Monday, July 4, 2011

Julian Barnes' "Homage to Hemingway"

Yet more Hemingway! After writing several times recently on Hemingway-related topics, most recently on 7/1/11, I opened the 7/4/11 issue of The New Yorker to find a Julian Barnes short story titled “Homage to Hemingway.” The story is about a writer who teaches writing at various seminars in various locales, and often alludes to Hemingway. The story’s three-part structure echoes, we find out, the three-part structure of Hemingway’s own story, “Homage to Switzerland.” In that story, three American men wait at different Swiss train stations, and idly amuse themselves by bothering and/or condescending to local waitresses, porters, and others in various ways. This is definitely an “ugly American” story. There is a feeling that the three men are three aspects of the same man or at least the same type. In Barnes’ story, the three parts depict the writer in different teaching situations, including one in Switzerland. The writer/teacher talks about and speculates about the Hemingway story. After reading the Barnes story, I found and listened to a podcast (of 12/8/10) on the Guardian UK book site ( of Barnes reading the Hemingway story, and it was illuminating to experience the two stories back to back. The podcast also included Barnes’ commentary about the story, which he chose because it was NOT one of the “macho” stories, but one that showed Hemingway’s lesser-known wit and humor, as well as some innovation in form. For another side of Hemingway, and a deft homage to that side, I recommend both “Homage” stories to your attention.

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