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A Clean Well Lighted Place

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  3,515 Ratings  ·  150 Reviews
"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is a short story by American author Ernest Hemingway, first published in Scribner's Magazine in 1933; it was also included in his collection Winner Take Nothing (1933).

James Joyce once remarked: "He [Hemingway] has reduced the veil between literature and life, which is what every writer strives to do. Have you read 'A Clean Well-Lighted Place'
Hardcover, 30 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Creative Education (first published 1926)
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What did he fear? It was not a fear or dread. It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and man was a nothing too.

An old man drinking alone. A man that won't leave, a young waiter in a hurry to go home to his wife and another waiter. It is as simple as that. The complexity that left me stunned lies beneath that simple plot that unfolds with the help of Hemingway's characteristic style. And, once more, the economy of words cannot tame the torrent of emotions that can take ove
Oct 31, 2016 Thomas rated it liked it
Shelves: read-for-college
A solid short story that addresses suicide, aging, and the importance of having a purpose in one's life. As you can discern from my reviews over the past couple of months, I have a lot of problems with Hemingway and his writing. However, I appreciate that he tackles difficult topics in a way that confronts the darkest aspects of the human experience. His work, including this story, emphasizes the importance of mental well-being, of connecting with one another's hardships and humanity. I hope we ...more
May 13, 2008 Dale rated it it was amazing
"A Clean, Well Lighted Place" is absolutely the best short story of all time, and the greatest thing I have ever read. I know that's a big statement but I really believe it to be utterly perfect. It's one of the most heartbreaking, intimate stories I've ever read and it captures a lifetime of humility, loneliness, and our ability as humans to be both the source of pain and salvation for each other - all in 3 pages. It will stay with you forever.
Oct 17, 2015 Mario rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I am literally speechless. I'm positive that this is my favorite short story that I've read so far.
Oct 19, 2015 Molly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perfect three pages.


Simple yet deep. But a few pages filled with loneliness, humanity, depression, empathy and indifference .... the impatience of youth and the small things that make an otherwise meaningless life still worth living. Classic, nostalgic, moving .... almost lyrical.

Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Something very moving caught my attention as I was starting to read this: a small black ant crawling along the edges of the book. My first thought was: murder, I've got to kill this thing: and my favorite method of extinguishing the life of trespassing attention-getters like this is to place them somewhere in the middle of the open book, close the book, pound it with a fist as it lays on the table, then open it again on the page where they met their end and look to see how they'd appear to subse ...more
Jun 21, 2012 Emma rated it it was amazing
"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is one of my favourite short stories by Hemingway. A story about three men at different states of their lives; two waiters of a cafe (one young, one older) and an old man as a customer. The old man is living in a state of despair and loneliness, having recently attempted suicide. The younger waiter is insensitive to this and just wants the old man to leave. He himself has "everything": youth, confidence, a job and a wife. He does not realize that not everybody has t ...more
Maryam Rajee
Oct 20, 2015 Maryam Rajee rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
How lonely, depressed and indifferent an old man can be?
Jan 23, 2013 Selim rated it it was amazing
Analysis of the two major characters in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway (DOES contain spoilers)

One of the major and most ostensible distinctions between the two major characters (the two waiters) in Hemingway’s short story is the age difference. One of the waiters is “younger” and the other is “older”, probably a middle-aged man. They are both keeping watch of their last customer, an old man who drinks to excess, and discussing the fact that he had tried to commit suicide.

Jul 04, 2015 Nada rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Joyce once remarked: "Hemingway has reduced the veil between literature and life, which is what every writer strives to do."
Jan 15, 2009 Federica rated it it was amazing
I'd read it forever
Monica Piquero
Jul 08, 2013 Monica Piquero rated it it was amazing
The image of despair, loneliness, youth, old age, humility and reflection. Came through in such short pages. explaining the deep need of humanity to find hope, purpose and need in a state of despair and loneliness. the old man found it in the end of a glass of brandy, meanwhile the older waiter found it in becoming an aid of hope by worrking at night in a well lighted place to his preference a cafe. identifying himself with the old. man's ordeal. he defends him from the young waiters perspective ...more
Michael de Percy
Jan 19, 2013 Michael de Percy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-reviewed
I've always had a nagging thought that short stories were a cop-out for an author of novels - a bit like a media article compared to a journal article or a monograph for an academic. This particular short story seems to have been popular for its treatment of the Lord's Prayer, but I am spellbound by Hemingway's ability to shake loose a raft of emotions in such a short space. Maybe it is his self-centredness I identify with - I am not sure - but I seem to be able to identify with all of the chara ...more
Apr 02, 2013 Jenna rated it really liked it
I like to read this story with my Introduction to Literature students and then ask them which character they identify with best; the old drunk man, the older waiter, or the young waiter. I think the character you pick is fairly telling about your time and place in life. I tend towards the younger waiter--I always feel like I can't wait to go away from work in order to live my real life. But I love the treatment given to the older waiter in the end, when he goes away from the diner in quiet refle ...more
Jun 03, 2016 Luke rated it it was amazing
I don't know why I don't read more Hemingway. I'm left stunned every time I finish his work. The depths he manages to explore with his economy of words is legendary and he's done it again here, maybe better than he has in any other of his short stories.
Jessica Robinson
Feb 11, 2015 Jessica Robinson rated it it was amazing
This will have me looking at those late-night tables who come in moments before we close a bit differently from now on.
Timothy Morrow
Aug 20, 2012 Timothy Morrow rated it liked it
Deep and meaningful, Hemingway writes a great short story that has many questions and indeed a lot to think about...
Mar 19, 2014 Ireisha rated it it was amazing
It rips my heart with few, simple words. What more can I ask?

Here is the thing about A Clean, Well Lighted Place: it is a snippet. It is the conversation you might be having or hearing, it is the bits and pieces of life and it never tries to make dramatized story or even a structurized narrative out of it. It doesn't try to be a well-plotted story. What it wants to be (and succeeds at it): it is the window through a simple, yet tragic ordinary life of men. (Or you can argue that it is the window
Sep 12, 2012 Danny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shorts
A Clean Well Lighted Place still leaves me pondering upon the third read. Which is kind of a good thing.

This must be Hemingway at his best. The extreme minimalism could not be better suited than to this really short story, which is read in few minutes, but for now, at least, remains with me.

Should it not, however, I will remind myself of the story about an old, deaf, lonely, suicidal man who gets himself drunk in this clean well lighted café. Young waiter is anything but pleased, and starts ins
Mar 21, 2011 Martina rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
A sad and depressing story of three different types of men. The one that has drink, the one that owns a cafe and the one that has a family. Usually men have all of them in one life, but this story tells of those who only have one, and how much they value them.

Suicide, money and drink usually come together when there is talk about depressing times. Simply it is just the way it works, when we are talking about men; women are on a completely different level, sometimes. The title of this short story
Rosa Lee Mullins
Jan 25, 2011 Rosa Lee Mullins rated it it was amazing
This is the first work by Hemingway that I read and it is also my favorite. What I really liked was the use of setting, the three characters that portray three phases of life, and a problem that describes the human condition. I also enjoyed the "play" on the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary at the end of the story. I enjoy stories written by the Lost Generation, as many of them captured the particular moment in history when humans were very vulnerable. Hemingway captured that moment very precisely an ...more
Ángela María
"Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y
pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy
will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us
our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from
nada; pues nada."
Sep 26, 2015 Sneha rated it liked it
A short but interesting read. The illusion of immortality as I call it. While we are young and have time on our side, we feel we are invincible. We have a purpose, while others (older people who can be a source of annoyance at times) don't. Hemmingway talks about how in the end we are all going to be the same - nothing. only those who are closer to death, feel that despair, that nothingness.
Sep 09, 2012 Sadie rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-stars-or-less
Obviously with a high average rating, I'm missing something. I'm not a big fan of Hemingway overall, but I thought the short story was pretty decent. I can see the symbolism and parallels between the old man and the waiter, but the story didn't move me.
Menna Kh.
Mar 20, 2012 Menna Kh. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, short-strories
This is amazing. No one can ever reach this depth in characterizing the human loneliness and despair like Hemingway does.
Some men grow older with comfort. And some just go from nada to nada to nada.
Mar 31, 2016 Margarida rated it it was amazing
Nada nosso que estás no nada, nada é o teu nome, teu reino nada, tu serás nada no nada como no nada.
Jun 29, 2017 Reader rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, fiction
Is there a meaning to life? Nada.
Jan 17, 2015 Metatron rated it liked it
Arrogance. That's the one word which popped into my head as soon as I met the young waiter in the story. Arrogance leads to so many unpleasant flaws: the inability to feel basic human compassion and empathy towards others, a disregard for other people's feelings and the thought you're entitled to more than others. I loathe people like that. Like the young, arrogant, pretentious waiter.

Rumours had it that the deaf old man attempted suicide the week before the story took place, and the young wait
Rowland Bismark
May 18, 2010 Rowland Bismark rated it really liked it
The Struggle to Deal with Despair

The old man and older waiter in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” struggle to find a way to deal with their despair, but even their best method simply subdues the despair rather than cures it. The old man has tried to stave off despair in several unsuccessful ways. We learn that he has money, but money has not helped. We learn that he was once married, but he no longer has a wife. We also learn that he has unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide in a desperate attempt
Rachel Jackson
Jun 30, 2014 Rachel Jackson rated it really liked it
One of my favorite things about reading is that you can come across a line, a sentence in a book somewhere in and go, Ah! That's what I've been saying this whole time! But you never know how to verbally express it until you see someone else has done it for you. I hardly thought one of those moments for me would come through Ernest Hemingway, but there was one here:

""Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily
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Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short story collec ...more
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“He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it is probably only insomnia. Many must have it.” 265 likes
“Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.” 85 likes
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