Hemingway: A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms (published 1929) is a book of love and war. It focuses on a romance between an officer and nurse against the backdrop of World War I. The book has been tagged as Hemingway’s bleakest novel. However, it was Hemingway’s first best-seller, and is described by biographer Michael Reynolds as “the premier American war novel from that debacle [World War I]”.


This book is a simple story of complex issues, which Hemingway has seemingly made simple. Here is a dozen great thoughts on love and war and man’s ability to survive them both.

  • All thinking men are atheists.
  • “There isn’t always an explanation for everything.” / “Oh, isn’t there? I was brought up to think there was.” / “That’s awfully nice.”
  • There is nothing as bad as war.
  • War is not won by victory.
  • “Fight or die. That’s what people do. They don’t marry.” / They love each other and they misunderstand on purpose and they fight and then suddenly they aren’t the same one…. There’s only us two and in the world there’s all the rest of them. If anything comes between us we’re gone and then they have us.
  • “The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one”…. The man who first said that was probably a coward…. “He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave. The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he’s intelligent. He simply doesn’t mention them.”
  • Life isn’t hard to manage when you’ve nothing to lose.
  • No, that is the great fallacy: the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.
  •  “Now I am depressed myself,’ I said. ‘That’s why I never think about these things. I never think and yet when I begin to talk I say the things I have found out in my mind without thinking.”
  • Wine is a grand thing. It makes you forget all the bad.
  • I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain…. There were so many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity.
  • If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.


(ed. – This is the third of five Hemingway masterpieces to be featured in the 2012 By George Journal pages.)


Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises


     Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises is an exploration of love and morality in the streets of Paris and Pamplona. It peers deeply into those things that provide man with meaning to his life and to relationships. The characters are not admirable, at times unlikable, yet the are very alluring. The reader is drawn to them like a moth to a flame – and, in getting to know Jake, Brett and Robert, we are left singed and anxious.  With this story, Hemingway succeeded in giving us a remarkable account and unforgettable lesson.   

     Here is a dozen gems from The Sun Also Rises:

  • I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.
  • You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.
  • I suppose she only wanted what she couldn’t have. Well, people were that way. To hell with people.
  • It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.
  • Everyone behaves badly–given the chance.
  • This wine is too good for toast-drinking, my dear. You don’t want to mix emotions up with a wine like that. You lose the taste.
  • We should not question. Our stay on earth is not for long. Let us rejoice and believe and give thanks.
  • You are all a lost generation.
  • It was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening. Under the wine I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy. It seemed they were all such nice people.
  • Women made such swell friends. Awfully swell. In the first place, you had to be in love with a woman to have a basis of friendship.  
  • Enjoying living was learning to get your money’s worth and knowing when you had it.
  • That was morality: thing that made you disgusted afterward.


     The photo is from the 1957 movie starring Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner and Errol Flynn.

Hemingway remembered by A.E. Hotchner

In 1968, A.E. Hotchner wrote a very moving tribute to his great friend Ernest Hemingway. In his book, Papa Hemingway, Hotchner shared many wonderful stories and his insight into the brilliant author. Here are some great Hemingway quotes, as recounted by A.E. Hotchner. 

  • Every man’s life ends the same way and it is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another.
  • Never confuse movement with action.
  • Nobody knows what’s in him until he tries to pull it out. If there’s nothing or very little, the shock can kill a man.
  • The parody is the last refuge of the frustrated writer…. The step up from writing parodies is writing on the wall above the urinal.
  • Man can be destroyed but not defeated.
  • You don’t own anything until you give it away.
  • You invent fiction, but what you invent it out of is what counts. True fiction must come from everything you’ve ever known, ever seen, ever felt, ever learned.
  • Greatness is the longest steeplechase ever run; many enter; few survive.
  • I only write once on any one theme; if I don’t write it all that one time, then it is not worth saying.
  • There are only two absolutes I know about writing: one is that if you make love while you are jamming on a novel, you are in danger of leaving the best parts of it in the bed; the other is that integrity in a writer is like virginity in a woman – once lost, it is never recovered.
  • How the hell can you bleed over your own personal tragedies when you’re a writer? You should welcome them because serious writers have to be hurt really terrible before they can write seriously. But once you get the hurt and can handle it, consider yourself lucky – that is what there is to write about and you have to be as faithful to it as a scientist is faithful to his laboratory. You can’t cheat or pretend. You have to excise the hurt honestly.
  • All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened, and after you’ve read one of them you will find that all that happened, happened to you and then it belongs to you forever: the happiness and unhappiness, good and evil, ecstasy and sorrow, the food, wine, beds, people and the weather. If you can give that to readers, then you’re a writer.
  • Writing at its best is a lonely life…. For he does his work alone, and if he is a good enough writer, he must face eternity or the lack of it each day.
  • You put down the words in hot blood, like an argument, and correct them when your temper has cooled.
  • If I can’t exist on my own terms, then existence is impossible.

Photo: Hotchner and Hemingway (and Mary seated in the middle) poolside at LaConsula, Malaga, Spain, the morning of his 60th birthday – 1959


Hemingway on writing

On answering a question about “how” he writes, whether with an outline or notes, Ernest Hemingway stated:

       No, I just start it. Fiction is inventing out of what knowledge you have. If you invent successfully, it is more true than if you try to remember it. A big lie is more plausible than truth. People who write fiction, if they had not taken it up, might have become very successful liars.

SOURCE:  From A.E. Hotchner’s Papa Hemingway – Chapter 11 Ketchum, 1958

Of Hemingway and Bullfighting

Through this year, By George Journal is celebrating one of the greatest authors of our time – Ernest Hemingway. Herein is 20 of our favourite quotes from Papa’s 1932 tribute to the sport and art of bullfighting – Death in the Afternoon.  

In his own bibliographical note, Hemingway writes that the book “is not intended to be historical or exhaustive. It is intended as an introduction to the modern Spanish bullfight and attempts to explain that spectacle both emotionally and practically.”

Interwoven in his expose of bullfighting, Hemingway also provides his opinions on good story-telling and excellence in writing. In fact, within this book is found some of the Master’s greatest insights into his craft.

  • Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honor.
  • The usual bullfighter is a very brave man, the most common degree of bravery being the ability temporarily to ignore possible consequences. A more pronounced degree of bravery, which comes with exhilaration, is the ability not to give a damn for possible consequences; not only to ignore them but to despise them.
  • A bullfighter is not always expected to be good, only to do his best. He is excused for bad work if the bull is very difficult, he is expected to have off-days, but he is expected to do the best he can with the given bull.
  • Honor to a Spaniard, no matter how dishonest, is as real a thing as water, wine, or olive oil. There is honor among pickpockets and honor among whores. It is simply that the standards differ.
  • The individual, the great artist when he comes, uses everything that has been discovered or known about his art up to that point, being able to accept or reject in a time so short it seems that the knowledge was born with him, rather than that he takes instantly what it takes the ordinary man a lifetime to know, and then the great artist goes beyond what has been done or known and makes something of his own.
  • In appearance he (Domingo Lopez Ortega) had one of the ugliest faces you could find outside of a monkey house, a good, mature, but rather thick-jointed figure, and the self-satisfaction of a popular actor.
  • About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.
  • All bad writers are in love with the epic.
  • All our words from loose using have lost their edge.
  • If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.
  • When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature. If a writer can make people live there may be no great characters in his book, but it is possible that his book will remain as a whole; as an entity; as a novel.
  • There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man’s life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.
  • I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing what you really felt, rather that what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things which produced the emotion that you experienced..
  • Any man’s life, told truly, is a novel…
  • Most men die like animals, not men.
  • Madame, there is no remedy for anything in life. Death is a sovereign remedy for all misfortunes…
  • Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.
  • There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it.
  • The great thing is to last and get your work done and see and hear and learn and understand; and write when there is something that you know; and not before; and not too damned much after.
  • Let those who want to save the world if you can get to see it clear and as a whole. Then any part you make will represent the whole if it’s made truly. The thing to do is work and learn to make it.

Top-5 Favourites of our Favourite: Ernest Hemingway

A portrait of Ernest Hemingway hangs on our office walls and HE is ever-present as I tap away at the keyboard. Hemingway is a personal favourite – and inspiration – always has been.

Now it’s been 50 years since his untimely death. With this passing of time, on January 1st here in Canada, all of this great master’s works lose their copyright and enter into the public domain.  

To mark this occasion, we offer our top-5 favourite books – and through this year will share some of the most remarkable passages from these five masterpieces.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

A Farewell to Arms

The Old Man and the Sea

The Sun Also Rises

Death in the Afternoon 

 To read more of the genius of Ernest Hemingway, we direct you to our top three sources on the Net:

  1. http://www.hemingwaysociety.org/
  2. http://www.lostgeneration.com/hrc.htm
  3. http://www.ernest.hemingway.com/

Enjoy the read!