The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway began his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, on July 21, 1925 (his 26th birthday), and delivered his completed revisions to his editor at Scribner, Maxwell Perkins, on April 21, 1926. A new Hemingway Library Edition—with a personal foreword by Patrick Hemingway, the author’s sole surviving son, and a new introduction by Hemingway’s grandson Seán Hemingway—includes early drafts, as well as deleted chapters and paragraphs. Michael Gorra, who teaches at Smith College and is the author, most recently, of Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece, examines an excerpt from the first draft.

No one reading this discarded passage will miss the irony. Its words about leaving in “the whole business” are just what the young Hemingway found he had to take out. And in notably clotted prose, he sets himself against writers of the kind he was in the process of becoming: “the ones with clear restrained writing.” Yet look more closely, and his comments reveal a central truth about his creative process. Hemingway’s style didn’t come easily, and it wasn’t in the least natural—it needed to be made, carved from the rock of a very rough draft. Many years later, he wrote that one could cut anything so long as one knew what it was; the words that remained would be strengthened by the implicit presence of what was no longer on the page. These sentences stand as one of the literary signs he wanted to do without. He was right to get rid of them. But he had to write them first, and they shape what’s left behind: a novel in which the “special moments” aren’t labeled, a book that finds a form for all the seeming accidents and irrelevancies of life itself. 

 

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