Ernest Hemingway’s “The sun also rises” treats of the fortunes of three middle-aged American writers, who are friends. One of the writers, Jake Barnes tells the story from his point of view. All three of them lead a quite wealthy, spoiled, alcoholic life in the highest intellectual circles of the Paris of 1920. The story, told in three books, largely takes place in Paris’ best cafés and restaurants, where the three of them meet their contacts, and in Spain.
In the first book the three friends are introduced, as well as Lady Brett Ashley, the extremely attractive girlfriend of Jake’s. Actually she’s about to divorce from her husband, who remains unknown to the reader, so she’s not quite a “one-man woman.” When Robert Cohn and Bill Gorton are being introduced to Brett, Robert falls in love immediately. Brett abandones Jake for Mike Campbell, which is not a real problem to Jake, because she – in spite of her astonishing looks and her fine, somewhat arrogant nature – can’t be taken control of at all.
Book 2. This year they decide to go and see the bull fights in Pamplona too, after having had their yearly fishing trip. When the annual fishing trip draws near, the three friends – accompagnied by Brett and Mike – gather in Bayonna. Brett and Mike would arrive a bit later. As they don’t turn up, Bill and Jake decide to leave and go to Burguete to fish. Robert however, fallen head over heels in love with her, decides to await Brett’s arrival – and Mike’s, of course. After a few days – and after having missed the entire fishing trip – Robert, together with Brett and Mike, meets Jake and Bill in Hotel Montoya, in Pamplona. They walk around in the town, eat in restaurants, drink in cafés and bars, until the fiesta begins.
The fiesta is opened by the release of countless raging bulls in the city of Pamplona. The party-goers eat, drink and dance in an unique original Spanish ambience: tapas are served in traditional style, wine is drunk out of leather sacks, the Spanish men dance in traditional costumes and the bulls are fought by tough matadors.
Jake meets the most famous and beloved matador, the nineteen-year-old and very handsome Pedro Romero, and they become sort of friends – after all: upper class meets upper class. Brett, after having seen Pedro’s gracious act in the bull’s arena and after being introduced to him, falls in love with him. That’s the point where Robert blew a fuse: his obsessed love for Brett and the richly flowing alcohol drives him mad, and he punches Jake in the face and beats Pedro up. Next morning he takes the first train back to Paris. Brett decides to live in Spain with her matador. Mike and Jake know any of them can stop her, and they party along with Bill. They of course decide they hate Robert – something Mike’d been proclaiming for ages – and they admit they already hated him before, that bloody Jew.
In the last book the fiesta is over. Mike and Bill return to Paris and Jake goes to San Sebastian to recover. There he receives a telegram of Brett, who has been abandoned by Pedro as soon as they arrived in Madrid. Jake picks up his old girlfriend and they have a night out in Madrid. Them too return to Paris, where they continue their lives.
“The sun also rises” is a book about friendship. I don’t really like this subject more than other subjects, but it’s a nice subject after all. I find it more interesting than books about, for instance, war (not about the consequences of war, that’s something totally different).
In book 1 the reader gets acquainted with the leading characters. I then rather got annoyed of them, because of their spoiled lifestyle and their arrogant behaviour in particular. They live in beautiful Paris a life that many people desire: they party all day, have breakfast, lunch and dinner in expensive restaurants and drink fine wines in bars, they have rich, noble or important friends and, when the funds are getting low, they write a few pages in their new novel. They don’t even seem to have a house or flat: they only meet in cafés and restaurants. I got irritated by the fact they live their wonderful life in such an insolent way, enjoying the delights of life – leisure time, money, friends, copious amounts of nice food and wine. They communicate with each other in a rather conceited and arrogant way, like: “’Will I see you then in Montmartre after midday for lunch?’ ‘No. Then I’ll have a brandy with Lady Ashley in the Ritz, and I won’t have dinner with you unless we go to some other restaurant. The wine is awful here. But I have to go now, because I must meet count Mippipopolous now in Lavigne’s.’” But after a while, particularly in Spain, during the fiesta, they become friendlier. It could be the Spanish wine, or the fact that everybody, count and farmer, are equals when the bulls run. After a while I even started to like them, because they turned out to have some interfaces with ordinary people: them too fell in love with each other, them too hated each other, them too had human feelings after all! After all, we all are humans.
The author creates a very intimate ambience while he describes the fishing trip in Burguete and even more the fiesta in Pamplona. I liked it most of the book. It creates a nice image of the mediterranian lifestyle. I loved the way the Spanish people celebrated the fiesta as connected to each other as though they where one man, drinking wine out of traditional leather sacks, the men and boys dancing around the women and girls on primitive music, the excitement of the bull’s fights and the idolizing of the matadors. The fiesta could have taken place two centuries ago, and, on a smaller scale, twenty milllenia ago, when the prehistoric people danced around the fire, pounded on drums and listened to the tribal chief’s brave stories. That’s how it’s done in the Bertolli television advertisements! The next two fragments describe that ambience well: “In the evening was the paseo. For an hour after dinner every one, all the good-looking girls, the officers from the garrison, all the fashionable people of the town, walked in the street on one side of the square while the café tables filled with the regular after-dinner crowd. During the morning I usually sat in the café and read the Madrid papers and then walked in the town or out into the country. Sometimes Bill went along. Sometimes he wrote in his room. Robert Cohn spent the mornings studying Spanish or trying to get a shave at the barber-shop. Brett and Mike never got up until noon. We all had a vermouth at the café. It was a quiet life and no one was drunk.” (page 150) and “People were coming into the square from all sides, and down the street we heard the pipes and the fifes and the drums coming. They were playing the riau-riau music, the pipes shrill and the drums pounding, and behind them came the men and boys dancing. When the fifers stopped they all crouched down in the street, and when the reed-pipes and the fifes shrilled, and the flat, dry, hollow drums tapped it out again, they all went up in the air dancing. In the crowd you saw only the heads and shoulders of the dancers going up and down.” (page 217)
I liked the next fragment so much I made a note of the pages to remember. It reflects the relationships between the lead characters well and it’s very philosophic, yet very recognizable. Those fragments which are particularly recognizable, are in italics. Unusual words the lead characters use often, are in italics too. “I do not know what time I got to bed. I remember undressing, putting on a bathrobe, and standing out on the balcony. I knew I was quite drunk, and when I came in I put on the light over the head of the bed and started to read. I was reading a book by Turgenieff. Probably I read the same two pages over several times. It was one of the stories in “A Sportsman’s Sketches” I had read it before, but it seemed quite new. The country became very clear and the feeling of pressure in my head seemed to loosen. I was very drunk and I did not want to shut my eyes because the room would go round and round. If I kept on reading that feeling would pass. I heard Brett and Robert Cohn come up the stairs. Cohn said good night outside the door and went on up to his room. I heard Brett go into the room next door. Mike was already in bed. He had come in with me an hour before. He woke as she came in, and they talked together. I heard them laugh. I turned of the light and tried to go to sleep. It was not necessary to read any more. I could shut my eyes without getting the wheeling sensation. But I could not sleep. There is no reason why because it is dark you should at things differently from when it is light. The hell there isn’t! I figured that all out once, and for six months I never slept with the electric light off. That was another bright idea. To hell with women, anyway. To hell with you, Brett Ashley. Women made such swell friends. Awfully swell. In the first place, you had to be in love with a woman to have a basis of friendship. I had been having Brett for a friend. I had not been thinking about her side of it. I had been getting something for nothing. That only delayed the presentation of the bill. The bill always came. That was one of the swell things you could count on. I thought I had paid for everything. Not like the woman pays and pays and pays. No idea of retribution or punishment. Just exchange of values. You gave up something and got something else. Or you worked for something. Youi paid some way for everything that was any good. I paid my way into enough things that I liked, so that I had a good time. Either you paid by learning about them, or by experience, or by taking chances, or by money. Enjoying living was learning to get your money’s worth and knowing when you had it. You could get your money’s worth. The world was a good place to buy in. It seemed like a fine philosophy. In five years, I thought, it will seem just as silly as all the other fine philosophies I’ve had. (…) I wished Mike would not behave so terribly to Cohn, though, Mike was a bad drunk. Brett was a good drunk. Bill was a good drunk. Cohn was never drunk. Mike was unpleasant after he passed a certain point. I liked to see him hurt Cohn. I wished he would not do it, though, because afterward it made me disgusted at myself. That was morality; things that made you disgusted afterward. No, that must be immorality. That was a large statement. What a lot of bilge I could think up that night. What rot, I could hear Brett say it. What rot! When you were with English you got into the habit of using English expressions in your thinking. The English spoken language – the upper classes, anyway – must have fewer words than the Eskimo. Of course I didn’t know anything about the Eskimo. Maybe the Eskimo was a fine language. Say the Cherokee. I didn’t know anything about the Cherokee, either. The English talked with inflected phrases. One phrase to mean everything. I liked them, though. I liked the way they talked. (…) I turned on the light again and read. I read the Turgenieff. I knew that now, reading it in the oversensitized state of my mind after much too much brandy, I would remember it somewhere, and afterward it would seem as though it had really happened to me. I would always have it. That was another good thing you paid for and then had. Some time along toward daylight I went to sleep.” (pages 147, 148 and 149)
The theory about paying for the fun in one’s life is about how to get happy. Jake had been happy with Brett without doing something, paying for it (he got something for nothing), but after all Jake was presented the bill anyway, for Brett abandoned him (the bill always came). Then Jake goes on about his other delights of life and how to get them: to fight to obtain them, to run into them or to simply buy them (I actually think Jake hasn’t ever fought for them or run into them to have a good time; money has just been enough).
On the whole I find the book quite boring. Nothing actually happens, all the pages look the same. Actually the story could be told in two sentences, but of course only the manner the author has told his little story is of importance in this book. However not many interesting events occurred, so if it wasn’t for school, I wouldn’t have read the book entirely.
After every book I read I realize what a nice life I have. I can’t stand the idea of me leading such a wealthy and unhealthy life in such an insolent and arrogant way, so once again I’m very happy to be me.
I’ve learned how nice Pamplona’s fiestas are: the author describes the bull fights and the party on the streets in detail. But I wouldn’t like to see the poor horses killed by raging bulls in the arena, and after that the bulls killed by the matadors. However, I would like to attend such a fiesta with some friends. The Spanish people seem at least very hospitable.
And of course I’ve learned some new English words, and some swell old rotten English slang. It’s a good thing to read in English, since it saves one the necessity to cram the English grammar and set phrases. Exactly the same goes for other foreign languages.