Introduced by Colm Tóibín
Illustrated by Anne-Marie Jones
Colm Tóibín introduces Hemingway's early masterpiece.
The story chronicles the experiences of Frederic Henry, an American serving on the Italian Front as an ambulance driver in 1915. After being injured by a shell, he begins a love affair with a beautiful English nurse, Catherine Barkley. But after his return to the Front, the tide begins to turn against the Allies, and following the desperate Italian retreat at Caporetto, Frederic’s only escape is with Catherine. Moulded from Hemingway’s own experiences on the Italian Front, Frederic’s narrative resembles a memoir, mirroring Hemingway’s lifelong quest for the most ‘truthful’ form of the written word. Conversations are presented in veracious bursts, events are reported in precise, matter-of-fact detail. And while exposing the chaos of war, the writing also shows us the naivety of love, and how, in the end, fate is our sole commander.
‘A most beautiful, moving and humane book’
To read the raw, deceptively simple prose of Ernest Hemingway’s first bestseller is to experience literature at its most visceral. The language, distilled to its basic elements, is free from over-embellished sentiment and unnecessary detail. Yet between the words he hides the heart-wrenching passions of love and the abject foolishness of war: beauty and violence spring from mundanity when least expected. With the publication of A Farewell to Arms in 1929, Hemingway not only coined a new literary style, but also produced one of the 20th century’s most affecting war novels. As master stylist Colm Tóibín writes in his introduction, it is ‘not like writing at all, with no sense of a writer at a desk attempting to create an illusion, but something that had been there already, in place before there was any writerly intrusion’.
Award-winning illustrator Anne-Marie Jones has contributed nine moving images. With broad, deliberate brush strokes, she exposes the heart of Hemingway’s remarkable prose.
‘Hard, almost metallic, glittering, blinding by the reflections of its hard surface, utterly free of sentimentality – a strange and original book, it will convince you of its honesty and veracity’
Experience for a writer comes best as shadow. The road not taken and the door never opened yield as much as the thin business of what happened. ‘I invented every word and every incident of A Farewell to Arms,’ Hemingway wrote to his editor Maxwell Perkins, ‘except possibly 3 or 4 incidents. All the best part is invented.’ But the best part was also close to him; he had almost been there; it included events which he had dreamed about, or regretted not having experienced, events which came to him as shadow which he could make into substance; the best part included also events whose shape he knew and could re-mould, as well as places that he remembered which had mattered to him ...
On July 14, 1918, when Hemingway was in Italy and Italy was still at war, a colleague of his wrote from Milan to Hemingway’s parents about injuries their son had received: ‘I have just come from seeing Ernest at the American Red Cross hospital here. He’s fast on the road to recovery and will be out a whole man once again, so the doctor says, in a couple of weeks. Although some two hundred pieces of shell were lodged in him none of them are above the hip joint.’ He went on to tell them of an explosion which had knocked Hemingway unconscious ‘and buried him with earth. There was an Italian between Ernest and the shell. He was instantly killed while another, standing a few feet away, had both his legs blown off.’
On July 21 Hemingway wrote to his family: ‘This is a peach of a hospital here and there are about 18 American nurses to take care of 4 patients. Everything is fine and I’m very comfortable.’
Ernest Hemingway was born in Illinois in 1899. He served on the Italian Front during the First World War, then worked as a journalist and editor in Toronto and Chicago. In 1921 he moved to Paris where he met writers such as Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. His first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems, was published in 1923, following the loss at a station of a suitcase con- taining all Hemingway’s previous manuscripts. His extensive world- wide travels inspired many of his novels, including The Sun Also Rises (1926), A Farewell to Arms (1929), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), and The Old Man and the Sea (1951). In 1954 Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in 1961.
Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy in 1955. He is the author of seven novels including The Blackwater Lightship (1999), The Master (2004), and The Testament of Mary (2012), all three of which were nominated for the Booker Prize, and Brooklyn (2010), which won the Costa Novel Award. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. He lives in Dublin.
Anne-Marie Jones studied Illustration at University College Falmouth and was a runner-up in the 2011 book illustration competition run by The Folio Society and House of Illustration. She works in a combination of paint and digital; her illustrations begin as a painting which she then composes digitally and collages to build up layers, textures, and contrasts. Her binding for the 2013 Folio Society edition of D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers won Best Illustrated Book Cover at the V&A Illustration Awards in 2014.
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Review by blue.dingo on 9th Aug 2017
"I sincerely hope Folio Society will continue to publish Hemingway, as no library would be complete without the works of one of the 20th Century's greatest novelists upon its shelves. As always, Folio ..." [read more]