Hemingway uses special "literary techniques" in "For whom the Bell Tolls" that rather than enhancing the reading experience detract from it. Please see the list below. The ending is totally soppy. You learn nothing about the Spanish Civil War, and a better explanation for why Robert Jordan decided to fight with the Republicans should have been given. The scenes depicting physical attraction were bland and insipid. Some dislike the macho behavior of Hemingway's characters, but this doesn't bother me. I see it as typical of the times, and Pilar is the best character of this novel. She is a strong, intelligent, no-nonsense woman! What remains undeniably true though is that Hemingway can draw a scene so you see, hear, smell and feel it in your pores. It is interesting to see what goes through a soldier's mind, but there is so much wrong with this book I cannot justify a better rating.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Scott Campbell's narration, except that a few bomb blasts fell flat. Even a good narrator cannot save a bad book.
May I suggest A Farewell to Arms instead?!
Through chapter 7:
This is what is bugging me:
1. The dialogs are NOT in the least believable. None of them.
2. Swear words are replaced with "unprintable word" or "obscenity". This is ridiculous and disrupts the prose! "F*/k you" will be written, "obscenity you", for example. Crazy! Hemingway wrote the book this way; it has not been censored later.
3. In the 30s people did not speak with the terms "thy", "thee", "thou art". This is driving me nuts. WHY has Hemingway done this?
(Answer: In Spanish there are different forms of pronouns that show the relationship between the people talking. Since the characters were speaking in Spanish, Hemingway wished to provide this information even in English.)
4. Robert Jordan is holier than "thou" (:0)), and it drives me crazy. SUCH a perfect soldier with SUCH motivation, and he is SO devoted to his job.
5. To top it all off the love between Maria and Robert Jordan jumps out of nowhere. The same day they meet they are in bed, no, actually a sleeping bag, and then she says in one of those above mentioned dialogs that she doesn't know how to kiss. Jeez! (OK, if one is a little patient an explanation is given.)
6. And what is this with calling Robert Jordan Robert Jordan?. Everyone else goes by one name, usually a nickname!
Having read some of the previous reviews about censorship, and the editing out of curse words in this audio version, I felt that I should add a quick note on Hemingway's use of language in this novel. To give a sort of Spanish feel to the language, he writes a good portion of his dialogue a though it were directly translated from Spanish. So, "What passes with you?" can bear some getting used to. Also, he uses "thou" and "thy" at times in place of "you" to represent the moving between formal (usted) and informal (tu) Spanish. But, the big kicker (the one that seems to be making listeners upset) is the way he handles cursing. I believe that lines like, "I obscenity in the milk of thy tiredness," and "Where the un-nameable is this vileness I am to guard" are causing people to think that the audiobook has been censored in some way. It hasn't. Although, I'm not entirely clear on why Hemingway decided edit his English curse words in this way (strangely, the ones in Spanish are left intact), they are part of his original text; I checked my paper-bound version to be sure.
So, I hope you don't let reviews warning of censorship (or my technical review here) scare you away from a truly wonderful, thought provoking novel. You should read one of the reviews discussing the horror of war, love in the face of death, excitement of battle, camaraderie of soldiers, and think about buying (or not) the audiobook in those terms.
Perhaps a different narrator would have made a difference. I've enjoyed Campbell Scott's performances in the past. This time he sounds completely different, uninterested and in need of a cup of coffee. It's a short read in print or find a different narrator. Reading took away from the story so I can't give it more stars.
What a good book with a great narrator. Why edit the curse words? It is a huge distraction and is not true to an "undabridged version"!
The induction of Brevity
those involving action
Campbell Scott did a good job of narrating a bloated dialogue. I drive for a living and found that I missed whole passages to daydreaming because of the lack of action in this book. Internalized dialogue is quite frankly boring and this book is mostly that. I like Hemingway, one of my favorites is the Sun Also Rises, but I chose poorly in this instance.
I like to listen to audio books whilst mountain biking.
My second Hemingway in a month in a life that previously had ignored this great man. Lovely performance by Mr Scott. I guess that's in his genes.
Because of this book I have been to Wikipedia so many times, from articles on the Spanish Civil War, to the page dedicated to Spanish profanity. When you listen, you 'll see why. This book is entertains and moves you, but also broadens you knowledge of world history. What more could you ask for? I thought about the famous Chapter 10 for days afterward.
Now I am moving on to The Old Man and the Sea.
This was my first experience with an audio book, and I was impressed. Having never read this classic, I figured a long driving trip would be a perfect opportunity to try audible.com's offering. The reader amazed me with his ability to use foreign accents and different voice tones -- acting out the various characters. Without question, this was worth the money. I will surely buy other audio books in the near future.
Riverrunner, Powderhound, Pizzaiolo, Mountainbiker, Fisherman, Dzedo to James
I first read this book in high school in the late 60s. In re reading/listening recently, it came across as very musty and dated. It was published during WWII. EH pushed the limits of what was permissible in terms of writing about sexuality and the use of profanity. (He apparently could more freely write about war and violence.) There's a lot of sex, violence and profanity in the book and none of it seems gratuitous. But the contrivances that EH was forced to employ - these seemed artificial and diminished what is otherwise a very powerful read. FWBT is very strong but is also sappy and chauvinistic. I would recommend it as THE Hemingway book to read in order to glimpse why EH is at once considered one of our most accomplished writers but also one of our most ridiculed. It is not his best book but I know of no other book of his that so well reveals his unique strengths along with his weaknesses. A must read for anyone interested in EH, which is anyone interested in American literature. Finally, Campbell Scott is a very good narrator. Hope he does more audiobooks.
Everyone has a different concept of what makes great literature. For at least one friend of mine it has a lot to do with the use of literary devices and surprising twists. That's fine, but I think to be great literature, you have to start with a great story. Without a satisfying and sensible story, you've got nothing no matter how cleverly the story is constructed.
Fortunately, For Whom the Bell Tolls is, in my books, great literature. It is a compelling war story and it is superbly told (and very well narrated as well).
It is the story of an American who volunteers to fight in the Spanish Civil War against the fascists and with (are you sitting down, my American friends?) the communists. He is assigned a very difficult mission and faces serious challenges created by a key member of his team, among other causes. The story takes place over a couple of days, but there is a lot of drama and genuine-feeling emotion packed into those days. I don't want to spoil the story, so I'll stop there.
If you want to read a great war story and enjoy some great writing, look no further! I really enjoyed it, as have generations before me have and as generations after me will. Don't miss out.
This book is NOT censored. It is an odd device Hemingway employs by substituting "obscenity" or "unprintable" for Spanish cuss words. Well narrated, great writing.