Edward Stanton's Hemingway and Spain is an informative, sensitive, beautiful book that is impossible to put down. With every word of this unusual study, the author displays an impressive knowledge of Spanish language and culture and the respect Ernest Hemingway felt for them. This book is not, however, standard scholarship. Indeed, at first blush it seems an unlikely sort of volume, too personal for criticism, too exegetical for autobiography. Stanton has, in effect, revived the "in the footsteps of biographical mode, presenting in counterpoint three very different categories of material: ten accounts of his own personal experiences in Spain, biographical sections on Hemingway, and discussions of Hemingway's Spanish works. These disparate materials are interwoven thematically so that, for example, Stanton's own running with the bulls is interspersed between two sections addressing similar scenes in The Sun Also Rises. There are related personal reminiscences around explorations of Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," and The Dangerous Summer.
Stanton's personal vignettes are an attempt to describe, in second person, what it is like to be in Spain. He goes to Madrid, Pamplona, Burguete, and Roncesvalles, to the location of For Whom the Bell Tolls in the Sierra de Guadarrama, and to Ronda and the home of Antonio Ordoñez. Each essay is a powerful evocation of place. In Madrid he visits the bootmaking shop of Félix Garcia Tenorio, whose father made the boots for Hemingway's African safari in the 1930s. Stanton describes the shop, the books holding the measurements of customers over the decades, the civility of discourse, the simple life of a tradesman. In another account Stanton climbs the Guadarramas with an aged guide, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, visiting the terrain of the novel. Having fallen unceremoniously into a stream, Stanton warms himself in the peasant's cottage, dining with the old couple while his clothes dry. It is a simple and poignant scene, marvelously understated, fully worthy of inclusion in a book on Hemingway.
In the biographical and interpetive sections, Stanton is particularly good on the background to The Sun Also Rises and on the contrast between the modern, industrial world of Paris and the rural, pagan values of Spain, the land of "nature, the body, fertility, religion, ritual." He is excellent on the meaning of the events for Jake Barnes, who grows in his understanding and control of himself and his own sense of integrity. There is a fine discussion of ambiente and Nada in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," in which Stanton explores how Hemingway revised the manuscript to delete the suicide at the end and to concentrate on the simple beauty of understated events. But the most valuable chapter in the book addresses For Whom the Bell Tolls, for which Stanton provides the best discussion in print.
Stanton covers each of the characters in the novel from the simple Anselmo, who shares with Robert Jordan his deep respect for the sanctity of all life, to the cowardice of Pablo, the strength and sensitivity of Pilar, the vulnerability of Maria, the growth of Robert through exposure to these elemental people. No one should ever again read or teach Hemingway's Spanish novel without a careful reading of Stanton's book, for here, in unpretentious, clear prose, is the most profound understanding of the Spanish background of the novel available. Hemingway and Spain is an essential book, with none of the inflated rhetoric of recent criticism and theory, a study filled with knowledge and sensitivity and uncommon good sense that will take its place among the important books on Hemingway. [End Page 563]
Also on that shelf will be Hemingway: The Paris Years, the most recent volume in an ongoing biographical series by Michael Reynolds, perhaps the most prolific scholar in the field. This book covers Hemingway from his arrival in Paris on 20 December 1921 until February of 1926, when he was returning...