intense sensations

Learning how to become vulnerable

Posted on: September 23, 2011

A Farewell to ArmsA Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t care what anyone says, you don’t get to be a literary giant just by writing short sentences shorn of adjectives. There has to be something else there beating beneath the surface of your words. Something that you can only acquire through painful experience. Something you learn the hard way.

Frederic Henry, the hero in this novel, has the swagger. The war, he tells us, had nothing to do with him and was no more dangerous than in the movies. He has the machismo. He knew he didn’t love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her.

Then he acquires the experience.

Gradually we discover that the hard shell of his pared down vocabulary conceals a deep, intense, heartfelt, shattering, unsustainable emotion.

Then maybe we cry and we supply the adjectives Hemingway and Henry refused to give us.

A Farewell to Arms is for me Hemingway’s most perfect novel because it tells the story without any mannerisms or distractions. It is like one of his short stories, only longer. And it makes me cry with a minimum of adjectives.

Vanessa Wu is the author of Love Has No Limits

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