Hemingway on the fourth and fifth dimension

Monday, October 31, 2011

5:45 AM. Papa, the fourth and fifth dimensions: Time, and then Beyond Time?

Close enough. Or you might say viewpoint over time, viewpoint beyond viewpoint, or overall viewpoint, or really view without the distortion of viewpoint. Now, you can see that to write in such a way as to hint at (for you cannot actually do it) going beyond viewpoint is very difficult, and requires not only skill and luck in the writer but, let’s say, skill and attention in the reader. Luck, too, perhaps, for the reader has to be in the right mental space to be able to comprehend it.

That’s what I was trying for in Across The River. I told the story seemingly from inside Colonel Cantwell’s head, but not precisely. Within his mind — the nonphysical mechanism we all live in, as you recognize — he moves across elements of his past, both what he has experienced and what he has experienced second-hand through reading or other instruction or from appreciating, as in a picture. I believe I achieved that fourth dimension, and it was disappointing to have it not recognized — because of Renata, of course.

Now here is something nobody sees. I achieved the fifth dimension with Santiago, who lay dreaming of the lions at the end. My achieving it was not at the end, though, but throughout, because in careful recounting of his moment by moment actions, and his moment by moment thought or memory, and his moment by moment emotion, I was so close to the moving present that we get beyond time to the timeless. Where else do you think that strange aura around the story comes from?

It is not told fromSantiago’s viewpoint, or from Manolin’s. It may be said to be narrated by God, or the guys upstairs, or the part ofSantiago that lives outside time and space. It is our life described neither from within it nor from without it.

Yes, there is the story itself — the old man striving, and winning, and losing, and remaining himself. There is the effect on the boy. But beyond all that is the strange penumbra that people feel but don’t quite understand, and this is because the story’s atmosphere talks to us of things beyond the story.

I could not have produced the story to order. And it came as a gift, and I passed on the gift. Those who think it’s simple or simpleminded are only one eyed; they cannot sense the presence of that extra dimension.

It is a curious paradox, isn’t it? To get beyond time, one way is to sit on the very edge of the moving line. There are other ways — Tolstoy did it on a mammoth scale — but this was mine.


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