“…the war was always there…”

Ernest Hemingway’s In Another Country  is five pages that have been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time.  I read the story last night and have been thinking about it since then.

When I read “…the war was always there…” in the first line of the story, I thought that this could probably be used to describe most of Hemingway’s writing.  A wounded American soldier in Milan during “the war” goes to physical therapy at a hospital that used new “machines” to help wounded soldiers recover physically.  I imagine the machines looking something like weight and exercise machines in a gym.  Other soldiers in PT discuss the reasons for the medals they’ve won.  The reasons appear to divide the soldiers as opposed to unite them.  Some wounds are accidents and are not as medal-deserving as other wounds.  The fact that one of the soldiers is American seems to cause further division.  A major begins getting physical therapy for his hand and strikes up conversations with the American soldier.  While talking, it becomes clear that the major is rather bitter regarding marriage.  Later, the soldier understands that the major had married a woman only to have her die of pneumonia shortly thereafter.

As usual, Hemingway’s stripped down style of writing provides a depth to his story that amazes me.  I keep thinking depth should have more words, but he doesn’t need them.  His phrase “…the war was always there…” seems not only to indicate that the war was taking place in Milan at this particular place, but also that the war would always be there in the hearts, minds and souls of the soldiers.  While newfangled physical therapy may help with the physical wounds, the psychological ones may never be fixed.

Now I’ve read five pages toward my 2012 reading project!


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