Fiesta is a novel written in 1926 by Ernest Hemingway who is one of the best known American modernists of the period. One of the main themes that is emphasized in the novel is that the post WW1 generation was a ’lost generation’.
The book is a “roman á clef”; the novel's characters are based on real people and the action on real events. The book is divided into two sections. Hemingway constructed the plot of the novel on his own trip to Spain in 1925. It is about a group of expatriates, who travel from Paris to the festival in Pamplona for the bull-fighting. The narrator and protagonist of the novel is Jake Barnes; who is in love with English Lady Brett Ashley, a sexually promiscuous divorcee. However their relationship has no chance of lasting. Jake is joined by two friends, Bill Gorton, who arrived from New York and also Mike Campbell. Mike Campbell is a bankrupt fiancé of Brett. Jake also has a Jewish college friend called Robert Cohn, a former champion boxer. Cohn had an affair with Brett a year earlier and still feels possessive of her despite her engagement to Mike. When the festival starts they eat and drink heavily, most of the time getting drunk. The characters bicker with each other, especially making anti-Semitic remarks about Robert Cohn such as; “’No, listen Jake. Brett’s gone off with men. But they weren’t ever Jews, and they didn’t come and hang about afterward’”. Robert Cohn’s presence make the group start to resent him and Jake’s friendship with him breaks.
Hemingway’s Fiesta is an accomplished example of a modernist novel. The iceberg theory is best known in this text. This theory, also referred to as the “theory of omission” allowed the writer to take out extraneous material or leave gaps in the story. Hemingway wanted to reject the stricture of bringing careful clarity to his writing. Originally the story did not contain the scenes of Paris but the addition of them leads to the comparablescenes later in Spain. The reader is able to compare the different seedy café lives of Paris and the festival which makes it quite an indelible experience.
You're an expatriate. You've lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see. You hang around cafés. (Chapter 12)
Bill Gorton criticises from an American point of view Jake Barnes’ expatriate life. It resembles truthful humour. This is an idea of the impressions that the friends have about Jake Barnes and supposedly of each other. They have nothing to do in these scenes but to bicker over one another‘s decrepit lifestyles.
The novel was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in the US on October 1926 as The Sun also Rises and later in the UK in 1927 it was published as Fiesta by Jonathan Cape. Ernest Hemingway wrote other novels, including For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, Across the River and into the Trees and The Old Man and the Sea. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
I believe that Fiesta was one of the most challenging novels I have read. It bursts with journalistic style. The text is worked on so much that the reader is tempted to read multiple times again to pick out the clues and mysteries in the text that Hemingway so skillfully hides. Sentence by sentence, Hemingway builds a brilliantly composed piece of entertaining modernist literature. I recommend this novel to anyone who is into American modernist literature and would like to be challenged by Hemingway’s ultimate stylistic success.