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The Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories Hardcover – January 1, 1938
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"This volume presents Ernest Hemingway's first full-length play, The Fifth Column, and brings for the first time into one collection all the short stories that he has written. Today Hemingway is recognized as the greatest contemporary practitioner of the short-story writer's art--- a reputation that rests solidly on such masterpieces as The Undefeated, The Killers, Big Two-Hearted River, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Here is the whole, exceptionally varied series, including four stories that have not appeared in any Hemingway collection. There are vibrant tales built around memories of boyhood in the American Northwest, stories of sport alive with joy of living, tautly drawn recollections of the war years, and revealing impressions of modern life never before disclosed so excitingly or woven into stories with such uncanny accuracy. [from a piece of front flap on the blank page of book]
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The main action here concerns the actions, manners, and love life of a seemingly irresolute character, Phillip, in reality a committed communist who has found himself wrapped up intensely in the struggle to fight against Franco's counter-revolution. His role is to ferret out the fifth columnists that have infiltrated into Madrid for intelligence/sabotage purposes on behalf of the Franco forces in the bloody civil war that was shaking Republican Spain. The term `fifth column' comes from the notion that not only the traditional four columns of the military are at work but a fifth column of sympathizers who are trying to destabilize the Republic. What to do about them is the central question of this, or any, civil war.
At the time there was some controversy that swirled around Hemingway for presenting the solution of summary executions of these agents as the correct way of dealing with this menace. I have questioned some of Hemingway's political judgments on Spain elsewhere, particularly concerning the role of the International Brigades, but he is right on here. Needless to say, as almost always with Hemingway, a little love interest is thrown into the mix to spice things up. However, in the end, despite the criminal Stalinist takeover of the Spanish security apparatus and its counter-revolutionary role in gutting the revolutionary promise in Spain this play presents a question all militants need to be aware of.
As for the other works included here there are many classics such as The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Killers, many of the youthful Nick Adams stories, stories on bullfighting, a few on the never-ending problems of love and its heartbreaks, and some sketches that were included in A Farewell to Arms. Well worth your time. As always Hemingway wields his sparse and functional language to make his points. Again, as always read this man. But what you really need to read here is The Fifth Column. Okay.