Living in another country, particularly one which speaks a different language can be a constant mental struggle. To carry out nearly every interaction in French is trying, tiring, yet also fulfilling. Smaller tasks and routines deserve more recognition.
Then there’s the choices. I watch movies in French, not because I have to but because I should. The same good for reading. And museum pamphlets. I’d write this blog in French, yet of course mus’nt disregard my audience. I’ve slowly been reading the The Old Man and the Sea in French. It’s short and simple in English, but in French, and especially as it is self assigned, it is a Herculean endeavor.
Fortunately, my dear friend Allen provided some relief, sending me The Sun Also Rises, in English. Needless to say, I devoured it. A story of Americans living in Paris and traveling in Spain, Allen chose it knowing my preference for the author, and my similarity in situation. I love Hemingway for his style.
Acutely descriptive, he manages to create characters and provide insight without having them reflect on their experiences. It’d be dry without his nearly ethnographic detail and interesting events. Life is very matter of fact.
It’s quite the contrast to the highly reflective Anna Karenina that I’m also working on, in which every character deeply scrutinizes every aspect of their life. Working men, Hemingway’s characters live lives not dissimilar to mine, but with more liberty and less purpose, there is a certain disregard felt to anything beyond enjoying life. It’s a carelessness and quasi naivete that I quite like.
There’s interesting dialogue on living in Paris. Through certain characters, Hemingway reveals the true Paris, that is not the dream like city of love. I empathise with this illustration, Romanticism aside Paris is another city in the world of cities, with its own problems in a world of problems.
It’s the epoch that really sets me apart from the characters. They have few obligations, work seems to be merely a background activity. This lends to a rich life of cafe and beer hopping. In addition, there’s a sense of normalcy to their attitude. It is not a big deal to b them that they are in Paris. As accustomed to the city as I become, it never ceases to b do me with wonder, both in its sights and that it is my home.
Tomorrow I take my next adventure to Istanbul, Turkey. A whole other level of wonder will soon fill meme as quickly as an empty wine glass. Constantinople here I come…