True at First Light by Ernest Hemingway - review by Malcolm Bradbury

Malcolm Bradbury

It Really is a Very Important Centenary

True at First Light

By

Heinemann 320pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

In the ebb and flow of modern literary reputations, Ernest Hemingway's is one that, over recent years, has markedly ebbed. This is no doubt partly because of the machismo of his narratives and literary character, which has taken many hard knocks in our politically corrective, gender-rebalancing age. But there was always more to it than that. As Cyril Connolly put it in the fine obituary he wrote in The Sunday Times on Hemingway's death in 1961, his work, especially the later work, was flawed by a warp in his character, 'a sadistic facetiousness which went with a tendency to sentimentality' and which encouraged ponderous humour, anti-intellectualism, and a bloated exploitation of his literary success.

There are other reasons for the decline in the reputation of a writer Connolly rightly commemorated as having the stature of a truly great novelist: the equivalent of Balzac, Flaubert and Tolstoy. For many decades Hemingway served as the exemplary modern American writer: style-maker, voice-finder, authentic spirit, key literary influence.

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