“The literary equivalent of a prankster. Or a swindler. That is what Hemingway was,” Guillermo thought to himself, turning the last page of The Old Man and The Sea.
As of the second page, Guillermo knew how it would all end for the old man. Yet he kept reading. Driven by a profound hope that, against all odds, things might still turn out differently. That, for once, destiny would be avoided. To finally, once the book finished, still not know for sure how it turned out.
People talk about how unexpected turns in a plot need to create suspense. How tension needs to be carefully build-up and crafted. But old Ernest did not care much for all that.
He just told his story.
And, fitting for a true master of storytelling, always left just a tiny bit of uncertainty. Cautiously hinted at the possibility of destiny not getting its course. Firmly keeping the reader’s hope at happy endings alive, and with it, his unconditional attention.
At some points Hemingway seemed to overcook it. Making the old man’s faith so obviously inevitable that all suspense seemed gone. To then brilliantly expose the delusion he created, by dropping a new ray of hope.
That juggling with hope and fate created a tension that no complicated plot switch would ever equal. That at least, was Guillermo’s opinion. When it came to telling stories, few indeed outwitted Hemingway.
Moreover, Hemingway convinced his reader that writing the book had been effortless. One pictured Hemingway sitting on his favorite stool at the Floridita bar. Sipping from his umpteenth dry martini, while the words just floated onto the patient paper.
In reality, Hemingway probably labored as hard as any writer. Guillermo accepted that for fact. Even though it never felt that way. The book just felt as if it had been written one afternoon in the Caribean. Simply because such had been the purpose of that afternoon.
There lay the real trickery of Hemingway, Guillermo concluded. A novel like Atlas Shrugged brought to mind a vision of Ayn Rand struggling. Torturing her mind with a language that was hardly her native one. Constructing a story line with painstaking meticulousness and dedication.
Not so Hemingway. He just casually leaned back against a beach bar. And told this story of an old man and the sea. Captivating the world’s attention for a brief while.