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For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)

by Ernest Hemingway

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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16,916160245 (3.93)499
The story of Robert Jordan, an American fighting, during the Spanish Civil War, with the anti-fascist guerillas in the mountains of Spain.
1940s (10)
Europe (26)

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English (141)  Spanish (6)  Catalan (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (158)
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)
Overall a good read. Set during the Spanish Civil War of the ‘30s, of which I had little knowledge, it also places the reader behind the guerrilla lines where I also seldom find myself. A very fitting title, whose verse is finely interwoven throughout the pages. ( )
  282Mikado | Apr 13, 2022 |
"There's no one thing that's true. It's all true."

For Whom The Bell Tolls is set in May 1937, at the height of the Spanish Civil War, and centres around an American, Robert Jordan who has crossed the Atlantic to enlist on the Republican side in the war.

Robert Jordan and his peasant guide Anselmo have been given the difficult task of travelling behind enemy lines to join up with a group of Spanish guerrillas fighters to blow up a Fascist-controlled bridge as part of a larger Republican offensive.

The leader of the guerillas, Pablo, opposes the bridge operation because he believes it endangers the group's safety and Robert Jordan suspects that Pablo may try and sabotage the mission. At the guerilla camp Robert Jordan meets Pilar, Pablo’s “woman” who appears to be the real leader of the band and the six other inhabitants of the camp. The group also shelters a young woman recently rescued by the guerillas from the Fascists, named Maria. Robert Jordan and Maria are immediately drawn together and soon profess love for one another.

Meanwhile, in Madrid, Robert Jordan’s friend, a Russian named Karkov, learns that the Fascists know about the offensive that the Republicans have planned.

Robert Jordan also comes to realise that the Fascists know about the supposedly surprise offensive and are moving up forces ready to counter it. Robert Jordan sends one of the band, Andres, back across enemy lines with a dispatch warning the Republican General in charge of the attack of his fears. However, Andres is so delayed by suspicious officers and politicians that the warning arrives too late meaning that Robert Jordan and the guerillas are compelled to carry out the operation anyway.

As dawn breaks, the guerillas destroy the bridge but as they cross the road in retreat Robert Jordan’s horse and he is injured so badly that he is unable to continue and must be left behind.

Alone, Robert Jordan contemplates suicide but soon he realises that the longer he can delay the Fascists pursuit the more chance the rest of the group have of evading capture. As he awaits death, Robert Jordan becomes grateful for having lived, in his final few days, a full lifetime. For the first time, he feels “integrated,” with the world.

The main themes of this novel is the loss of innocence in war and the value of human life. All the characters come to realise that morality is subjective and never clear cut during armed conflict, virtually all of them hate the idea of killing another human being but know that in war it's unavoidable. Hemingway drives this point home right at the very end of the novel, despite the successful completion of the mission there is no triumphalism, no real sense of victory, no notion of good prevailing over evil, most of the enemy combatants aren't even real Fascists but merely people who happened to join that particular side of the conflict. However, this book isn't all doom and gloom, even in the face of adversity Hemingway holds out the hope of finding true romantic love.

This novel is in many respects typical Hemingway, largely meandering slowly building up the tension before culminating in an explosive flourish. It isn't a particularly easy, riveting or even quick read but one that you have to stick with. It thoughtfully captures a pretty traumatic time in Spain's relatively recent history but could also just as easily be set in any other country that has endured civil war during the last century or so, as such it's worth the effort. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Dec 8, 2021 |
This is sort of a tragic tale, and it can be very repetitive and sometimes go on and on just about conflicting views in someone's head, or off on a tangent that hardly seems to be related. And boiled down it seems sort of a simplistic story. But, somehow despite all that, the story really mattered quite a bit to me, and I'll carry it with me for many years. I think it delivers its meaning subtly, weaving it into the book almost while you're distracted by all the other stories and events. But there's quite a bit there if you care to notice. I don't think it could have been written if Hemingway hadn't spent so much time covering the war and if he hadn't cared so deeply about its outcome. Like in WW2, Spain's Civil War had a strong feeling of the anti-facists 'fighting the good fight' and 'being on the right side of history', but this book does a good job of showing that always wars are complicated. There are good and bad people on each side, sometimes your position is based on strong ideals, and sometimes it is determined for you and you could have just as easily been fighting *with* the people you're fighting against. The book was written knowing that the Fascists ended up winning that war, but it still held to the kernel of hope and the ideals that ultimately helped restore democracy several decades later. I think it's a special book, and, though it was emotionally taxing at times, I'm very glad I read it. ( )
  JorgeousJotts | Dec 3, 2021 |
A truly excellent story, if a bit ponderous in language. ( )
  Adam_Gugliciello | Oct 26, 2021 |
A Book With Bad Reviews

Maybe the reviewers judged this book by Hemingway's other novels, which are certainly better. But this is a good book.

For Whom The Bell Tolls starts slowly, and stays that way for about half the book. It meanders through two days of Robert Jordan preparing to blow up a bridge in Spain in support of an offensive during the Spanish Civil War. Those two days build an enormous amount of tension as you read, wishing Hemingway would just get on with it. Then he does get on with it, and the punch of all the story threads he pulls together are tremendously satisfying. The stupidity of war, which increases as the ranks of the military leaders involved rises. The treachery of the untrustworthy guerrilla leader whom Jordan must rely on to fight the soldiers guarding the bridge. The seeming redemption of the leader, then his renewed treachery as he takes care of his own people at the expense of Jordan and another guerrilla band.

Although this book is written in English, the sentence structures are closer to the Spanish Hemingway must have thought it in. The dialogue in particular is written as though translated. This multi-lingual approach adds a dimension to the book, makes it feel slightly foreign and immerses you into the culture. You can imagine Hemingway there, taking part in the blowing of the bridge.

Well worth a read. ( )
  skavlanj | Jul 19, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 141 (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 (50 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hemingway, Ernestprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arbonès, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bahar, MustafaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baudisch, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carboni, GuidoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dietsch, J.N.C. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonsson, ThorstenTranslatorsecondary 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
This book is for Martha Gellhorn
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He lay 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.
Your nationality and your politics did not show when you were dead.
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The story of Robert Jordan, an American fighting, during the Spanish Civil War, with the anti-fascist guerillas in the mountains of Spain.

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