Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Sun Also Rises

Yes, it has been a while since I have posted about books. That is because I have done what I mock others for doing. I have been reading multiple books concurrently. As usual, this makes it difficult to finish one book, let alone all of them.

The most recent book club selection was Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, which followed J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey. I read The Sun Also Rises in my 20th century literature class in college, so I was familiar with the novel, though I'd forgotten much of the story. That book led me to read all of Hemingway's important novels in the span of a few years, including For Whom the Bell Tolls, Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast, and the recently released True at First Light. So it had been several years since I'd read Hemingway.

I remembered the novel sentimentally, as I was planning on participating in Bethel's England Term program the following year. I was to study abroad for a semester in England and continental Europe. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to travel Europe as Hemingway and his friends.

In my second reading, seven years later, I found a novel of despair, angst, and hopelessness. A more mature reading of the novel revealed the cycle of despair in Hemingway's novel--and has cast his body of work in a new light for me.

It was interesting to hear the reactions to the novel--particularly those of women. Naomi and another friend were both unable to "get" the novel. Of course the novel does not provide the kind of plot or story that many readers look for. The novel is meant to reveal the milieu of modern life and the human condition. We are told a story of several friends who drink wine like water and absinthe like wine, go to Pamplona, Spain for the fiesta and running of the bulls.

Hemingway's world is one of cold naturalism. Death and decay rule the earth. There is no renewal. Joy is found in overpowering nature by sport, alcoholism, hearing or telling a good story, and little else.

This is not the world we, as Christians know. Death and decay did rule the earth, but Christ has come to redeem and renew his creation. Joy is found in serving and delighting our King. By this, we live our lives, delighting in all God's creation, knowing that death has been defeated and there is new life found in Jesus Christ.

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