Sunday, March 05, 2017

Old Man and The Sea

As part of my effort to read 12 books in 2017 I recently read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

This book, like a handful of other "classics" I've never read has intrigued me for sometime. I often tell people my favorite type of book is one without too many characters and so this one that is a man at sea on a boat seemed like one I was missing out on.

The book The Old Man and the Sea won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and appeared in Life magazine. It's hard for me to imagine reading this book in it's magazine form, and while Hemingway was famous at the time of it's publication you have to wonder if in reading it people were aware of it's significance at that time.

There is something striking reading this over a half a century after it's first release because while the world has changed dramatically, there is something very human portrayed in the story of a an old man who is past his prime who has that one last big adventure, an adventure made all the more challenging due to age, yet all the more important because of it.

On the other hand, Santiago, an aged man who hasn't caught a fish in months encounters a giant marlin at sea, reminds us of how much the world has changed. For starters, the Cuba presented here continues to change since the publication of this book. Additionally, the book was written without any ecologically themed presentation on the role of pollution, population, or the role of over fishing. Not to mention, the role of industry has continued to change, and as it does the central act of fishing here looks more like contemporary sport than the picture here associated with mid-twentieth century survival.

In all these ways, it's hard to say how this book might be viewed if it had it's first publication today. There's something almost romantic and nostalgic about the hard course, the triumph, and the challenge faced by it's central character. A message that seems to communicate that there is nothing that comes easy without pain, defeat and heartache, and that somehow that is beautifully human.

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