I’ve rarely been a fan of classics. Growing up homeschooled (I did for a while), I stomached historical fiction for my mother’s sake: if it had a solver or gold stamp of Excellence on the cover, I guaranteed that one would be a slow, dry read. The words were flimsy and unreal, the plots sketchy, the action remote and unexciting. King Harold pulled an arrow out of his own eye socket at the battle of Hastings, and the pages were so parched and lifeless that even that wasn’t exciting.
But my grandmother handed me a skinny little thing to read, close to a year ago. She had too many old books on the shelf, I suppose. I can’t imagine why I opened it.
I’ll tell you this: nothing else like it exists.
Hemingway’s last work, The Old Man and the Sea,was simple. His writing was that of calm, daily life, even in the mad moments of a shark thrashing and biting as the old man lashed out at it with a broken blade.
Santiago had been a fisherman all his life on the coasts of Cuba. His wife had passed away, and his glory days sailing the coasts of Africa were decades behind him. Alone in his shack, his only comfort was the boy, who brought him the newspaper and listened to him talk about the past, or about whatever was in the news. The old man hadn’t caught anything in nearly three months. The men in the village thought he was daft, but Santiago went out again each day, dropping his lines.
This day, his line catches something… something he can feel is huge long before he can see it.Someone told me it was written as a metaphor for a man’s life: lowering his lines, its first tug, hanging onto his dreams through the blood, sweat and years while hardly ever seeing it, and having it at last for a short, perfect stretch of his life. But in far shorter a time, it’s all taken away from him, leaving nothing but memories and a souvenir others brag about him having more than he does himself. And with a life well lived, he comes back to his old home and dreams, back to the slow peace from which he came.
Summer vacation is almost upon me: for you it might be another month, but that’s for the best. Every time I read it, during the school year, it gave me peace of mind. The story was just over 100 pages, on pages justtwice the size of my cellphone. Savor it.