For whom the bell tolls by Ernest Hemingway

For whom the bell tolls by Ernest Hemingway is one of the classic books I wouldn’t have read if it wasn’t for me studying the Spanish Civil War. Well, I’m glad I read it. It has so many vivid descriptions, which are accurate even if they don’t actually depict a particular person or group of people. For example, when the villagers turn against the “fascists” among them, that is similar to what happened during the war, in many Spanish villages.

Hemingway travelled to Spain in 1937 as a journalist and he knew first-hand of the things that took place there. The book was published three years later, after the war has ended. It’s a very good book and I highly recommend it. We had a chat about it with the tutor, as he recommends some fiction books or movies, so we can get a better feel for the period.

For whom the bell tolls by Ernest Hemingway

For whom the bell tolls is the story of an American involved with the International Brigades. He joins a group and there he finds out Maria, a woman who he loves. The reason I gave the book 4 stars instead of 5 was the language. Her pet name is “rabbit” which annoyed me greatly. She was too submissive for someone involved in guerrilla warfare.

On top of that it was: thou, thee, thy. Gosh that was annoying too. I understand his point, that he wanted to show the difference between “tú” and “usted”. Both are translated as “you” in English, but one is informal and the second one is polite, reserved for older people or for people with a higher social status. I think he could have explained that in the beginning or just use the Spanish “tú” throughout. The writing is as if it was translated from Spanish and the English swearing is omitted, but in Spanish it is in full form, which is funny.

Overall I enjoyed the book and it is a classic worth reading.

For whom the bell tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 4/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Arrow
Year it was published: 1994 (first published in 1940)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Historical fiction – Modern Classic
Pages: 490

About the author: Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. He published seven novels, stories, and two non-fiction books. He got the Pulitzer Prize for the book For whom the bell tolls, before receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. His books are considered classics of American literature.
Hemingway was raised in Illinois. After high school he reported for The Kansas City Star, before leaving for the Italian front to enlist with the World War I ambulance drivers. In 1918, he was seriously wounded and returned home. His wartime experiences formed the basis for his novel A Farewell to Arms.
He was married four times, his third wife being Martha Gellhorn, the journalist who accompanied Hemingway in Spain, at the time of the Spanish Civil War.
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7 thoughts on “For whom the bell tolls by Ernest Hemingway”

  • This was the first book I read to start off my Spanish Civil War reading and I absolutely loved it. It took me a while to get used to the “thee” “thou” stuff, but once I got into the swing of it, it really worked for me. The euphemisms for the swearing made me laugh though, and I spent far too long thinking about what words they were hiding! And his one real weakness is that his young female characters are so awful, but to balance it I thought Pilar was brilliant – the real heart of the book. Are there other novels about the period you would recommend?

  • I read this book many years ago, when I was a student at the philological faculty. I read it in Russian, so presume the difference between tu and usted wouldn’t have been a problem to translate, as it’s the similar system in Russian. You’re brave to rate the classic book. 🙂 Hemingway was quite a misogynist in his views, but then many men were at those times.

  • If I read this in school, I can’t remember anything about it. “The Old Man and the Sea” might be the only Hemingway I read. (and I don’t remember much about it) He’s always seemed to be a bit of a tortured soul as a human being and I’ve wondered if he might have been bi-polar or something. I know his experiences influenced his writing a great deal.
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    • The book is descriptive and some parts are disturbing, especially as, unlike movies, this really happened. I think a book like this can be better appreciated by adults and not by teenagers. Now I would understand better the books I had to read at high-school, Romanian classics and so on.

  • Hi Anca,

    Oh my goodness! This was a real memory lane post for me, as I haven’t read this book since I was at school and needed it for my GCE ‘O’ level paper (today’s equivalent of GCSE) in English Literature.

    In fact this is the only Hemingway book I have read, although his name is on the list of classical authors I keep promising myself I will make time to read.

    He did do well by me in the exam though, as he helped me get a top grade mark in the subject!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂


    • Well done for getting a great grade! I am thinking sometimes to read some of the books I had to read for school, to see them differently now.

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