Archive for December 5th, 2017

Hemingway on war: “I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice…”

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

The author just before another war, in 1939


During World War I, the 18-year-old Ernest Hemingway drove an ambulance in Italy for two months. Then he was wounded.”When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you,” he wrote. “Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you.” He went to the Spanish Civil War as a journalist in 1937. Here’s what he had to say about war in A Farewell to Arms:.

“‘We won’t talk about losing. There is enough talk about losing. What has been done this summer cannot have been done in vain.’ I did not say anything. I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain. We had heard them, on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it. … Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or allow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.”