For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway


While I didn’t enjoy all the time spent reading this book (about 15 hours according to my Kobo), I am glad I did make it through the whole book. As I was reading I kept thinking: OK, let’s get on with the job, and move on with the story, until I got a sense that blowing up the bridge is not the point, but the telling of what it is like to operate as a somewhat autonomous guerilla group in the Spanish Civil War is in itself of interest. You would think that as a sociologist that would be the first thing I think about, but I don’t always put on my sociologist hat when I read.

The vividness of the depiction of people, places, thoughts and actions that Hemingway manages to put on paper is the best part of the book.

Here’s one nugget I really liked: “It was a night plan and it’s morning now. Night plans aren’t any good in the morning. The way you think at night is no good in the morning. So now you know it’s no good.”

This is so clear, so simple, so direct. There is no need to expound about the frustration of the situation and the difficulty of getting things done in the face of adversity… It’s all there in those few words in as powerful an image as can be. And so clearly reflect what happens to so many of us, at night, when we deceive ourselves that we have a found a solution, a plan and we can now relax and go to sleep. But most of us don’t have to blow up a bridge without a detonator in the morning.



Hemingway, Ernest, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Scribner, 1940.

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