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For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)

by Ernest Hemingway

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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15,163148245 (3.95)482
The story of Robert Jordan, an American fighting, during the Spanish Civil War, with the anti-fascist guerillas in the mountains of Spain.
1940s (7)
Europe (32)

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» See also 482 mentions

English (132)  Spanish (5)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  German (1)  All languages (146)
Showing 1-5 of 132 (next | show all)
I'm disappointed. Ernest Hemmingway should have done this war better justice. Obviously, I'm going to be comparing this novel to Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. A very famous English writer goes to Spain to fight the fascists, and comes home having written a book about it. But where "Homage" is full of spirit and admiration for the Spaniards, their fiery politics, their ideological devotion to freedom and equality, For Whom the Bell Tolls is a dud. Orwell stated: "it would be quite impossible to write about the Spanish war from a purely military angle. It was above all things a political war." And yet this is what Ernest Hemingway does. So immersed in Robert Jordan's life are we that we get no "bigger picture" of the conflict unfolding around him. No politics, just fascists and anti-fascists, who have no politics of their own. You get just as much politics out of an overwhelmingly political war from the Metallica song based on the (movie? book?).

Furthermore, we develop no affinity to any of the Spaniards. Relating to Spaniards is made much more difficult with Hemingway's chosen awkward too-literal translations. The Spanish speech patterns are littered with archaic pronouns: thee, thy, thou. Hemingway's prudish self-censorship, along with the literal translation of Spanish curses (that would be far better translated as a simple "Fuck you," or "Fuck your ________") also get in the way of seeing any of the characters as relatable. When the Spanish are angry in Hemingway's novel, they yell, "obscenity!" or "I obscenity in the milk of thy (whatever it is)!"

The relationship between Robert Jordan and his girlfriend Maria is bizarre and more like what Ernest Hemingway's fantasy woman would be. Even creepier than that, maybe. She wants to not only love Robert Jordan, she wants to be with him ALL of the time, be doing EVERYTHING he's doing, doing EVERYTHING for him, looking like him, and even BEING him. It's totally off-putting for me as a reader.

Totally meh. ( )
  magonistarevolt | Apr 29, 2020 |
I encountered For Whom The Bell Tolls first in 2007, when I borrowed the audio book read by Campbell Scott from the library, and I liked it so much that I bought my own copy and have listened to it two or three times since then. It's my book of choice for long haul flights, because it doesn't matter if I nod off—I know every word of the plot by now and it's the timbre of Scott's voice and his masterful rendition of the thoughts of Robert Jordan that I love to listen to.

That made it the perfect choice for bedtime 'reading' during my recovery from eye surgery. In the beginning I was taking heavy-duty painkillers so I did indeed nod off, and I listened to more than one of the sixteen CDs two or three times, savouring every word of the story yet unable to stay awake to the end of them. Which is why it has taken almost four weeks to finish the book...

There are many things to love about For Whom The Bell Tolls. It's a story about high idealism, and about the doomed courage of the people who fought against Franco's militarily superior fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). The central character Robert Jordan is a young academic who teaches Spanish, and he joins the defence of the democratically elected Second Spanish Republic, which was supported by workers, peasants and by the Soviet Union because of its land reforms. (I owe some of what I know about the Spanish Civil War from a most informative short course run by Graham Pratt at the Hawthorn U3A). The novel traces Jordan's journey both literal and psychological as he follows orders to travel behind enemy lines and destroy a bridge in order to frustrate a forthcoming offensive.

Under the command of the Soviet General Golz, Jordan joins up with a band of local anti-fascist guerrillas to undertake his mission. At the beginning of the story he has no fear of danger because he places no great value on his own life. He is fighting for a greater good, the principle of democracy and an equitable division of a nation's wealth, and is prepared to sacrifice his own life for the cause. But although at the beginning of his mission he tells General Golz he has no time for girls, when he falls for Maria in the guerrilla camp his perspective shifts. His life—and hers even more so—begin to matter. Through his internal dialogues, the novel traces Jordan's transition from dispassionate acceptance that lives must be sacrificed to an emotional epiphany that it is not so simple.

In contrast to Jordan's idealism is Pablo, the leader of the guerrilla camp. He is brusque and rude, and is prepared to frustrate Jordan's operation because it poses a risk to the surviving forces in the mountains. He knows that if the bridge is blown up, the fascists will hunt them down in retaliation. He knows that the Republic is doomed, and there are few places of safety left. Anselmo, a much older guerrilla fighter, scorns him as one who was once a great warrior but is now only concerned with himself, but it is Pablo who speaks the truth about the war. Whereas General Golz complains that their problems are lack of coherent organisation and a fractured command structure, Pablo articulates why the Republicans failed: it was because they were militarily inferior in every way. They were outclassed in the air, their weapons were pitiful, and even the beautiful cavalry horses they stole from the enemy had injuries. As the novel progresses, we see that the enemy has tanks and artillery; the guerrillas do not even know what these weapons are.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2020/03/31/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-by-ernest-hemingway/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Mar 31, 2020 |
This story takes place over a period of four days near Segovia, Spain.
The main character, Robert Jordan, is an American fighting for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil war. It is early spring and his role is to blow up a bridge as part of the battle against the fascists who have over turned the democratic election of the 2nd republic.
Other characters include Pablo, his wife Pilar, Maria, Anselmo and several other fighters. All are sheltered in a a well stocked mountain cave while they await the orders to blow the bridge and fight.
Roberto speaks fluent Spanish from teaching at a an American university so he is able to easily communicate with all. Pilar explains how Pablo was a war hero but became washed up. Roberto falls in love almost instantly with Maria, a very vulnerable young woman who has lost her parents and has been physically and likely sexually abused by the Fascists. This is the weakest part of the story.
There is much discussion among the characters about the reasons for the war, the role of the Russians, communism and the need for reform. Robert has many interior monologues about his family, his grandfather and his views on democracy.
I did not a want to like this book as I’m not a big Hemingway fan but I was impressed with the writing, the characters, the atmosphere evoked in the mountains and the cave. I like books that force you to do some research on the central theme, in this case the Spanish Civil War.
The ending is very well described as Robert and fighters prepare to blow up the bridge and prepare to fight the military. ( )
  MaggieFlo | Feb 6, 2020 |
I can't say I loved this book. But I can say that I finished it. - an accomplishment in itself - and that I appreciate it. It is the next subject of our Lit Flicks group, when a dozen of our friends will gather to watch the movie. I wonder what Hollywood will do to it. So much of the "beauty" of the book is not the detail of war, although that is certainly there. It is the inner thoughts of men engaged in war, facing their mortality, believing in ideals, seeking truth. That is universal and is why I believe this book is hailed as a masterpiece of war. ( )
  steller0707 | Aug 25, 2019 |
Having read no Hemingway beyond the best short stories, I took the opportunity to listen to his famous novel about the Spanish Civil War in unabridged audio format. Quite likely, listening to it this way during daily commutes was not the best way to experience it, as I found it hard to keep track of the minor characters and shifts in time and space. However, this format sufficed to give me a good perspective on the novel's overall theme and plot. Further, I found Alexander Adams to be a competent narrator; he didn't attempt to do the various voices in entirely different ways, but he spoke clearly and sufficiently slowly throughout to be thoroughly understandable. Further, the cadence of his narration faithfully captured the sense that the novel had been translated from Spanish into English.

"For Whom the Bell Tolls " is of course a novel about the Spanish Civil War, a conflict often viewed as the precursor to World War II, given that it pitted the Axis- supported fascists against the democratic (through anti-Catholic) Republican forces. The tale's protagonist, Robert Jordan, is a former college professor from the US who, like many of his countrymen, volunteers in the war to fight against the fascists. The action focuses in the efforts of Jordan and his band of guerrillas to blow up a bridge at a key time in the conflict. There is drama, military conflict, betrayal, courage, cowardice, and of course, a love interest, as Jordan falls in love with Maria, a young woman of the group. The main characters are well- constructed: Jordan, Pablo (who nearly sabotages the group's attempt by stealing the explosives), Pillar (his wife), and Maria. Overarching themes include the loss of innocence, the value of human life, and the pointlessness of war.

Did I "enjoy" it? To some extent -- though I found it overly long (again as an audio work) and was glad to finish it. Perhaps I'll try the print version at some point, since the novel was meant to be read, not listened to. ( )
1 vote danielx | Aug 10, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 132 (next | show all)
Hemingway the artist is with us again; and it is like having an old friend back. That he should thus go back to his art, after a period of artistic demoralization, and give it a larger scope, that, in an era of general perplexity and panic, he should dramatize the events of the immediate past in terms, not of partisan journalism, but of the common human instincts that make men both fraternal and combative, is a reassuring evidence of the soundness of our intellectual life.
added by danielx | editNew Republic, Edmund Wilson (Jan 23, 2015)
". . . a tremendous piece of work. . . . Mr. Hemingway has always been the writer, but he has never been the master that he is in 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' . . . his finest novel."
added by GYKM | editNew York Times, Ralph Thompson (Oct 21, 1940)
The greatness of this book is the greatness of these people's triumph over their foreknowledge of death-to-come... For Whom the Bell Tolls, unlike other novels of the Spanish Civil War, is told not in terms of the heroics and dubious politics of the International Brigades, but as a simple human struggle of the Spanish people. The bell in this book tolls for all mankind.
added by jjlong | editTime (Oct 21, 1940)

» Add other authors (52 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ernest Hemingwayprimary authorall editionscalculated
Arbonès, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baudisch, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carboni, GuidoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dietsch, J.N.C. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lewis, SinclairIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martone, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
NeelyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pedrolo, Manuel deForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scott, CampbellNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesser, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never tend to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. —John Dunne
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