Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Symbolism in Literature: Not so fast, my friend...

INTERVIEWER:   Would you admit to there being symbolism in your novels?

HEMINGWAY:   I suppose there are symbols since critics keep finding them. If you do not mind I dislike talking about them and being questioned about them. It is hard enough to write books and stories without being asked to explain them as well. Also it deprives the explainers of work. If five or six or more good explainers can keep going why should I interfere with them? Read anything I write for the pleasure of reading it. Whatever else you find will be the measure of what you brought to the reading.

INTERVIEWER:   Continuing with just one question on this line: One of the advisory staff editors wonders about a parallel he feels he’s found in The Sun Also Rises  between the dramatis personae of the bull ring and the characters of the novel itself. He points out that the first sentence of the book tells us Robert Cohn is a boxer; later, during the desencajonada,  the bull is described as using his horns like a boxer, hooking and jabbing. And just as the bull is attracted and pacified by the presence of a steer, Robert Cohn defers to Jake who is emasculated precisely as is a steer. He sees Mike as the picador, baiting Cohn repeatedly. The editor’s thesis goes on, but he wondered if it was your conscious intention to inform the novel with the tragic structure of the bullfight ritual.

HEMINGWAY:   It sounds as though the advisory staff editor was a little bit screwy. Who ever said Jake was “emasculated precisely as is a steer”? Actually he had been wounded in quite a different way and his testicles were intact and not damaged. Thus he was capable of all normal feelings as a man  but incapable of consummating them. The important distinction is that his wound was physical and not psychological and that he was not emasculated.

-From the Paris Review Interview published in 1958

No comments:

Post a Comment