Version classiqueVersion mobile

Stratégies de la métaphore

Pierre Gault

The Itinerary and the Postcard. Minimal Strategies in The Sun Also Rises

John Atherton

Texte intégral

I showed the first draft to Nathan Asch, the novelist, who then had quite a strong accent and he said "Hem, vaht do you mean saying you wrote a novel? A novel huh. Hem, you are riding a trahvel buch." (Hemingway to George Plimpton)

  • 1 Numbers within parentheses are page references to the English edition (London: Granada, 1976).

1In Chaper IX of The Sun also Rises we are told that Jake, about to leave Paris, "wrote out an itinerary" for Mike and Brett who will be following on to Spain. And while the novel as a whole can be read as one great itinerary which the narrator is laying out (an itinerary that has its missed rendez-vous, its redoublings and returnings and which generates its own form of writing), it is In the first and most immediate sense of the word that we should take the term. The Sun also Rises is the narrating of a voyage - not a quest or a voyage of discovery - but an arranged trip, a pre-arranged trip, In the sense that the characters' journeyings are scheduled, and that the reader is never taken anywhere that Jake has not been beforehand. This strategy is maintained throughout. In Book Three, when Jake visits San Sebastian for the first lime in the course of the novel, he puts up at "a hotel in the town where I had stopped before" (195).1 Far from any town on the Irate River, Jake - who knows every turn and twist of the route leading to the fishing hole - demonstrates his intimate familiarity with the further reaches of the stream. "Where'd I better go?" asks Bill Gorton; and Jake's reply, "Down is the best. There're plenty above, too" (99). Even at the height of the fiesta, during wich disorder and inverted order set in. Jake recalls that "there's a place down the street" (129) that sells wineskins and indeed he mariages to locate it even though the shutters are already drawn. There is not an inch of the terrain of the novel that has not been previously reconnoitered, so that the narrating appears as one uninterrupted recognition of sites visited before, places re-seen and re-fitted into some preexisting scheme of things.

  • 2 Since we are an aficionado of Gérard Cenette's poetics of narrative we have used his terminology w (...)
  • 3 "Décrire les moeurs est froid dans un roman. C'est presque moraliser. Tournez la description en ét (...)

2We should recognize that in choosing this narrative strategy Hemingway is giving up one of the major tactics of the classical novel That is the use as a focus perception2 of a character teken by suprise or who witnesses something for the first time, tactic which Stendhal for instance, made into a principle of scenic composition.3 The world-weariness of Hemingway's Jake, his I've-seen-it-all-before attitude is exactly that: the has seen it all before, not only the setting here the action takes place, but the major figures - Cohn, Brett, Mike and Gorton - all of whom already form part of his world. The only character to make a first appearance within the course of the story is Romero, which means that by this narrative idiosyncrasy alone, he is singled out, and thus stands as a threat to the familiar equations of Jake's universe.

3What is as remarkable as the exhaustive knowledge of the topography possessed by Jake is the ignorance in which we are left as to the circumstances in which it was acquired. Although Jake, in Pamplona, remarks that he "had stopped at the Montoya for several years" (110), he never refers to this past is an explicit manner. By way of rebuttal to Cohn's insistent proposals to take a trip together to South America he replies laconically, "I go to Spain in the summertime"·(12); an' in the course of the novel this is about as close as we get to an evocation of the previous experience. This silence - this deliberate narratives blackout - transmutes what would otherwise have been part of biography and thus part of the fullness of character into assigned attribute and function. Jake is simply the one who knows, who knows the answers, as when he informs Hubert - a young tourist from, the state of Montana who has inquired about swimming in Biarritz - that "there's good swimming… but it's dangerous when it's rough"(74). The one who knows (one doesn't know exactly how) and who has been there before (frequently, it would appear, but when?) has a name: he is the guide.

4Once we have accepted Jake in this role then a great deal of the stuff of the novel falls into place: bargaining with innkeepers, arguing over prices with the drivers of rented cars, booking train reservations, taking out a fishing license, going through customs, acquiring tickets to special, and - a subject of continuing concern - making sure that hotel rooms are well situated: "Montoya … gave us good rooms looking out on the square" (79); "Did you give Mr Campbell the room on the plaza?" (109); "They gave me a room with a balcony" (195) etc…. Before leaving the 'idyllic' setting of the Irati Jake, in what could be the guide's acquired instinct. checks to make sure that nothing has been left behind ("I looked around on the grass at the foot of the elm-trees " |104|). The vicissitudes encountered in the course of the pre-arranged tours are of the same nature: the dining car is overbooked, the bus they expect to take is not yet on summer schedule, Mike and Brett don't arrive on the evening train from San Sebastian as expected etc…. The celebrated contrast between France and Spain ("Life was so simple in France…. In Spain you could not tell about anything" |194|) takes place in the context of a meditation on… tipping, a meditation which, by the interplay of present and past tenses, suggests a knowing identity of view between Jake the guide and the guide's guide, the narrator. Narrator and hero share in this guidebook function. When the reader is filled in on local color items ("Pernod is greenish imitation absinthe. When you add water it turns milky" |15|) or when Information is provided akin to what is to be found in a tourist brochure ("The dancing-club was a bal musette in the Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève. Five nights a week the working people of the Pantheon quarter danced there. One night a week it was the dancing-club. On Monday nights it was closed" |19|) the two voices commingle. And when we reach the very heart of the novel, the initiation into the mysteries of bullfighting, the definition of the aficionado is curiously framed in terms of who stays and who doesn't stay at Montoya's hotel: "An aficionado is one who is passionate about the bullfights. All the good bullfighters stayed at Montoya's hotel; that is those with aficion stayed there." Lest there be any confusion, the text further emphasizes that it is a question of obtaining accomodations. "Those who were aficionados could always get rooms even when the hotel was full" (110).

5The presence is the novel of another breed of tourists should not mislead us. The sight-seeing cars that pull into Pamplona (one of which contains twenty-five Englishwomen who "looked through their glasses" (171) at the spectacle of the drunken peasants dancing) excite Bill Gorton's ire ("They're awful", and again, "I'll festa them" |150|), and the crowd of Americans at Madame Lecomte's restaurant on the Ile Saint Louis means that Bill and Jake will never return there - but it the very nature of the touristic itinerary to seek out the unspoiled, the genuine, the sacred even (Montoya's "oral spiritual examination" |110|); to flee the crowd that sends back an unflattering Image, and to deny belonging to the same category. Jake's 'party' is not an unthrealened élite; they are astraddle the uncertain line that separates the last of the heroic travellers from that particularly modern species, the universal tourist. And while we are on the subject Of Madame Lecomte's restaurant, we can draw from this mini-episode a mini-moral, but a very Hemingwayesque one. The restaurant is crowded because "someone had put it in the American Women's |sic| Club list as a quaint restaurant on the Paris quais as yet untouched by Americans" (65). In other words, writing about it ruined it; more precisely, stating it was untouched meant that it was no longer untouched.

6While the itinerary casts Jake in the role of guide, it also determines the order of events, laying down a sequential pattern in both space and time. The mechanics become clearer if we take each dimension separately. In Chapter VIII Bill Gorton and Jake "walked up the Rue du Cardinal Lemoine… turned to the right off the Place Contrescarpe… came onto the Rue du Pot de Fer…" etc. (66). Thus here - and elsewhere - the narrative tells us the route taken. These travel indications do not constitute in themselves descriptions of Paris; on the immediate level they are not to the reader evocative of anything in particular, that is if we exempt from the category of reader those who know the Rue du Cardinal Lemoine just as we would exempt from the general category of moviegoer those persons who recognize the scene of a film as the street on which they live. All that these names can suggest is a general quality of Frenchness; beyond that their function is to define the (implied) reader as the sort of person who would know Paris - or perhaps, for other (equally implied) readers, provide assurance that, were they to come to Paris, it would be possible to retrace the route. In a sense the street names are the 'mot juste' pushed to its paradoxical extreme, a distinguo so finely calibrated, that only the proper name suffices. While not in themselves descriptions however, these route markers provide the infrastructure that legitimizes evocation of decor: "We went all the way up to the Place Contrescarpe…. Music came out of the door of the Nègre Joyeux. Through the window of the Café aux Amateurs saw the long zinc bar…. |We| walked south past the Val de grâce. set back behind the courtyard" (66). The itinerary can be seen as the means by which the text is launched, giving rise in the process to a further verbal and thematic interplay (between, for instance, a "Cardinal Lemoine" and a "nègre joyeux").

7Exactly the same strategy is at work in the passages given over to countryside. Shunning the panorama which gathers differing aspects of a view so as to form a totalizing mosaic, the account gives us separate segments of countryside strung along the route like beads along a fil conducteur. Playing on the double sense of the word road which is travelled over ("the car… started up the white dusty road") but which itself also travels ("the road went along the summit"), the narrator provides the context for side-glances, mini-excursions that are jotted down and fitted into the 'romance of the road,' romance in the sense that the verbs applied to the movement of the road, ("ran down," "stretched out," "slanting up," "levelling") are far more expressive than those that describe the progress of the characters ("we came out of the mountains" or "we passed the bullring"). The characters are prisoners of the road - Jake never drives he is always driven in rented cars, buses, taxis and cabs; yet the road itself is not the open road, since it too is bound to the itinerary: "a head the road stretched out white across the plain going toward Pamplona" (78-79).

8So far we have used the word itinerary in the singular, but it would be more exact to say itineraries, for there are several which, as Jake himself explains, can cross in alternative ways. "They |Mike and Brett| would go directly to San Sebastian and take the train from there. We would all meet at the Montoya in Pamplona. If they did not turn up on Monday at the latest we would go ahead up Burguete." (71). The paths 'actually' travelled are in fact more complex. Cohn meets Bill and Jake in Bayonne; the three of them go together to Pamplona; Cohn then returns to San Sebastian etc…. The structure of the Paris espisodes in likewise a netword of meetings (arranged) encounters (random) and rendez-vous (missed). Jake runs into Brett at the Bal Musette, but she does not show up the next day for their appointment, appearing instead unannounced several hours later. Back from England Brett materializes ("A taxi passed, someone in it waved" |63|); she joins Bill and Jake at the Closerie; leaves them; joins up with them several hours later, this time with Mike at the Select. These encounters - indeed the quasi-totality of the action of the novel - take place in public places (the street) or semi-public ones (cafés, bars, restaurants, hotels, taxis). In the one extended scene in Jake's apartment (Chapter VII) the presence of the count tends to 'deintintize' the setting since he orders his chauffeur to bring on the champagne transforming Jake's quarters into the equivalent of a bistro. The major exception is of course the climactic confrontation of the novel - the fight between Cohn and Romero - which takes place in the privacy of the latter's hotel room. Hemingway, however, as if conscious of the fact that the narration here is intruding (and breaking the ground rules) does not make of Jake a witness to the scene, which is recounted after the fact by Mike who was not present himself but has been informed by Brett. When it comes to an interior scene the narration takes its distance, borders indeed on the unrellable, since the source (Brett) is a character who, we know, doesn't finish her sentences but as she puts it, lets "anyone finish them as they like" (51).

9The intersection of paths that weaves the text is marked by the nodal moments when a character is perceived in the act of crossing the street. The street (and its variant the square) serves as an antechamber (anti-chamber) through which the characters pass as preliminary to an encounter. To cross the street is to signal a junction.

10Thus in the space of a few pages a non-exhaustive sampling gives: "'There comes Cohn' I said. Robert Cohn was crossing the street"… "I watched him |Harvey Stone| cross the street"… Frances Ciyne was coming towards us from across the street… We watched her cross the street" (38-42). The impression of interlacing itineraries extends even to the Burguete setting which is seen as a series of possible trajectories crisscrossing the countryside: "A sandy road led, down to the ford…. The path crossed the stream on another footlog below the ford, and joined the road" (98). A character is defined by the sum of the possible trajectories taken, and to impart one's itinerary to another constitutes the purest form of communication. Thus the Basque peasant who strikes up a conversation with Jake on the roof of the bus taking them to Burguete: "'I been in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City. Denver, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City.' He named them carefully" (90). Reciting an itinerary serves here as a form of sharing; elsewhere it can serve as a weapon as when Frances Clyne gives a satiric portait of what her voyage to England will be like, a prospective itinerary that is so hard on Cohn that it precipitates his 'trip.' So pervasive are these strategies that we are inclined to see, in the final scene when the policeman's raised baton slows Brett and Jake's taxi, not the effect of a floating phallic symbol but a form of obedience, to the code de la route.

11Rendering things in sequential order creates the illusion of sequential time (the word sequence can apply both to objects and events). A guidebook itinerary combines places with a schedule to produce a series of visits and these visits - in which place is subordinated to time - are arranged in a continuous chronology which fills the day (and occasionally the night). Hemingway's prose adopts this pattern; the reader is made aware of the hour of day, the day of the week etc., and chapters often begin in the early morning as if the purpose were to set down the record of an, emploi du temps not forgetting the essential time off for meals and refreshment. Thus Chapter X begins: "In the morning it was bright, and they were sprinkling the streets of the town, and we all had breakfast in a café," and goes on to register a walk through the town, the purchase of fishing tackle, a tour of the cathedral, and a stop at the Syndicat d'initiative. The succession of contiguous places which are evoked can be seen as a pre(-)text for the illusion of chronological continuity. The reader 'deduces' from the list of places given that there was no time left over for anything else to happen. The catalogue of places is thus a means to exhaust, to use up by correspondence, the characters' pool of available time, and thus create the,impression that the narrative eye is tracing the action steadily, unwaveringly, without letup. Of course for this illusion to operate Hemingway has to lay out Jake's perceptions in strictly sequential order - and this is in effect (with very few exceptions) what he has done. The departures from chronology are so rare that a sentence such as, "She had rung and the door was unlatched" (56), stands out as an analepse, or at least as a micro-analepse and thus as an 'error' or a transgression - unless of course we attribute this 'error' to the fact that, since the unlatched door was that of Brett's hotel, the narrator has been retrospectively troubled by his own proximity to Lady Ashley's chambers.

12By its strict respect for what is happening in front of his eyes, the narrating can be likened to immediate speech, transcribed in the past tense. Indeed many passages sound more 'natural' (if that is a criterion) when transposed (back) into the present tense. Paradoxically, true immediate speech has wider latitude, for once it is established that the observation post has been planted on the borderline between psychic life and perception, then 'free' association, and thereby confusion of time sequence, is legitimized. Jake, however, is not Molly Bloom and Hemingway rarely allows his protagonist's mind to wander; continuity In The Sun also Rises depends not on a train of thought but on a train of perception, which is another way of saying that the itinerary functions here as a form of discipline, that the route is a means of access but also a form of denial.

13Anyway, the impression of continous and continuing perception can only be the product of artifice. And we should look further into how it is produced. One way is by means of the celebrated Hemingway and which links the similar and occasionally the dissimilar. And, by its denial of causal or subordinate relationships represents the transfer onto the sentence structure of proximity relationships (an and sentence is an itinerary), and the contiguous linking of elements within the sentence then suggests the absence of temporal rupture. Taken to its extreme this would result in phrases fleuves (Hemingway will subsequently experiment with long sentences rendered seemingly longer by the very simplicity of their structure). But for the most part his technique is paradoxically the opposite: that is; giving the impression of intending to provide continual coverage by signaling the moments of micro-rupture and repair. One means is the use of now, which in this usage does not suggest an 'eternal present,' but serves to mark the moment when the temporal chain has been unavoidably cut, or rather to mark the moment at which the narration is spliced onto what has gone before - a means of both admitting and denying that something has taken (its) place in between. Now signals a bridged hiatus, especially when it stands at the head of a sentence: "We were going through farming country with rocky hills that sloped down into the fields. The grain-fields went up the hillsides. Now as we went higher there was a wind blowing the grain" (88). But the most frequent strategy is the deliberate use of short sentences, suggesting a frustrated attempt on the part of the recorder to keep up with a sequence of perception. In the rhythm that Hemingway establishes in his fully developed descriptive passages there is an exchange between the longer sentences which imitate the flow of time, and the shorter, sharper observations which, by their fragmentary nature, suggest an unachieved continuity.

  • 4 Geneviève Hily-Mane, Le Style de Ernest Hemingway (Paris: PUF, 1983), p. 307.

14Given the painstaking attention accorded the metonymic itinerary, it comes as no suprise that Hemingway's writing should be low on metaphors. Geneviève Hily-Mane's statistics, moreover, indicate that within the Hemingway corpus The Sun also Rises is exceptional in this regard: a frequency of 5 metaphors per 100 pages for the nondialogue sections of the book compared, for instance, to 21 for A Farewell to Arms.4 Similes are relatively more frequent (14 per 100 pages) no doubt because a simile comes closer to the metonymic since the narrator accompanies the reader from (to use I.A. Richards's terms) vehicle to tenor, from one pole to the other. One remarks as well the re-assertion of the metonymic within the metaphoric framework. When Jake returns to the Hotel Montoya after being knocked to the ground by Cohn, the text reads: "I felt as I felt once coming home from an out-of-town football game…. I walked up the street from the station in the town I had lived in all my life and it was all new. They were raking the lawns and burning leaves in the road and I stopped for a long time and watched. It was all strange. Then I went on.... It was like that crossing the square. It was like that going up the stairs of the hotel" (160). Inside the simile there is a reversion to a remembered itinerary which parallels the one which Jake is at that moment accomplishing ("I walked up the street"/"It was like that crossing the square"). We remark as well (and for once) that Jake (uncharacteristically) perceives a scene as "new" and "strange": however (reversion to character) this is/was but an illusion since 'in fact' he knew the street ("the town I had lived in all my life") just as he knew the square of Pamplona.

  • 5 David Lodge, The Modes of Modern Writing (London: Edward Arnold, 1977), p. 107.

15More importantly however, the relative absence of metaphors identifiable as such brings into relief the 'significant details' - or what we prefer to call, following David Lodge, "metonymical-metaphors or symbols,"5 metaphors which are so perfectly integrated into the ongoing action of the narrative that to pick them out is to do violence to the text. Consider for instance the cluster of images having to do with water. Brett's constantly voiced need to bathe is in each case legitimized by the story line ("Brett smiled at Bill. Ί say I'm just back |from England|. Haven't bathed even'" |63|). Yet insistence on this detail (even when justified by the narrator's preoccupation with other equally mundane ablutions such as shaving) can be read as a personal phobia and finally as a symbolic desire for purification. Once again, when Jake himself intends to take a bath, turns on the taps and finds "the water would not run" (162), the symbolic reverbe- rations (or rather the absent ripples) are multiple, particularly as this significant detail has been preceded by a no less significant momentary loss of spatial orientation ("I could not find the bathroom") quite unlike the hero-guide. But the point is not to debate to what extent this incident is merely an incident (on a par with minor breakdowns such as overbooked dining cars) or a symbol - or both at once; the point is to recognize that the text is constructed to resist symbolic interpretation (runs against interpretation to use Susan Sontag's phrase). And it is the itinerary that provide the narration with the capacity to so resist. Likewise, when Jake undergoes total immersion in Book Three it is a foreseeable stage of a trip that has taken him by train to San Sebastian and which continues without detour to the water's edge and beyond: "I found my swimming suit, wrapped it with a comb in a towel, and went downstairs and walked up the street to the Concha…. I went into a bathing-cabin, undressed, put on my suit, and walked across the smooth sand to the sea" (195). The symbolic content is further neutralized in this case by the fact that Jake goes through the very same motions the next day ("I undressed In one of the bath-cabins, crossed the narrow line of beach and went into the water" |l98|). Or to put it another way: the second swim subtracts retroactively from the significiance of the first by inscribing it in the cycle of habit. It is as if the additional message were: Jake swims because he likes to swim (and, subliminally, So what?).

16The other 'significant details' of the novel could be analyzed along the same lines. However there is a distinction to be made between the example given above and the instances where Jake passes "the man with the jumping frogs and the man with the boxer toys" (Chapter V), glances at the rudderless barges on the Seine, or inspects Paris statuary. In the latter cases Jake observes symbolic representations of himself or of elements of his experience, while in San Sebastian he plunges into the metaphoric substance (water) himself. The liquid depths of the ocean, the bath run dry, the heights of Spain and the French lowlands can be schematized in terms of the binary oppositions set out by Gilbert Durand in Les Structures Anthropologiques de l'Imaginaire. (All the wasteland imagery - whether derived from Eliot or not - can be seen in this light.) In brief there is a distinction to be made between the imagery which Jake sees and that into which he goes, the former being more metaphorical than the latter since Jake has a wider (more 'random') field of vision than he does a 'field' of immediate physical presence tied as his presence is to the unfolding of the plot. But we witness as well attempts to frame seen images in ways that suggest closer physical contact - to make of seeing a form of traveling towards, as for instance in the passage when Brett and Jake are alone shortly before she admits she is a "goner": "We looked out at the plain.... There were the lights of a car on the road climbing the mountain. Up on the top of the mountain we saw the lights of the fort" (152). Jake's eye acts out a pseudo-itinerary, bringing him thus closer to the fortress which is then re-integrated as a metonymical element. It is the lights of the car which, across the bridged hiatus suggested by "up on the mountain." pick out the lights of the fort. Jake only follows a road laid out.

  • 6 We will refrain from pointing out that here again we have a simile which compares two itineraries, (...)

17The itinerary, as indicated by our very first example, is not only the route between two points but the recording of that route - prospective as when Jake writes out the itinerary in Chapter VIII, or retrospective, the narrator's text. The double sense of the term (route and record) can serve as our transition to the question of writers and writing in The Sun Also Rises. The case to be most rapidly disposed of is that of the unfortunate fledgling novelist Robert Cohn who has comounded the errors by taking fiction as life (he has "read and reread" The Purple Land as a "guidebook to what life holds" |11|) and life as fiction ("The childish, drunken heroics of it. It was his affair with a lady of title" |148|). But Jake is also critical of Cohn in a more writerly way. In the course of a taxi ride that takes him past "the statue of the inventor of the semaphore engaged in doing same" (itself a metonymic signal that we are entering the domain of communication and criticism of same) Jake remarks that the Boulevard Raspail makes dull riding: "It was like a certain stretch on the P.L.M. between Fontainebleau and Montereau that always made me feel bored and dead and dull until it was over."6 Then, in a rare moment of introspection he adds, in a present tense which can be read as the narrator's acquiesence: "I suppose it is some association of ideas that makes those dead places in a journey.... Perhaps I had read something about it once." And further (in what is itself an association of ideas): "That was the way Robert Cohn was about all of Paris" (36-37). The objectionable quality of Cohn's literariness is thus defiried as a tendency to make substitutive associations, i.e. to operate on the metaphorical - rather than metonymical - axis. But this passage makes clear at the same time the underlying bond between Jake and Cohn, because Jake's opinion of Cohn is arrived at through a process that itself involves association. Since Cohn, within the novel, is the one who does what Jake would like to do but can't, we can say that Cohn represents on the level of narrating, the temptation of metaphor, a diversionary temptation repressed by Jake's insistence on keeping his eyes on the road ahead. Those passages during which Jake does engage in substitutive association should then be reexamined to see if we are not in fact dealing with a disguised form of metafictional critique. Take for instance the moment when Jake, returning to his apartment, opens a marriage announcement: "Mr and Mrs Aloysius Kirby announce the marriage of their daughter Katherine - I knew neither the girl nor the man she was marrying." Then the engraving on the card sets off associations: "There was a crest on the announcement. Like Zizi the Greek duke. And that count. The count was funny. Brett had a title, too" (28). The associations are triggered by the announcement or rather by the engraving on the announcement, hallmark of pretentiousness. The metaphoric process belongs thus to the world of false communication; moreover it issues from literature since the crest - the symbol reproduced on paper - acts as catalyst.

18So far we have been considering criticisms (explicit or implicit) of literature à la Cohn. But the novel is crammed with writers both published (not only Cohn, but Braddocks, Prentiss, and of course Gorton) and unpublished (Frances Clyne and - for the moment at least - Jake). Gorton is often dismissed by critics as the narrator's strawman, providing comic interludes in what is otherwise serious business, but a case could be mode (we will not make it) for Gorton as the 'moral center' of the novel. What concerns us here is Gorton the writer - not only Gorton the writer of books, though we know that he has published several, that they have made money, and what is more that Cohn seems to have read them - but Gorton in his opening role in the novel (beginning of Book Two) as (he author, in quick succession, of a letter, a postcard, and a telegram. These three missives have in common that they travel, that they complete an itinerary that takes them from author to adressee, a reader not implicit but explicit. In a sense the postcard is the most satisfying form of communication (hence its place in our title) since it is entirely public and aboveboard (unlike the sealed letter) and yet it can picture the place from which it has been sent (unlike the telegram) and thus through one form of contiguity (the postal route) it can suggest another, that of image and text - at least if we can consider, as in the nonsense rhyme, that "back to back they faced each other." It is Brett's postcard to Jake that will allow the narrator to slip into the text a silent and unadmitted prolepse, since the card "had a picture of the Concha" (59), the very beach which Jake will cross in Book Three on his way to the ocean. But before going further into the distinctions between and the merits of these various genres we should note the attention with which the text registers the trajectory of a piece of mail. (Brett, according to Mike, is also a "piece" - but to point that out would be, in Gertrude Stein's phrase too 'Rotarian.') The arrival of a letter or telegram is treated as the last lap of a relay: "She |the concierge| gave me my mail" (28). "I saw a girl coming up the road from the center of the town. She stopped in front of us and took a telegram out of the leather wallet that hung against her skirt" etc. (106). "While I was sitting there the concierge came out with a blue envelope in his hand" (199). And so on. The moment of delivery marks the last stage of a journey, the end of a line. The text displays an obsessive interest in things arriving at their final and appointed destination, obsession which will give all the more weight to the comment that accompanies Jake's arrival at Madrid's North Station: "All trains finish there. They don't go on anywhere" (200). Jake himself is close to the moment of delivery.

19Jake's text ("I wrote out an itinerary" |71|) is, literally, an intinerary; letters, postcards and telegrams trace itineraries (and sometimes extended itineraries as in the case of Brett's cable(s) forwarded to Jake from both Paris and Pamplona); but letters and wires can also serve to notify of itineraries (Gorton's "Back on Monday" |59|) or to modify them (Mike's letter to Jake). However at the heart of The Sun also Rises there exists an obscure region which is never clarified. When Robert Cohn refuses at the last minute to accompany Jake and Bill on the expedition to Burguete (his bus ticket has already been pur- chased; it will be refunded) ho gives the following explanation in a passage which, for once, we will quote in full.

"I ought to stay," he |Robert Cohn| said. "You see I'm afraid there's some sort of misunderstanding."
"Why," I said. "They may not come here for three or four days now if they start on parties at San Sebastian."
"That's just it." said Robert. "I'm afraid they expected to meet me at Son Sebastian, and that's why they stopped over."
"What makes you think that ?"
"Well, I wrote suggesting it to Brett."
"Why In hell didn't you stay there and meet them, then?" I started to say, but I stopped. I thought that idea would conte to him by itself, but I do not believe It ever did. (84-85).

20What Jake "started to say" but "stopped" is the discrepancy between what Cohn has written (proposal of a rendez-vous in San Sebastian) and what he has done (conte to Pamplona), a discrepancy between word and act. Jake's autocensorship indicates that we have reached here the limit of the disclosable. Moreover all of Cohn's writing is equivocal. His novel writing, according to Frances. Is a seducer's ploy; but there is more to it than this. Everything Cohn writes (and here we refer to his correspondence as well) is suspect. To begin with we never see, textually, the words he has written, as we do, on occasion, those of Brett, Mike, Bill, and Jake. The only exception of course is Cohn's telegram to Burguete, but the fact that It is couched in Spanish is palpable proof of bad faith. Cohn writes twice to Jake in Paris. The first letter, as transposed, says "he was going out in the country for a couple of weeks, he did not know where" (59), yet it can be surmised from Brett's later comment ("Who do you think I went down to San Sebastian with?" |70|) that Cohn knew full well where. The second letter "written from Hendaye," notes Jake, is a more elaborately misleading: "He was having a very quiet time, he said, bathing, playing some golf and much bridge, Hendaye had a splendid beach" etc. (68). All of which allows us to categorize yet anothers pecies of itinerary - belonging to 'literature' and limited here to Colin: the false Itinerary. Let it be said, however, that the false itinerary contains, nonetheless, a certain measure of truth. Even when they are together Brett and Cohn are separated... by a frontier: she writes to Jake from Spain, he from France.

21The opening paragraph of Chapter VI presents a minimal variation on the same theme - concerning this time Jake, and we remember the complex relation that binds him to Cohn as both self-image and other. The paragraph In question is another writing episode. Jake arrives at the Crillon at 5 o'clock only to find (of course) that Brett is not there: "I sat down and wrote some letters. They were not very good tetters but I hoped their being on Crillon stationery would help them." Writing is here a substitute for the real thing, an unsatisfactory substitute (not very good letters) and pretentiously presented (the Crillon stationery). The scene of this false form of writing is the itinéraire raté.

22But to return to Gorton. On his arrival from America, "he was very cheerful and said the States were wonderful. New York was wonderful." And subsequently: "He wrote that Vienna was wonderful. Then a card from Budapest:'Jake, Budapest is wonderful.'" And finally when he arrives in Paris: "'Well,' I said, 'I heard you had a wonderful trip. ' 'Wonderful," he said, 'Budapest is absolutely wonderful," (59-60). The least that can be said is that Gorton is a man of his word - in the sense that the medium does not alter the message. The exchange raises, however, a more general question, that of repetition. We are all of us, more or less, in the linguistic situation which Jake, in a moment of insomnia describes as characteristic, successively, of the English upper classes, the Eskimos, the Cherokees, or simply Harris, namely: "One phrase to mean everything" (124). Language repeats Itself, events do not; thus by definition language is Inadequate to account for events. Any form of representation tends inevitably to sameness, which explains why Jake can remark to Cohn: "All countries look just alike in the moving pictures" (12). The recognition that language cannot take the true measure of reality is not In itself a strategy; it only becomes one In the hands of an author who both demonstrates the inadequacy of language and at the same time leases us with the vision of a language beyond, without words. The latter is most evident in Jake's relationship with Montoya where the tactile supplants the spoken ("nearly always there was the actual touching") and where the verbal is denied: "there was no password" (110). It is made most explicit In Jake's disquisition on the English, French and Spanish terms for bullfighting, an exercise in comparative lexicology that concludes: "There Is no Spanish word for bullfight" (144). The very aggressivity of Brett's remark ("Talking's all bilge" 48) suggests an other and more perfect form of communication against which words fail to measure up. Yet some sort of retreat from this absolutist position is necessary if the text is to exist. And here Hemingway resorts to the other pole: the inadequacy of language, by means of its very inadequacy, is rendered expressive.

  • 7 Are we "correct" in discerning in Cohn's telegram ("Vengo Jueves Colin") a distant echo of "Veni, (...)
  • 8 "The element of play in language Is the crotic element; and this erotic element is in essence not (...)
  • 9 "To the extent that it relies heavily on aural signification - on the signifier itself - experimen (...)

23Gorton is the key here, for the operations that he effects on language (the comic results of which we are not about to deny) represents a form of sundering, a deliberate separation of word and meaning. These operations can be schematized as follows: 1. Repetition - as in the case of "wonderful," but also "never be daunted," "utilize." etc. which are emptied of 'sense' by ludic insistence. 2. Random substitutions as in the example (among others): "'You ought to dream'. Bill said. 'All our biggest businessmen have been dreamers. Look at Ford. Look at President Coolidge. Look at Rockefeller. Look at Joe Davidson'" (104). 3. Literal interpretation of stereotyped metaphors: "'The saloon must go, and I will take it with me"'(103). 4. Selective systematic elimination of certain parts of speech - in particular (in the Vienna prizefight anecdote) articles (definite and indefinite), and nominative pronouns (a taste of Henry Green?). Gorton's comment on Cohn's telegram ("Vengo Jueves Cohn") gives the most succinct statement of his poetics: "'What does the word Colin mean?"' (106)7. In other terms, Gorton refuses the denotative function of language and opens up the signifier to a form of free play, to what Norman Brown would call the "polymorphously perverse"8 which he (Brown) associates with the fraternal (characteristic of the Jake/Gorton relationship) - unless, that is, we consider that such "presymbolic" language represents "the Repression of the rule of the Father,"9 a conclusion which might have come to as something of a surprise to Papa Hemingway.

  • 10 At the close of the Vienna prize-fight anecdote Gorton says of the black American boxer: "Going to (...)

24Gorton's role is to undermine language, to point to its inadequacies. The "wonderful" with which he characterizes Vienna is later qualified by a "not so good," which in turns becomes an excursion into the absurd.10 If we insist on these mechanisms it is they are generalized throughout the novel - as for instance in the ad infititum use of the word nice. This is in particular true of the dialogues, which we could see (without intending to make the analogy watertight) as a putting-into-practice of Gorton's strategies, with, however, the ludic elements submerged. Thus: Repetition:

"He's a fine boy. don't you think so?" Montoya asked.
"He's a good-looking kid," I said.
"He looks like a torero," Montoya said, "He Is the type."
"He's a fine boy." (136)

25Repetition with substitution:

"Chaps never know anything, do they?" |Brett is speaking|
"No," I said. "Nobody ever knows anything." (25)

26Repetition with change of personal pronoun (which amounts in this case to a minimal amorous exchange):

"It's a good hand," Brett said. "I think he'll live a long time."
"Say it to me. Not to your friend." |Romero speaking|
"I said you'd live a long time." (155)

27Repetition with qualification:

"This is a good place;" he |Cohn| said.
"There's a lot of liquor," I agreed. (13)

  • 11 John Scarle, "The Background of Meaning," in Speech Act Theory and Pragmatics, ed. J. Searle et al (...)

28The allusive quality of these utterances puts a premium on the context, or to use John Searle's phrase, on "the set of background assumptions and practices.11 Since the background corresponds to the speaker's situation in the broad sense of the term, we could say that the dialogues, treated as mini-texts within the text itself, represent messages exchanged in the course of crisscrossed trajectories, postcards between intersecting itineraries.

  • 12 Genette defines the iterative as follows: "raconter une seule fois ce qui s'est passé n|i.e. plusi (...)

29Repetition is also a question of narrative frequence. It would seem that the teller of The Sun also Rises is possessed of an obsessive aversion to the iterative,12 to the extent that a passage such as "We stayed five days at Burguete and had good fishing. The nights were cold and the days were hot" (104) stands out as a decided exception. In the Paris section the multiplication of discrete scenes is such that the plot is extremely difficult for the reader to retain. And the frequent drinking in no way brings about the spatio-temporal confusion characteristic, for instance, of Under the Volcano (or better yet The Lost Weekend). Hemingway does not 'collapse' scenes together; rather the menace of 'collapse' stems from the words themselves which threaten to reduce everything to a minimal number of classifications (nice/awful, fine/rotten). The narrator's 'total recall' is then what restores to words their capacity to play between situations.

  • 13 John Searle, Expression and Meaning (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 4.
  • 14 "In life people are not conscious of these special moments that novelists build their whole strucu (...)
  • 15 One of the few critics to mention Brett's double telegram is Wirt Williams who interprets it thema (...)

30One idiosyncracy of the text is particularly striking: the notation (almost without exception) after each drink ordered, taxi taken, hotel room occupied, of the fact that payment was made. Paying is a central trope in The Sun also Rises extending to the moral sphere ("You paid some way for anything that was any good" |123|) as well as to the literary: "That | i.e. reading Turgenieff | was another good thing you paid for and then had" (123). But it is its function in the repetitive that concerns us here. For paying is a repeated action, yet one which is never exactly the same; one pays each time a varying amount which differs; one pays each time, but one never pays identically. Paying represents a matching, an adequation - or at least It should, and we remember Jake's immediate reaction when this code Is not respected by another (the conductor on the train, the hotelkeeper in Burguete, the chauffeur of the rented car). Paying consists, if we make use again of Searle's terminology, of a "fit," more precisely of a "word-to-world fit;"13 and it recurs, yet differs on each occasion. Paying brings us then, by a "commodius vicus of recirculation," back to the telegram, the most finely calibrated of all types of expression since each word has its price. The telegram is to begin with a form, a fact which the narrator makes a point of noting: "We walked up to the post-office and asked for a telegraph blank" (100); "I asked him |the concierge | for two. telegraph forms" (195); "Bring me a telegram form, please" (199). The proper use of this form requires a minimal calculation. Colin obviously falls here since his three-word telegram is a waste of space and of money: "He could send ten words for the same price," remarks Jake (106). But the most significant example is Brett's telegram - or rather telegrams, the two verbatim messages that are forwarded to Jake in San Sebastian, given, 'textually,' by the narrator. This perfect Identity, itself troubling (Jake hesitates as to whether or not to tip the concierge a second time), expresses the Imperious nature of Brett's summons. For if we pause to calculate (and did not Hemingway himself write, in regard to "these special moments that novelists build their structures on" that "you have to figure them out by yourself"?).14 It is evident that Brett has sent two separate wires, that she has thus paid twice for each word, that she has in short, in order to get her message across, been willing to mettre le prix.15

31And the image of the author in all of this? The bullfight has provided fertile grounds for metaphors of writers and writing. Within this ring, our preference would go not to Romero and his celebrated cool style, but to the aging Belmont, who, like Jake, suffers from an old wound and who "when he felt the greatness again coming, just a little of it through the pain that was always with him. it had been discounted and sold in advance" (180). Moreover we could point out that the narrator, jealous as he Is of Jake's prerogatives as focalizing agent of the tale, nonetheless allows the point of view to drift towards Belmonte ("Belmonte watched Romero, too, watched him always without seeming to.... He |Belmonte| had expected... he knew... " |179| etc.); whereas Jake keeps his distance from the latter's younger rival: "I think he |Romero| loved bulls, and I think he loved Brett" (180). But the problem with the bullfighting images is that they also have been "discounted in advance" by the characters themselves, who. In the explicit comparisons they themselves propose have exhausted the analogical potentialities. Which is why, finally, our choice would be the archivist (keeper of records) who, the narrator informs us, "has nothing to do with the story" (81). or better yet the workmen whose job it was to prepare the corrida, whose gestures are described as an ordered, sequential activity: "The workmen dug holes and fitted in the timbers, each timber numbered in its regular place" (124). When the fiesta "explodes" these workmen will have long since disappeared; once the numbered timbers are in place, the fiesta will run Its course, to the end, come what may. The resistance to metaphor that the text exhibits can also be seen as a denial of the responsibility for narrating, a desire to shift it elsewhere; Jake, the narrator, simply follows in the footsteps of Jake, the guide; and the image of an itinerary repeated is what informs the title itself - the sun also rises.


1 Numbers within parentheses are page references to the English edition (London: Granada, 1976).

2 Since we are an aficionado of Gérard Cenette's poetics of narrative we have used his terminology wherever it appeared appropriate.

3 "Décrire les moeurs est froid dans un roman. C'est presque moraliser. Tournez la description en étonnement, mettez une étrangère qui s'étonne, la description devient un sentiment". (Marginal note to "Mina de Vanghel," Roman et Nouvelles de Stendhal, Paris: La Pléiade, 1956, vol. II, p. 1475). Brett of course is a stranger to bullfighting, but the action in the ring is not seen through her eyes, but via Jake who serves as the reader's filter (and to a certain extent as Brett's as well). Moreover Brett, in a manner that can appear as an implicit repudiation of the role of the novice figure (from Stendhal to Stephen Crone), does not turn her eyes away from the spectacle (dixit Jake).

4 Geneviève Hily-Mane, Le Style de Ernest Hemingway (Paris: PUF, 1983), p. 307.

5 David Lodge, The Modes of Modern Writing (London: Edward Arnold, 1977), p. 107.

6 We will refrain from pointing out that here again we have a simile which compares two itineraries, the second itinerary ("a certain stretch… between Fontainebleau and Montereau") being an itinerary within an itinerary - the latter reduced to Its minimal expression, the initials of the way stations, P.L.M..

7 Are we "correct" in discerning in Cohn's telegram ("Vengo Jueves Colin") a distant echo of "Veni, vidi, vici?" If not, It would nonetheless be just like him.

8 "The element of play in language Is the crotic element; and this erotic element is in essence not genital, but polymorphously perverse" (Norman Brown, Life against Death, Middletown, Conn: Weslyan University Press. 1959, p. 70).

9 "To the extent that it relies heavily on aural signification - on the signifier itself - experimental writing is presymbolic, and an expression of the pre-Oedipal union with the mother's body, a gesture against the repression of the Rule of the Father…" (Marianne DeKoven, A Different Language: Gertrude Stein's Experimental Writing, Madison, "Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983, p. 21.

10 At the close of the Vienna prize-fight anecdote Gorton says of the black American boxer: "Going to write me a letter and send me the money I loaned him. Wonderful nigger" (61). In the first draft of the novel (see Frederic Svoboda. Hemingway's The Sun also Rises: the Crafting of a Style, Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1983, pp. 28-29) Hemingway left a page blank for the text of this piece of correspondence to be Inserted later, but it never 'arrived.' Thus it is we have a missing letter; and this missing letter is situated halfway between a commentary on the uncertainties of the European postal system ("Hope I gave him the right address," remarks Gorton) and a recognition of the eternal ungratefulness of human nature.

11 John Scarle, "The Background of Meaning," in Speech Act Theory and Pragmatics, ed. J. Searle et al., London: Reidel, 1980, p. 227.

12 Genette defines the iterative as follows: "raconter une seule fois ce qui s'est passé n|i.e. plusieurs| fois" (Gérard Genette, Figures III. Paris: Seuil, 1972, p. 147).

13 John Searle, Expression and Meaning (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 4.

14 "In life people are not conscious of these special moments that novelists build their whole strucutres on. That is most people are not. That surely has nothing to do with the story but you cannot tell until you finish it because none of the significant things are going to have any literary signs marking them. You have to figure them out by yourself" (from the first-draft notebooks of The Sun also Rises, cited in Svoboda, p. 12). This first draft also contains Jake's comments on A.E.W. Mason's story (mentioned passim in the final version on page 100). According to Svoboda, "Jake analyzes Mason's story, with particular attention to the predictability of its sequence of events" (Svoboda, p. 17). Geneviève Hily-Mane also mentions Jake's comments on the role of a "trifle" in Mason's story, a trifle which serves in the end to reverse the course of the narration (see Geneviève Hily-Mane, "Les Versions successives de "The Sun also Rises", Etudes Anglaises, no. 67, p. 270). Jake's comments would thus seem to concern the function of an "advance notice" in a narrative (Genette's "annonce").

15 One of the few critics to mention Brett's double telegram is Wirt Williams who interprets it thematically as a call coming from both the lower reality of the office (Paris) and the citadel of the higher (Pamplona). See Wirt Williams, The Tragic Art of Ernest Hemingway (Baton Rouge, La: Louisiana State University Press, 1981), p. 62.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 1985

Conditions d’utilisation :

Cette publication numérique est issue d’un traitement automatique par reconnaissance optique de caractères.


Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search