Ernest Hemingway, apart from being a novelist and storyteller, was a journalist. His style of writing is definitely different from other novelists and for that matter, other journalists. He has focused more on the storytelling nature than on a piece of news. A news article should, a century later, be obsolete and of no use whatever. But the way he has presented the news is such that even a century later they can be read and relished.
By-Line is a collection of the articles he wrote for daily correspondence as a journalist. They have been brought together not only because of historic importance but because they make a good read even when it is read out of context. These articles and correspondences highlight why the author was celebrated and criticized at the same time. His style of writing is very peculiar and yet leaves the readers in good taste. It mostly talks about fishing, hunting, and war.
The first impression this book had on me was “Sarcasm”. The humor and sarcasm together make the articles a delightful read. In many places, one is obliged to think twice before coming to a conclusion as to what the author is trying to say. Multiple meanings can be derived from the text and one has to think which one would make a correct inference. It might tempt every reader to give a shot at sarcasm; such is the beauty of the articles. The descriptions are very vivid and one can very easily visualize the scenes depicted in the articles. Apart from the common life, it also includes war correspondence. The gruesome killings and bombings, blood, bodies torn apart. The insight into the war is too deep.
It would be very safe to say that the author has created a niche for himself. His way of description and visualization. The sarcasm. Also, what sets him apart in writing is the personal feelings and emotions he talks about. Nowhere in the book is a narrator used, or a protagonist is speaking for himself. It is all about his emotions while he goes through daily life. And at a later stage, to war.
The book is tempting in the manner that it provides an unbiased insight into life, as it was a century ago. Also, as the book is non-fiction, whatever is written can be taken for a fact. That happened somewhere in the world at some point in time.
The book has transcripts from two wars, the Spanish civil war, and WWII. Both these accounts present the society at such times and the torments they have to go through. At many places, the author describes the shelling and bombing of streets. The rubble and how everything is raised to the ground within minutes. The way people rush out of streets, the panic is all very relatable. In a WWII scene, the author describes how the soldiers were being waved at while passing through a village. Similarities in the context of conflict can be found and the account is very relatable to us as a society. The behavior of the crowd on the funeral of slain warriors, the mourning and the sacrifices can all be found in the book. The way they make a journey towards Paris in WWII seems very similar to the incident where the Jammu highway was blocked and as a result traders and truckers and preceded towards Pakistan the other side of Kashmir. The travel, changing of ways to reach the destination and the killings in between, everything can be found. Though the incidents and events in both the places vary, the emotions are very much in sync with what an average Kashmiri feels like.
The book is a good read to anyone who enjoys sarcasm, first-hand accounts, of wars and hunting. And life in general. It can even prove worthy for people looking at historical aspects of things and trying to establish familiarity as to how a war trodden nation would look like. It contains fascinating accounts of his time in Africa and how he went game hunting. If it does not prompt one to engage in hunting or fishing himself, it does let one enjoy the same in the comfort of one’s room.