Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Old Man and the Sea

A friend of mine told me about this book when we were having a conversation about dull books (yes, I don’t like every book) and when I saw this copy in the library, I thought I’d see what all his fuss was about.

He described the book as a story in which nothing happens – it’s literally about an old man, in a boat, surrounded by nothing but the sea. And that’s absolutely true.
I read most of this book mid-pancake baking (bad idea, by the way. Books and baking don’t match!) But I think I can add a bit more to his description now.
The Old Man and The Sea is a short-story by Hemingway, and is supposed to be a Big Deal, but honestly after reading it I don’t see how it has gained the status it has. The writing style bugs me; I am a big fan of using punctuation marks where they ought to be, and even though I guess some of the lack thereof is to show how the man’s spirit is slowly breaking, it’s exactly the same as in the beginning of the book, where the old man is supposed to still be sane.
An example:
‘But you have not slept yet, old man,’ he said aloud. ‘It is half a day and a night and now another day and you have not slept. You must devise a way so that you sleep a little if he is quiet and steady. If you do not sleep you might become unclear in the head.’
               ‘I’m clear enough in the head, he thought. Too clear. I am as clear as the stars that are my brothers. Still I must sleep. They sleep and the moon and sun sleep and even the ocean sleeps sometimes on certain days when there is no current and a flat calm.
               But remember to sleep, he thought. Make yourself do it and devise some simple and sure way about the lines.
(The missing [ ‘ ] at the end is not my doing)

A look at the back of the book and seeing the praises made me frown. “… Technically, I should say, [the old man and the sea] is perfect” – somedude Linklater, and “…it is the finest written long short-story by anyone anywhere.” – Arthur Cantremember in the Listener.
I mean, of course, anything that is somewhat well-known will gain a few die-hard fans I guess, but really? Perfect? If I had to make a top-three out of all the short stories I have ever read in my short life, I do not think this novel will be in it. (It would probably consist mostly of Mc Sweeney’s and maybe some Tolkien fairy tales)

I feel like I should mention that other book about a guy alone at sea called Life of Pi. If someone asks me which book I think everyone in the world should read, it is this one, yet the books are so different. I guess, writing style aside, this is caused by the totally different approach to thought process of the main character. The old man hardly seems to think at all, the way he is focused on this one fish and how to get him; he is not afraid or in pain, or at least he doesn’t admit he is. Pi, on the other hand, thinks about his religions, about surviving, about his past and his future, which is much more interesting to read. (Admittedly, he has 227 days to fill with thinking, whilst the Old man barely has two days and two nights.)

Was it worth reading it? I guess. It wasn’t worth burning pancakes over though.

Until next time,

still delicious.

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