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3.The Endless Dark Nothingness

As we already know, Hemingway was very preoccupied with death, in his youth it was the death of small animals, later of big game or enemies in combat. Death was always present and always threatening, but was, as in the Tibetan yin yang symbol, inseparably linked to life, which Hemingway, like Jim Morrison, considered most intense in the prospect of death. He lived in the borderland, trying to get ever closer to the edge. On the other, on the yin side, waited what the Castilians call the "nada" or the endless dark nothingness.

Hemingway stood on the yang side: "Life is too short for anything but the one thing that can outface death- human dignity"(Burgess (9.), p. 61). Fernando is the representative of this opinion in "For Whom the Bell Tolls", dignity also appears in the form of gaiety as Robert Jordan mentioned in the first chapter ("It was like having immortality"(For Whom (5.), p. 18)), yet he fears and worships the nada greatly, as the stream-of-consciousness passage of Robert's sexual intercourse with Maria proves(For Whom (5.), p. 171).

For him it was a dark passage which led to nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere, heavy on the elbows in the earth to nowhere, dark, never any end to nowhere, hung on all the time always to unknowing nowhere, this time and again for always to nowhere, now not to be borne once again always and to nowhere, now beyond all bearing up, up, up and into nowhere, suddenly, scaldingly, holdingly all nowhere gone and time absolutely still and they were both there, time having stopped and he felt the earth move out and away from under them.

The prayer in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"(Short Stories (3.), p. 481), hinted at in "A Farewell to Arms" on page 13, where the still "numb" Frederic prefers nada, is very similar to this passage. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.

For Hemingway the human existence was a struggle between light and darkness, between life and death, and the epitome of this struggle were bullfights, Spain's national sport. He became an aficionado after having seen the Pamplona fiesta 1925 which was fictionalized in "The Sun Also Rises". But the book dealing exclusively with this topic was "Death in the Afternoon" where he discussed the metaphysics of bullfighting, the ritualized, almost religious procedures of the blood-soaked spectacle.

Sadly enough, the country which stood for everything that mattered to Hemingway, his cosmic principles life and death, the struggle between them, and its manifestation in the form of bullfights, was destroyed by the Fascists. In spite of his efforts to support the Loyalists, Franco took over in the spring of 1939, like Mussolini, whom Hemingway called "the biggest bluff in Europe"(Burgess (9.),p. 33), did in Italy 1922.

After having lost "his" country, he lost his Key West home as a consequence of his divorce in 1940. And at this point of time, the heaviest loss of all had already commenced. The generation he was a part of ceased to exist in the 'forties. Many were dying (Thomas Wolfe 9.15.1938, Ford Madox Ford 6.26.1939, F. Scott Fitzgerald 12.21.1940 (heart attack due to an alcoholic life as described in "The Sun Also Rises"), James Joyce 1.13.1941, Sherwood Anderson 3.8.1941, Virginia Woolf 3.28.1941 (suicide), Getrude Stein 7.27.1946) and some were leaning to the Fascists, like Ezra Pound. He became an Illand, the nothingness engulfed him.

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Last edited February 3, 2001 4:30 am by LarrySanger (diff)