“The taxi went up the hill, passed the lighted square, then on into the dark, still climbing, then leveled out onto a dark street behind St. Etienne d“The taxi went up the hill, passed the lighted square, then on into the dark, still climbing, then leveled out onto a dark street behind St. Etienne du Mont, went smoothly down the asphalt, passed the trees and the standing bus at the Place de la Contrescarpe, then turned onto the cobbles of the Rue Mouffetard. There were lighted bars and late open shops on each side of the street. We were sitting apart and we jolted close together going down the old street. Brett’s hat was off. Her head was back. I saw her face in the lights from the open shops, then it was dark, then I saw her face clearly as we came out on the Avenue des Gobelins. The street was torn up and men were working on the car-tracks by the light of acetylene flares. Brett’s face was white and the long line of her neck showed in the bright light of the flares. The street was dark again and I kissed her. Our lips were tight together and then she turned away and pressed against the corner of the seat, as far away as she could get. Her head was down.”
Fiesta exploded onto the literary scene in 1929 like a new religion. Within a year it had sold 30,000 copies and gone into several reprintings. It is the most rereadable of novels, its clean, immediate prose creating a special ache, for youth and abandonment and heartbreak. It is also, curiously, a religious novel.
Fiesta was Hemingway's original, superior title, and is retained in the UK editions. His US publishers thought the Spanish word too esoteric, and The Sun Also Rises (from Ecclesiastes) was suggested by his editor.
The religious themes include the pilgrimage to Pamplona (the festival of San Fermin "is also a religious festival," and the train to Spain is full of pilgrims on their way to Lourdes). Jake enters a church more than once, though when he enters with Brett, she gets the heebie-jeebies.
Lady Brett Ashley was modeled on the gorgeous Lady Duff Twysden, with whom Hemingway went to Pamplona, and with whom he was apparently besotted. They never got together, perhaps because of Hemingway's marriage. Robert Cohn was based on Harold Loeb, who was so pissed at his depiction in the novel that he pursued him with a pistol at one point. Though the portrayal of Cohn comes across as anti-Semitic, Hemingway's actual views on Jews were apparently innocuous. He had Jewish friends (including Gertrude Stein, who provided the epigraph: "You are all a lost generation") and sometimes signed letters "Hemingstein." Furthermore, Hemingway once said that Cohn is the real hero of the novel. It should be noted that Jake also has issues with homosexuals: when Brett first enters the novel, she is with a group of gay men, and Jake comments: "I know you're supposed to be tolerant, but they always made me angry."
A phenomenal amount of alcohol is consumed in the novel. Toward the end of the book, after Jake rescues Brett in Madrid, he drinks six martinis and five bottles of wine in one evening. Following this spree, Brett tells him, "Don't get drunk."
Hemingway had already gained fame for his taut short stories when he wrote Fiesta. Inspiration rose partly from his admiration for The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald was a friend, though they later had a falling out (see A Moveable Feast for Hemingway's sneering portrait), and Fitzgerald's editorial suggestions, including lopping off an initial chapter, were key to the novel's tight flow. ...more