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For Whom the Bell Tolls Paperback – July 1, 1995
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Collectible Books by Ernest Hemingway
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For Whom the Bell Tolls begins and ends in a pine-scented forest, somewhere in Spain. The year is 1937 and the Spanish Civil War is in full swing. Robert Jordan, a demolitions expert attached to the International Brigades, lies "flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees." The sylvan setting, however, is at sharp odds with the reason Jordan is there: he has come to blow up a bridge on behalf of the antifascist guerrilla forces. He hopes he'll be able to rely on their local leader, Pablo, to help carry out the mission, but upon meeting him, Jordan has his doubts: "I don't like that sadness, he thought. That sadness is bad. That's the sadness they get before they quit or before they betray. That is the sadness that comes before the sell-out." For Pablo, it seems, has had enough of the war. He has amassed for himself a small herd of horses and wants only to stay quietly in the hills and attract as little attention as possible. Jordan's arrival--and his mission--have seriously alarmed him.
"I am tired of being hunted. Here we are all right. Now if you blow a bridge here, we will be hunted. If they know we are here and hunt for us with planes, they will find us. If they send Moors to hunt us out, they will find us and we must go. I am tired of all this. You hear?" He turned to Robert Jordan. "What right have you, a foreigner, to come to me and tell me what I must do?"In one short chapter Hemingway lays out the blueprint for what is to come: Jordan's sense of duty versus Pablo's dangerous self-interest and weariness with the war. Complicating matters even more are two members of the guerrilla leader's small band: his "woman" Pilar, and Maria, a young woman whom Pablo rescued from a Republican prison train. Unlike her man, Pilar is still fiercely devoted to the cause and as Pablo's loyalty wanes, she becomes the moral center of the group. Soon Jordan finds himself caught between the two, even as his own resolve is tested by his growing feelings for Maria.
For Whom the Bell Tolls combines two of the author's recurring obsessions: war and personal honor. The pivotal battle scene involving El Sordo's last stand is a showcase for Hemingway's narrative powers, but the quieter, ongoing conflict within Robert Jordan as he struggles to fulfill his mission perhaps at the cost of his own life is a testament to his creator's psychological acuity. By turns brutal and compassionate, it is arguably Hemingway's most mature work and one of the best war novels of the 20th century. --Alix Wilber
"One of the greatest novels which our troubled age will produce" Observer "The best fictional report on the Spanish Civil War that we possess" -- Anthony Burgess "The best book Hemingway has written" New York Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Do not buy this book, it is worthless. Prabhat prakashan and amazon are kidding us.
Hemingway was a fabulous writer, and much of his work, though clearly rooted in his time period, still stands up to scrutiny today.
THIS IS DISGUSTING.
AMAZON, why don't you pay attention to this kind of thing???
HOW MANY OTHER CLASSICS HAVE BEEN STOLEN THIS WAY??
1. You have to read it for school
2. You love Hemingway books and his writing style
3. You love reading the classics and are experienced at reading books from the era.
And so, Robert Jordan, ordered to blow up a bridge to enable the anti-government forces' latest attack, attaches himself to a ragtag band of hardened guerrilla fighters, currently hiding out in a cave in the hills near the bridge. In the cave, he finds a band of unstable, hotheaded misfits, a band of unique and beguiling individuals, a band that is sheltering a frightened "little rabbit." But they are very few, and the task Robert Jordan has brought them is very great. Can he possibly lead them to a glorious, unlikely success, or will he lead them to their doom and his own? The story is haunted by the concept that: "Whether one has fear of it or not, one's death is difficult to accept." This is the scene that Hemingway sets, and being Hemingway, all he does is tell us: These are the people, this is what happened to them, this is what they did, this is what they said. And being Hemingway, that is more than enough.
Hemingway's famously "economical" style can sometimes border on the cold, clinical, and flat, but in this book, he loosens the reins just slightly, with very effective results. The moments of fast-paced action are often very dialogue-driven; in quieter moments, there are little oases of slightly more wordy descriptions of surroundings or feelings; and sensual moments are a tumbling bundle of words and images that hardly even constitute sentences at all, but are intensely moving. Overall, the style of FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is still characteristically Hemingway - matter-of-fact, pointed, with not a word out of place. The dialogue is still jarringly clipped, but that's what makes it so stirring. There are moments of maddening, excessive repetition, but they are like hammer strokes driving the point home. Once again, Hemingway does everything that should make a story fall flat - but instead, it soars. Don't try this at home, folks. This is something beyond the powers of mere mortals; this is something found only in the realms of genius.
Characterization and character development are particularly strong in FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. In his usual way, Hemingway introduces us to all the characters of the story in situ, withholding any hint of their histories and making us earn the right to know them better by waiting and dwelling with them for some considerable time first. It seems that we are meant to get to know these characters in the present so as to deserve the privilege of knowing anything about their pasts, and so as to understand that the present is really all that matters. But by the time we have got to know them that well, all we can think about is their futures: Who will survive the dangerous mission before them?
Robert Jordan is the typical Hemingway leading man - mysterious, enigmatic, physically and emotionally strong but not invulnerable. Initially appearing to be made of stone, it is the "little rabbit," Maria, a victim of unspeakable war crimes who has found refuge with the guerrilla band, who steadily chips away at "Roberto's" facade to reveal the human being beneath. And this human being is all too mortal and all too susceptible to the dread of leading his new Spanish "family" to their doom. And the enigma remains: Why is this American fighting in somebody else's war? Meanwhile, the cast of peripheral characters in FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is as vibrant and varied as the contents of a paella. In the wait for zero hour, these characters are revealed one by one: Anselmo, the gentle-hearted "old man"; Fernando, the pedant; Agustin, the fervent revolutionary; Rafael, the unreliable gypsy. And then there is Pilar, a character who could never be accused of being "peripheral." Mercurial, certainly, but never peripheral: she is surely one of Hemingway's strongest female characters - by turns worldly, zealous, kind, cruel, loyal, bitter, and as tough as old boots. When it comes to the crunch, we are right there with these very real characters as they march with their heads held high and their hearts in their boots into the impossibly dangerous situation devised for them by the powers-that-be, the powers-that-should-damn-well-know-better.
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is reminiscent of Hemingway's other war story, A FAREWELL TO ARMS, in the attention it gives to the way in which war turns men into monsters. Pilar's recounting of the first day of the revolution in her own village plus the underlying threat of insurrection within the guerrilla band's own ranks provide chilling evidence of the evil that lurks in the souls of ordinary men and women. In the memorable words of Agustin, "War is a bitchery." Robert and Anselmo, in particular, struggle throughout with the Machiavellian concept of killing for the sake of their higher cause. Is this really all there is to it, or do they take some kind of perverse pleasure in the taking of a life? And can they be honest enough, at least with themselves, to admit it?
These themes of personal guilt and responsibility lead inevitably to contemplation of who the enemy really is. At one point, Robert remarks that one side of a revolution usually garners greater attention than the other. Hemingway makes it abundantly clear, however, that FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is not going to perpetuate this injustice, and great pains are taken to emphasize that "the enemy" are people, too. From the personal effects of an enemy scout to a peek through the window at the occupants of an enemy guardpost to actual narrative space given to the enemy in a bloody skirmish, the reader is never allowed to forget that both sides of the conflict share a common humanity. When all is said and done, Robert reflects on that part of himself that is the core of all soldiers, no matter who they fight for: "In him, too, was despair from the sorrow that soldiers turn to hatred in order that they may continue to be soldiers."
And when faced with the horrors of war, the minds of soldiers often turn to religion, another central theme of FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. Robert and his newly Communist comrades are supposed to have renounced religion altogether, and there are many jokes about their now ex-Lord and Savior. Anselmo, however, is quietly wracked with uncertainty over renouncing the beliefs of a lifetime, and in a particularly moving scene, he wishes for the opportunity to undertake some form of religious penance, once the war is over, for the lives he has taken. And when the battle for the bridge is finally waged, both sides turn to prayer as their last resort.
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is a magnificent rendition of the hypocrisy, farce, and senselessness of war. This, in itself, makes the book a superb, thought-provoking, soul-searching classic. But it is also arguably Hemingway's greatest love story. Robert and Maria's story is so much more than just a whirlwind romance, it is an exquisitely tender, desperately passionate joining of two lost but beautiful souls. As ridiculous as it may sound, Robert and Maria will make you believe that true love can blossom and burn in the space of just four days. This pair would do anything for each other. They want to live a full life together, but they won't hesitate to die for one another, either. Will they have to?
I do not make this statement lightly: FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is the most perfectly paced novel I have ever read. In the beginning, the story chugs along sedately, giving you time to meet and greet your fellow passengers and accustom yourself to your surroundings. In the last third of the book, you start to hear the whistle blowing and feel the story picking up speed. In the last fifty or so pages, you're holding on to this runaway train for dear life. By the end, you've gone past the edge of your seat and are kneeling on the floor praying for these characters, and especially these two lovers, to survive. "I wish that I were going to live a long time instead of going to die today because I have learned much about life in these four days; more, I think, than in all the other time." This is Robert Jordan's musing when the battle is finally joined, and it made me realize that I had also learned much about life from the four days, the lifetime, contained in the pages of this unprepossessing, riveting novel. The thing that makes me so passionate about books is that when they're really, really good, they make my eyes sparkle and my heart beat faster. FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS held me mesmerized and took my breath away. It is one of those books I will never forget. It is a masterpiece.