• Morgan Fagg

For Whom the Snow Tolls

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

A review of Hemingway's 1940's novel

My father used to tell me that every book had an interesting chapter and while reading For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway today, I have suddenly found myself really feeling for the main character, an American a long way from home, fighting Franco’s fascist forces. He is hiding in the hills preparing to blow up a bridge and it suddenly started to snow in the month of May.

I am a slow reader and am trying to break the back of the book and almost 200 pages in, I have found the book a little tedious to read especially with the pigeon Spanish chopping and changing throughout.

Descriptions like, "I expletive in the milk" are difficult to read despite knowing someone has edited the Spanish description "Me cago en la leche," (Damn it) for a watered-down censored version.

More explicit and completely uncensored, in a previous chapter, a gypsy woman has described the horrible scene where Republican forces attacked a Guardia Civil barracks and rounded up the fascists in a town and they beat them to a pulp.

It is not a pretty scene but the snow has started to fall and I am suddenly drawn into the difficult task our American hero now faces.

They have to survive the cold and the sudden snowfall which I immediately start imagining will make dynamiting the bridge harder, the fuses less reliable and that their escape across a white blanket of snow impossible as their tracks can probably be easily traced.

No spoilers on how this cold civil war ends but suddenly I am worried for this band of warriors who are hiding in the hills and what can go wrong as the temperature drops below zero for people trying to survive more than just winter weather.

As my father used to tell me, every book has at least one worthwhile chapter and I wonder what will happen as the snow falls on the Spanish sierra and what is the future of our dynamiter Robert Jordan, I guess we will cross that bridge when we get to it and find out what price they will end up paying on this toll bridge when the snow finally stops.

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