more efficiently to those of literature, had he have written as a lifelong experience. Much like how Frenchman could explore a Parisian lifestyle more closely than say a tourist of Paris or a temporary resident of the city of Romance.
Aside from depictions of it's purpose and style, Hemmingway gives a good portrayal of the lands, his mates Karl and Pop and his wife Pauline and their travels across a safari jungle. The simplicity of his writing gives an appropriate presentation of the relaxed lifestyle they led, simply to track and hunt the kudu and spend each day in a superb country, feasting, relaxing, reading, strolling and living.
on October 29, 2000
This book worked on two levels. On one level it's a recounting of a big-game safari that Hemingway undertook with one of his many wives (referred to only by initials, POM) and two of their friends - Karl, whom he finds himself rivalling in a bid to bag the best game; Mr JP or Pop, in real life an acclaimed hunter/guide who apparently accompanied Roosevelt on a safari.
The details can be a bit confusing as the four of them move, sometimes together and sometimes separately, across a lot of African country that is differentiated only by the quality of its game and a lot of long African names that are impossible to keep track of. Otherwise it's easygoing - this is Hemingway's simple direct prose at its best, and probably the most readable of his books that I've come across so far. There is a simplicity and contentment in his writing that evokes very well the lifestyle they led, untroubled by anything except the desire to shoot the perfect kudu; each day spent in a beautiful country eating, reading, walking and hunting, then going to sleep and waking to do the exact same things; where all triumphs and tragedies are to do with hunting and no world beyond that exists. For once Hemingway even has a happyending!
It's certainly an eye-opener for the majority of us who, not being rich white expatriates in a time when environmentalism and animal rights hardly merited concern, will never embark on a safari. The fact that it's wholly non-fiction is a trifle surprising, for events build up to a convenient climax, and the ending contains convenient closure.
Delve a little deeper and Hemingway allows us to accompany him through his thoughts - his reflections on Africa, hunting, writing, living. He has a knack for looking at things in an unique light, reducing concepts down to simple terms and insisting that this is the way things are... Also, an idea of the author himself - the type of person he is - is built up quite clearly, more so than in `A Moveable Feast'. There the author as a distinct individual never quite took shape; here he does, a character with his own follies and graces.... but it's interesting and well-written - two
on December 30, 2004
Green Hills of Africa absolutely captivated me. I was fascinated. As well as any of his writings, this book powerfully demonstrates Hemingway's prowess as a writer. It was not the subject matter that captured me--I maintain that setting is largely irrelevant to Hemingway's stories. Far more important is how he portrays people and the things that happen to them. That is what drew me into this book, and that is what makes Hemingway such an amazing author. Even if you are not into hunting, this is literature worth reading.
Hemingway once said that a writer needs a built-in- B.S. detector. He forgot to take it along on this safari, though he is willing to stand corrected occasionally by his then- wife Pauline for errors of 'diarrhea of the mouth'. In any case the old Hem style is truly at work here, and it supplies us with some truly beautiful and moving passages. It also supplies us with a capsule survey of American Literature as provided by the great Hem in which he finds Emerson, Thoreau and Whittier all mind and no body, Melville all rhetoric and and an imagined mystery not really there, and only Crane, Twain and James worth keeping. His most famous riff is of course the one in which he says all American Literature derives from a book called Huckleberry Finn which he then says is great to a certain point only. Old Hem in a wonderfully snobbish way tells us that America really has no literature and that we need someone with the discipline of Flaubert and the something else of Stendhal if we are to have one. No doubt he is the one who intends to supply the product.
With all the posturing and the big - game hunting shtantz and the bull which accompanies it( And with it too the morally objectionable chest- beating at cutting down unarmed rhinos, lions, kudu etc. Hemingway is at times here at the top of his game. He was young and strong and relatively happy and had already made it as a writer though perhaps not in the way he ultimately wanted to.
The dialogue between him and the other hunters is to my mind over-mannered stylized pretentious crap.
But there are passages in the book which remind you that this is one of the truly great American writers, and one of , in my judgment, the best short story writers of them all.
I want to cite a passage just to give the feeling of how good old Hem could be when he was good.
" What I had to do was work. I did not care, particularly , how it all came out. I did not take my own life seriously anymore, any one else's life , yes, but not mine. They all wanted something that I did not want and I would get it without wanting it, if I worked. To work was the only thing , it was the one thing that always made you feel good , and in the meantime it was my own damned life and I would lead it where and how I pleased. And where I led it now pleased me very much. This was a better sky than Italy. The hell, it was. The best sky was in Italy and Spain and Northern Michigan and in the fall in the Gulf off Cuba. You could beat this sky; but not the country."
on March 7, 2006
This is a travelogue of Hemmingway's experiences hunting big game in East Africa in the 1930s. EH uses an evocative language to paint a beautiful and romantic picture of an Africa that is now gone forever. The reader can feel the African heat, and sense the frustration when the quarry escapes. There are some glimmers of the best of EH in this book (when he is discussing American literature or the philosophy of writing, for example), but this is certainly not his best work. There are some graphic descriptions of hunting in this book, and a few historical anecdotes. I thought the discussion about the campaigns of von Lettow to be interesting. This must have been common knowledge for Europeans or Americans at the time, but has, I suspect, been completely forgotten by most. The reader will also glean some insights into Hemmingway as a person, and his obsessions with writing and with hunting. It is interesting that EH described himself as jealous and petulant, wanting to have the best trophy to take home, and having a serious case of bad attitude when bested.
Overall, this is a decent, but not outstanding book. Someone approaching Hemmingway for the first time should not, in my opinion, start with this book. There are other novels (or collections of short stories) that should be read first. On the other hand, if you are looking for a entertaining story about big game hunting or about an Africa that has since disappeared, you would be hard pressed to find a better read. An absolute must for any serious EH fan.