Words from Ernest Hemingway

We drove to the west coast to watch the sun go down, but instead of the Pacific we found ourselves at the shores of the Atlantic. Namibia.

Excerpt from The Green Hills of Africa, which must include one of the longest sentences in literary history:

If you serve time for society, democracy, and the other things quite young, and declining any further enlistment make yourself responsible only to yourself, you exchange the pleasant, comforting stench of comrades for something you can never feel in any other way than by yourself.  That something I cannot yet define completely but the feeling comes when you write well and truly of something and know personally you have written in that way and those who are paid to read it and report on it do not like the subject so they say it is all a fake, yet you know its value absolutely; or when you do something which people do not consider a serious occupation and yet you know, truly, that it is as important and has always been as important as all the things that are in fashion, and when, on the sea, you are alone with it and know that this Gulf Stream you are living with, knowing, learning about, and loving, has moved, as it moves, since before man, and that it has gone by the shoreline of that long, beautiful, unhappy island since before Columbus sighted it and that the things you find out about it, and those that have always lived in it are permanent and of value because that stream will flow, as it has flowed, after the Indians, after the Spaniards, after the British, after the Americans and after all the Cubans and all the systems of governments, the richness, the poverty, the martyrdom, the sacrifice and the venality and the cruelty are all gone as the high-piled scow of garbage, bright-colored, white-flecked, ill-smelling, now tilted on its side, spills off its load into the blue water, turning it a pale green to a depth of four or five fathoms as the load spreads across the surface, the sinkable part going down and the flotsam of palm fronds, corks, bottles, and used electric light globes, seasoned with an occasional condom or a deep floating corset, the torn leaves of a student’s exercise book, a well-inflated dog, the occasional rat, the no-longer-distinguished cat; all this well shepherded by the boats of the garbage pickers who pluck their prizes with long poles, as interested, as intelligent, and as accurate as historians; they have the viewpoint; the stream, with no visible flow, takes five loads of this a day when things are going well in La Habana and in ten miles along the coast it is as clear and blue and unimpressed as it was ever before the tug hauled out the scow; and the palm fronds of our victories, the worn light bulbs of our discoveries and the empty condoms of our great loves float with no significance against one single, lasting thing- the stream.

Uncle Jimmy visits Hemingway’s grave, 2010. Hemingway has become immortal, but Milan Kundera will tell you he’s a liar.

One Response to “Words from Ernest Hemingway”
  1. simple fellow says:

    This is an amazing quote. Sometimes it is hard to see the scale of life itself with our limited view on time. I find it so majestic to be able see huge forces like this at work and to be able to share our time with people who see it in this way as well. There is a deep mystical connection to others and nature when this is revealed. This is at the core of what being in a close relationship with nature is.
    I always find it a little sad to experience nature on this view point. If we spend days standing where nature stands, weathering the elements, feeling the night, seeing the stars, and being completely alone with nature, we would see our environment in a totally new way. We would see these forces and consciousness as part of our family, brothers and sisters.

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