A Hemingway Memory

I find it fascinating when a current event brings back a life memory.It happened to me just this week.

I was listening to the morning news with my wife whena report came on about the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain (the Spanish call it encierro). Hold on hold on, I know what you’re wondering…“Did Tony run with the bulls?” Are you kidding? I can barely run across the street when a Mack truck is coming.

Anyway…every July during the San Fermin festival bulls are moved through the streets of Pamplona to the bull ring. For years people, especially young men, have run along side the bulls to demonstrate their machismo. Each morning of the festival at 8:00Am officials fire a rocket which tells the runners the bulls have been let lose. Later another rocket is fired to signal the bulls have entered the arena.

Ernest Hemingway made the event famous in The Sun Also Rises, his novel about the post WWI Lost Generation.

But, back to my point…Whenever I hear of “encierro”, an old memory comes flooding back to me. I was a senior in college taking a seminar in American Literature. I missed a class. I’m talking close to forty years ago so I don’t remember why, but I must have been deadly sick, or I would never have skipped class (sarcasm here). Several weeks after my absence the Prof reminded the students that a research paper was due the next class (two days later) on an American novel. The announcement took me by surprise. After class I approached him. “I thought the paper wasn’t due for two more weeks”, I said. He informed me he changed the due date and I must have missed the announcement.

I was in a panic. I had to read a novel and write a paper on it in two days. I immediately drove to the library and after shuffling through the fiction section took out The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I went home and retired to my bedroom.

I had read a little of Hemingway’s work in high school, but nothing serious. To me he work was just another homework assignment.

I opened the book and read the first sentence…”Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton”. Almost instantly I was captivate by Hemingway’s simple style of writing.  Nine words, just nine words opened this famous novel…brilliant.

I couldn’t put the story of Jake Barnes down. The story set in Spain exposes the Lost Generation through a series of events, one of which is the running of the bulls. I blazed through the novel and passed my paper in on time…but more importantly I was hooked on Hemingway.

Next I read A Farewell To Arms, then For Whom The Bells Toll, The Old Man and the Sea (my favorite), Papa’s short stories and on and on. Hemingway became and still is, my favorite author.

Life is fascinating…I find it amazing that this old, overweight guy from the Merrimack Valley (that’s me) is still moved by the running of the bulls.