Biting into The Old Man and the Sea is rather like going to a very expensive restaurant. Faced by a tiny meal on a giant plate you know that despite it’s size this is only deceptively simple and small. What it lacks in size it makes up for in subtle complexity. It is always intimating to be faced with a book with such history as this, Ernest Hemingway is after all one of the most influential authors of the 20th Century. Many a writer has first set out on this path after reading Hemingway. The taste he leaves in your mouth is extremely rich and satisfying, and yet you get the feeling that perhaps you could go home and cook up some grand words yourself! This is part of his genius. Like an artist who everyone says “my child could have done that”, but is actually a genius of colour and line, Hemingway convinces us of the ease and immediacy of his writing but is actually a master of omission, symbolism and truth.
This book is a tender fish, cooked just right, with just a splash of butter and lemon, bittersweet and compelling. I felt as I chomped into the pages of my paperback edition that me and the old man had something in common. Like the old man and his marlin, I feel a respect for this book, it is noble, beautiful and strong. And yet at the same time I must devour it, even if it is the last thing I do.
Ernest Hemmingway, The Old Man and the Sea, 1952.