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Ernest Hemingway: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Hemingway’s Spanish Civil War novel certainly was one of his most successful novels, both commercially and critically. To me it always seemed somewhat clichéd – wartime romance, leader who loses his courage and betrays his side, an impossible task that our hero is going to carry out anyway, great white hero sacrificing himself for the greater good, you’ve read it all before. It’s quite a gripping story but seems very dated now.

The story concerns Robert Jordan, an American who is fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War as a demolition expert. He has been ordered to blow up a bridge but the local guerilla group, lead by Pablo, is opposed as they feel that it will draw attention to their group. Just to make it exciting, Jordan falls in love with a local girl, Maria, and hears that news of his attempt has got out. Will he blow up the bridge? Yes. Will Maria love him? Yes. Will he die heroically? Yes. Love and war don’t go together and there is always a lot of politics in any war are the two messages we get out of this but there are other and better Spanish civil war novels.

Publishing history

First published 1940 by Scribner