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A Clean Well Lighted Place

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  4,983 ratings  ·  248 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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Average rating 4.14  · 
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Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: One who wants to experience life
Recommended to Gaurav by: Cheri
Shelves: short-stories
“And what do you lack?"
"Everything but work."

I have come across the story just two days ago thanks to one of my Goodread friends- Cheri. Though I am not oblivious to Hemingway, having read a few titles by him, but A Clean, Well-Lighted Place remained elusive to me, all these years. It came as a welcome surprise as I was taken aback by its prose which unlike the Hemingway I knew, though traits of minimalism may be found here. However, he had taken his prose to some kind of divine level which ca
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 o
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing

A short story by Ernest Hemingway, shared in five pages, not counting the brief quote included after by James Joyce, which says:

"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'?...It is masterly. Indeed, it is one of the best short stories ever written..."

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place may be read, free, here:
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Does Hemingway's writing still have power? Can it still move us or does it seem hopelessly stilted and dated? I'd begun to wonder that lately so I picked up this short story The rhythm of Hemingway's descriptive language is masterful, his sentences like little incantations, and while the dialog might seem a bit stylized--you can't quite imagine people talking this way--it has a unique spare beauty to it nonetheless, like a stylized church painting. There's so much bound up in this sto ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thank you so much, Cheri! I enjoyed it!
May 13, 2008 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. ...more
Oct 31, 2016 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
Oct 17, 2015 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. ...more
Oct 19, 2015 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 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
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Well, nothing compared to 'The old man and the sea'. ... ...more
Alias Reader
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
From the short story collection
The Best Short Stories of the Modern Age
Douglas Angus
Maryam Rajee
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
How lonely, depressed and indifferent an old man can be?
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2018
I don´t like to sleep either, I´m in need of a clean well lighted place as well.
Jun 18, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a neatly written and thoughtful little tale from Papa that could have done with a little, just a little, more flesh.

I liked the sardonic way in which it ends, lending the story the undeniable feel of a timeless story of melancholia, old age and the inevitable feeling of solitude that accompanies it. But it also feels as if Hemingway is trying to fit the narrative to his scheme of economy rather than the other way around, which is why the scope of the story feels so limited and narrow. A
Nada Adel
Jul 04, 2015 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." ...more
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel bad if this counts as a "book". I did not realize it was a short story, and as I read it, I realized I had read it before (oh well). Classic Hemingway, but nicely done. ...more
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.

This book is one of those rare exceptions in Hemingway's work that I didn't hate reading.
I enjoyed how absurd everything seems but is not, there's no real conflict or an objective or any resolution but then as the writer said-

nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada

Just another nocturnal scene involving a couple of otro loco mas insomniacs, how they differ or relate to one another and to this old gaffer, who seems nonchalant, high and cares abou
Jan 23, 2013 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.

Jun 03, 2016 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. ...more
3 stars!

"You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The
light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves"

Concise and to the point, it's what you would expect out of a short story. Did I think its symbolism was revolutionary? Not particularly, but who wouldn't share the sentiments present within the story? I quite liked that the story was stripped to its bare bones and that the reality of aging and loneliness was spread open. I just wasn't wo
Harry Collier IV
According to Wikipedia 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'?...It is masterly. Indeed, it is one of the best short stories ever written.
Joyce was not lying. I definitely need to (want to) go back and read it again.
Megha Chakraborty
It was all a nothing and a man was a nothing too.

What an existential masterpiece, with so many philosophical layers. This is pure genius.

Highly recommended.

Happy Reading.
Nika Piquero
Jul 08, 2013 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 Percy
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 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 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
Timothy Morrow
Aug 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Deep and meaningful, Hemingway writes a great short story that has many questions and indeed a lot to think about...
Jessica Robinson
Feb 11, 2015 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.
Barbara H
This very brief short story has a varied interpretation. I would liken this to a "glass half-full", or perhaps one that is overflowing. Without describing the plot- after all, it is a short story, it seems to me that it leaves the reader with many questions. Is the idea of looking forward to hope or joy profitable to the aging process? Hemingway also left the reader with the idea of what is important to people at different life stages. In order to determine what was the intent of this story, I r ...more
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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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