Riku Sayuj's Reviews > The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
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Nov 21, 14

bookshelves: favorites, classics, r-r-rs, nobel-winners
Read from January 29 to 30, 2012, read count: 5

The wolves will come...

I started this in high spirits as my updates show: "fifth re-read, how thrilling it is to plumb new depths in old wells of wisdom..."

But, as I read on towards the last few pages, I couldn't shake the feeling that this is Moby Dick set in an alternate universe.

In this alternate universe:

The Giant Leviathan is a noble, unseen fish - steady and without malice.
Captain Ahab is transformed into a gentle, wise old zen master. Santiago - a humble fisherman with no legendary crew to command and only his frail body instead of a Pequod to do his bidding.
Ishmael is a young boy, who instead of being a "end is nigh" Nostradamus is a loving, weeping young boy who cares deeply about the world.
Queequeg is probably the dolphin which was the old man's only hope against his foe, his brother.

Now Moby Dick for me was the grand struggle of an obsessed genius with his destiny (in fact, about the creative struggle) - it proves that life is a tragedy and in the grand conclusion, you go down with a mighty confrontation and your ambitions take you down to the depths of the sea - no trace left of either you or your grand dreams except a mist of madness propagated as a half-heard story.

This was profound and it moved me to tears - but it was still grand, was it not? The great struggle, the titanic battle and the heroic capitulation! It was operatic and it was uplifting - even amidst the tragedy, the mighty bellow of man's cry in the face of the unconquerable; that gave me goosebumps.


But Hemingway and his Old Man has turned the story on its head.

It takes you beyond the happily-ever-after of Moby Dick (!) and as always those unchartered waters are beyond description. This alternate universe is much more cruel and much more real. There is no grand confrontation that ends in an inspirational tragedy.

It turns it into a battle of attrition - you are inevitably defeated even in success and life will wear you down and leave no trace of your ambitions.

It makes you battle to the last breaking point of every nerve and sinew and lets you win a hollow victory that you cannot celebrate as life has worn you out too much in your pursuit of your goals and the destiny, the destiny too now seems more and more unreal and you ask yourself if you were even worthy enough to start the battle.

And as you turn back after that jaded victory, then comes the sharks, inevitably, inexorably. And then begins the real battle, not the grand epic, but a doomed, unenthusiastic battle against reality - with the knowledge that no grand ambition can ever succeed.

And the old man tells it for you - "I never should have gone out that far!"

The alternate universe is depressing and it is Zen at the same time, I do not know how. I probably have to read this many more times before any hope, any secret light in it comes to illuminate me - for today, for this reading, Hemingway has depressed me beyond belief and I cannot remember how I always thought of this as an inspirational fable!

The scene in which the restaurant lady sees the bones of the once great fish sums it up for me - In the end you give up hope of success and only wish that at the very least you might be able to bring back a ghost of the fish so that people can see how great your target really was - but all they see is the almost vanished skeleton of your idea; your grand dreams are just so much garbage now and who will have the imagination to see the grandeur it had at its conception?

“They beat me, Manolin,” he said. “They truly beat me.”

“He didn’t beat you. Not the fish.”

“No. Truly. It was afterwards.”
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Reading Progress

01/30/2012 page 12
9.0% "fifth re-read... the old man is so zen master; the whole story is a koan - no wonder I keep reading this and go 'whoa!' ever time."
01/30/2012 page 89
70.0% "how thrilling it is to plumb new depths in old wells of wisdom..."

Comments (showing 1-50 of 81) (81 new)


Stephen Nice review, Riku.


Riku Sayuj Stephen wrote: "Nice review, Riku."

thanks. :) if you noticed, my conclusions from the book are diametrically opposed to your review....

What you had expressed in your review is what I felt about the book in my earlier readings but for some reason, this reading has affected me differently. That is the beauty with such works isn't it?


Don Incognito Interesting...never thought to compare it with Moby Dick.


Riku Sayuj Don Incognito wrote: "Interesting...never thought to compare it with Moby Dick."

Thanks :) It just made sense to me to read it from that angle this time around.


message 5: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie I must reread this, oh at least 3 more times (and it was a long time ago). Nice comparison to Moby Dick, and perhaps proof of the 7 major plots idea - though it could be argued that *all* the plots are here - but at least 'Overcoming the Monster' 'Voyage and Return' & 'Quest'


message 6: by Riku (last edited Mar 06, 2012 12:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj B0nnie wrote: "I must reread this, oh at least 3 more times (and it was a long time ago). Nice comparison to Moby Dick, and perhaps proof of the 7 major plots idea - though it could be argued that *all* the plots..."

To put any more would be too much of a force-fit. I just wanted to use it to inform my own understanding of the new message.


message 7: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant nice one, Riku!


Riku Sayuj Paul wrote: "nice one, Riku!"

Thanks, Paul!


Riku Sayuj Love123456 wrote: "Hello My Dear
interested in you (jessica_emodu@yahoo.com)
My name is Jessica emodu ,i saw your profile today and became interested in you,i will also like to know you the more,and i want you to send an email to my email address (jessica_emodu@yahoo.com) so i can give you my picture for you to know whom i am. i believe we can move from here.I am waiting for your mail to my email address (jessica_emodu@yahoo.com) above.Miss Jessica Remember the distance or co-lour does not matter but love matters a lot in life.
Yours Friend,
Miss Jessica."


Is this Jessica Q Rabbit?? Manny, you around?


Jason Wow, Riku you stud. You just got proposed to, practically. The kindest thing any female stranger has said to me on my threads is something along the lines of, “Your review sucks and you are an asshole.”

I think they mean it lovingly, though.


message 11: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Jason wrote: "Wow, Riku you stud. You just got proposed to, practically. The kindest thing any female stranger has said to me on my threads is something along the lines of, “Your review sucks and you are an assh..."

I am sure they do. It is how they play with your mind. You know the old rule.


message 12: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Don Incognito wrote: "I've never seen spam on Goodreads reviews. How depressing. (As soon as Goodreads removes it, I will delete this comment.)"

Indeed it is... but I see Manny's scheming hand behind this new evil!


Rohini Whoa... Talk abt spam in Goodreads!


Peter Riku wrote: "Love123456 wrote: "Hello My Dear
interested in you (jessica_emodu@yahoo.com)
My name is Jessica emodu ,i saw your profile today and became interested in you,i will also like to know you the more,an..."


I believe I saw the same message recently on one of Trevor's threads, so you might have a fight on your hands


message 15: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Peter wrote: "I believe I saw the same message recently on one of Trevor's threads, so you might have a fight on your hands "

Don Incognito wrote: "Having noticed that the spam is gone by now, I will now delete my earlier comment on it (and subsequently this one) and suggest we forget about it."

Amen.


message 16: by Martha (new) - added it

Martha You caught my attention immediately with your comparison! I've been wanting to read this; and, Moby Dick is my favorite! Love your review!


Fionnuala I also like the parallels you've found between these two powerful books, as well as the new levels of meaning you've plumbed in TOMaTS. Glad you reposted this Riku.


message 18: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Fionnuala wrote: "I also like the parallels you've found between these two powerful books, as well as the new levels of meaning you've plumbed in TOMaTS. Glad you reposted this Riku."

Thank you Fionnuala! I was thinking of reading more Hemingway for the group read and came back to this to see if I felt the same way. I still do.

Enjoyed your review too. Great book to start Hemingway with, always.


Fionnuala Riku wrote: "Great book to start Hemingway with, always."

This is the only Hemingway I've read which worked for me. I think it is unique in his oeuvre and unique, full stop


message 20: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Fionnuala wrote: "Riku wrote: "Great book to start Hemingway with, always."

This is the only Hemingway I've read which worked for me. I think it is unique in his oeuvre and unique, full stop"


I think there are connecting threads, especially with the war based ones. Too easy to mark it out as entirely separate from the rest of his works - too many martial virtues are glorified in this work to allow that.


message 21: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Martha wrote: "You caught my attention immediately with your comparison! I've been wanting to read this; and, Moby Dick is my favorite! Love your review!"

Thanks, Martha. Hope you enjoy the book.


message 22: by Ned (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ned Mozier Yes, this is a wonderful analysis - It's been several decades since I read it, might be time for a refresh.


message 23: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Ned wrote: "Yes, this is a wonderful analysis - It's been several decades since I read it, might be time for a refresh."

Thanks, Ned. good book to refresh - I have found it changes subtly every time.

It is definitely one of those books that ages quite well with the reader.


Fionnuala Riku wrote: "I think there are connecting threads, especially with the war based ones. Too easy to mark it out as entirely separate from the rest of his works - too many martial virtues are glorified in this work to allow that."

Hmm, I'll have to give that statement some thought - too easy to disagree immediately ;-)


message 25: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue I've only read A Moveable Feast and have been considering this. I think you're pushing me over the edge into the "to read" column (if it isn't there already).


message 26: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Sue wrote: "I've only read A Moveable Feast and have been considering this. I think you're pushing me over the edge into the "to read" column (if it isn't there already)."

It is such a short read. Completely worth it, Sue. I will look forward to your views!


rahul Excellent review again, Riku.
This was the first Hemingway I read, and with lot of excitement only to be left disappointed. Maybe, I was not in the right mood. Your review makes me want to pick it again.

Will do so in coming days. Hopefully this time, I can extract much more out of it. Read it with a different eye.


message 28: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Rahul wrote: "Excellent review again, Riku.
This was the first Hemingway I read, and with lot of excitement only to be left disappointed. Maybe, I was not in the right mood. Your review makes me want to pick it ..."


It would be really great if this review was to be the trigger to your rediscovering this amazing book! I hope that will happen. Thanks!


message 29: by rahul (last edited Feb 17, 2014 06:29AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

rahul It definitely will.

And as you turn back after that jaded victory, then comes the sharks, inevitably, inexorably. And then begins the real battle, not the grand epic, but a doomed, unenthusiastic battle against reality - with the knowledge that no grand ambition can ever succeed.


Sometimes, while reading your review I am genuinely confused regarding certain lines. Confused because I am not able to distinguish whether they are your lines, or the author's. Simply brilliant they are.

Definitely going to revisit this book and look for the pointers you so beautifully put across.


message 30: by Riku (last edited Feb 17, 2014 06:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Rahul wrote: "And as you turn back after that jaded victory, then comes the sharks, inevitably, inexorably. And then begins the real battle, not the grand epic, but a doomed, unenthusiastic battle against reality - with the knowledge that no grand ambition can ever succeed.

Sometimes, while reading your review I am genuinely confused regarding certain lines. Confused because I am not able to distinguish whether they are your lines, or the author's. Simply brilliant they are."



Haha! Hemingway would scorn such flowery charged phrases! But thank you so much for your kind words!


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

And if memory serves, the two were published exactly 100 years apart: 1851 & 1951, I believe. Spooky...


message 32: by Adam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Adam great review, thank you.


message 33: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Ashley wrote: "And if memory serves, the two were published exactly 100 years apart: 1851 & 1951, I believe. Spooky..."

ha! spooky indeed. thanks!


message 34: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Adam wrote: "great review, thank you."

Thanks!


Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly You are profound.


message 36: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Joselito Honestly wrote: "You are profound."

Thanks, Joselito, you are too kind! I am glad you enjoyed this.


Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly I read this when I was a teenager. One afternoon, inside the Humanities Section of our university library. Nonstop until the early evening. I really felt the struggle. Unforgettable, both the book and my experience of it.


message 38: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Joselito Honestly wrote: "I read this when I was a teenager. One afternoon, inside the Humanities Section of our university library. Nonstop until the early evening. I really felt the struggle. Unforgettable, both the book ..."

Amazing how such experiences stay with one. I agree that this is hard to put down, even after multiple readings.


Erwin Love your review, Riku. Really looking forward now to reading this.


message 40: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Erwin wrote: "Love your review, Riku. Really looking forward now to reading this."

Thanks, Erwin. I am sure you will have fun.


message 41: by Avik (new) - rated it 5 stars

Avik It is true that a story can have multiple layers, and what layer you see as a reader depends on your perspective. Having said that, I still feel that you have missed the point of this wonderful story. Old Man and the Sea is a story of life, life itself, where survival takes primacy over everything else. In real life (as opposed to Bollywood) you do not fight to win, or lose; you fight to survive, you fight because it is ingrained in your genes through 3 billions years of evolution. Hemingway beautifully, almost poetically, captures this unchangeable truth about existence through his story of Santiago and the marlin that he caught one day. In the end, it is life that always emerges victorious, and literary giants like Tagore, Maugham, Orwell have hinted to this fact many a times through their works.


message 42: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Avik wrote: "It is true that a story can have multiple layers, and what layer you see as a reader depends on your perspective. Having said that, I still feel that you have missed the point of this wonderful sto..."

As I mentioned in the review, I did not miss that layer, it was the most obvious one after all. My viewpoint shifted in a later reading. That is not to say this is a superior interpretation, it is only a complementary one.

Death is as much a part of existence (and of this fable) as Life is. We cannot shut one out in our reading.


message 43: by Avik (new) - rated it 5 stars

Avik I have read Moby Dick, albeit a long time ago. Recalling, I do not seem to agree with the not-so-obvious parallels (or, antiparallels?) that you mention in your review.

Pardon me but I do not see any reason to look beyond the "most obvious" layer in this case. Just read a bit about what Hemingway was doing in early 1950s and you will know what thoughts drove him to pen this powerful story.

Of course, you are as free to peddle your perspective(s) as I am! :)


message 44: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Avik wrote: "I have read Moby Dick, albeit a long time ago. Recalling, I do not seem to agree with the not-so-obvious parallels (or, antiparallels?) that you mention in your review.

Pardon me but I do not see ..."


It took me multiple readings to see them. And, why should the reader be limited by any artificial idea he might have about what the author meant? The meaning you take from a work of art has to be personal.

And that is not to say that I agree with you that there is no reason to look beyond the obvious in this particular case, reading literature would become a much less exciting activity then.

Which parallels do you not agree with? I can try to defend them, since for all I know they exist only in my imagination.


message 45: by Riku (last edited Nov 21, 2014 04:28AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Both the books deal with ambition. Think of it that way. They both end in a destruction, but both approach the destruction in a different way. There is tragedy in both those approaches, in what is lost and in what is accepted. That is what I was trying to capture.


message 46: by Dolors (new)

Dolors I haven't read neither of the compared works but I believe you did a brillint job in depicting the micro and macro struggles of mankind and its askew ambitions and dreams Riku. These are books I will have to tackle someday and you just spurred me to do it sooner rather than later!


David I think you're mistaken to say this is a riff on Moby Dick. It is certainly far from a roman a clef style pairing between casts of the two novels. I think it would be more accurate to say that Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea share a common ancestor/influence in Macbeth.


message 48: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj David wrote: "I think you're mistaken to say this is a riff on Moby Dick. It is certainly far from a roman a clef style pairing between casts of the two novels. I think it would be more accurate to say that Moby..."

Yes, that would have been more accurate. Thanks. To me Macbeth evolves differently, with the idea (or suggestion) of evil inserted... while Moby Dick and OM, at least to me, evolves more in sync, with more impersonal and unattributable obstacles.

It is by no means a riff or even directly related. All I am implying is that they can be read in parallel to get a richer reading. Worked for me.


message 49: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Dolors wrote: "I haven't read neither of the compared works but I believe you did a brillint job in depicting the micro and macro struggles of mankind and its askew ambitions and dreams Riku. These are books I wi..."

Thanks, Dolors! I like the expression - micro and macro struggles. Most endeavors involve both and it is hard to depict them separately.


message 50: by Avik (new) - rated it 5 stars

Avik Riku wrote: "Avik wrote: "I have read Moby Dick, albeit a long time ago. Recalling, I do not seem to agree with the not-so-obvious parallels (or, antiparallels?) that you mention in your review.

Pardon me but ..."


When one writes a review, one puts forth his/her take on the story, which may often become a far cry from what the author originally meant. This is a much-used practice and I am glad that you base your reviews on that! Great job; I often enjoy your reviews.

I think America in 1952 badly needed a tale about life like OM. Not surprisingly, Hemingway was crowned with the Nobel in 1954.

I find many antiparallels, or plain skews while comparing the inimitable Moby Dick and OM. Lets not clutter the post with too many points and just stick to a pertinent one. Why do you compare Capt. Ahab with Santiago? At face value (pardon me but I fail to see deeper layers here), you could have compared Capt. Nemo with Santiago! Taking it a bit further, at some level one could even equate our OM with, say, 20,000 Leagues.


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