The first time I read a Hemingway’s novel I was still a student. It was an Italian translation of “The old man and the sea” (“Il vecchio e il mare”). I liked it, but it didn’t lure me into reading more from the same author. Maybe it was the translation, or I was not yet ready for it. A few years later - I was already working and travelling around the world and my English had gotten a bit better - I bought another one of his books - not sure whether it was “The Sun also rises” or “The first 49 stories” - and I fell in love with him. His apparently plain style that is actually meant to start the reader onto a psychological digging trip, the train of thought technique, the intense dialogues, the fascinating characters, the extreme situations, feelings, actions and consequences, they all got me hooked. I kept reading Hemingway for months on end. I loved it. It even shaped my own communication style in some way. And then I looked for other authors that reminded me of him. That’s how I got to read F.S. Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Henry Roth, Cormac McCarthy and many more.
A few weeks ago I found this book at one of my favorite family run second hand bookstores in Bangkok, and I realized that I had never read it. I bought it and once I started leafing through the first pages the old feelings got back over me. The protagonist is a typical Hemingway character, a tough, smart, stubborn seaman riding his boat between Cuba and the Florida keys. The situation is complicated, the Great Depression, prohibition is gone and not even alcohol smuggling can help. People around him are literally starving. Workers are being abused. But he won’t let his family down. He has to take up odd and dangerous jobs to gather the money they need. And of course he will. Drama is just around the corner. Read on.