Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway
New York : Charles Scribner's Sons, 1950. Second printing. Hardcover. 308 pages ; 21 cm. Missing dust jacket. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.
ACROSS THE RIVER AND INTO THE TREES
by ERNEST HEMINGWAY
Ernest Hemingway's first novel in a decade, the first since For Whom the Bell Tolls, holds the essential emotion of that phenomenally successful book. In Across the River and into the Trees there is a concept of the same intensity. Like the story of the Spanish civil war, which was centered upon a microcosm of action—the tense last days of an American in the midst of a group of guerrilla fighters—the new book limits its scope to a very short span in the life of an American. This story builds its bridge not of days but of hours, and it is even more charged with feeling. For many a reader it will evoke also a memorable earlier novel, A Farewell to Arms, because the background again is Italy, and again it is war. This newer war, however, is already in the past. The fighting is over; the reader hears only its echoes.
Venice is the scene. Colonel Richard Cantwell of the United States Army is the principal figure, and perhaps the most complex character that Hemingway has ever presented. The Colonel, briefly a Brigadier General before the reduction in grade, is in middle years, a man of fierce and embittered pride who is coming too soon to the end of his physical tether. War has scarred and marred his body; his heart in particular shows war's ravages and gives him warnings which he cannot ignore. With cruel irony, in the very moment when life is showing the Colonel its grimmest reality, it offers its most beautiful experience. A lonely man who looks back on the wreckage of an unhappy marriage, Cantwell now has the love of a young Italian countess. A love so young, so fresh, so selflessly given, has stirred deeps in his nature that have not been uncovered for years, goading him into savage hope of a future even as he knows that there can be no hope for very long.
The hours of this novel tell a love story, tender and moving, but dark under the inexorable shadow of what must come. The story is a thing of mood, flawlessly projected. Venice is part of it, a Venice whose canals, bars, and cosmopolitan hotel life are at first less familiar under a winter sky, but a Venice that has never been made so real. There is the incomparable Hemingway magic—a duck blind with a thin skim of morning ice over its waters; the Venetian countryside seen from a moving car, every mile alive with memories of two wars. And over it all is that brooding awareness of the tragic which invests all the great Hemingway novels,, an awareness into which he has always admitted his readers from the start.
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