Hemingway’s questioning and the burden of materialist assumptions

June 11, 2007

[Quotation from True At First Light, pages 172-173, a posthumous book put together from Hemingway’s abandoned attempts.]

And I thought sitting up awake in the African night that I knew nothing about the soul at all. People were always talking of it and writing of it, but who knew about it? I did not know anyone who knew anything of it nor whether there was such a thing…. Once I had thought my own soul had been blown out of me when I was a boy and then that it had come back in again. But in those days I was very egotistical and I had heard so much talk about the soul and read so much about it that I had assumed that I had one. Then I began to think if Miss Mary or G. C. or Ngui or Charo or I had been killed by the lion would our souls have flown off somewhere? I could not believe it and I thought that we would all just have been dead, deader than the lion perhaps, and no one was worrying about his soul….

But what did this have to do with “In a real dark night of the soul is always three o’clock in the morning”? did Ms. Mary and G. C. have souls? They had no religious beliefs as far as I knew. But if people had souls they must have them. Charo was a very devout Mohammedan so we must credit him with a soul. That left only Ngui and me and the lion.

 

June 12, 2007

Hemingway’s a bit about the soul struck me as sincere and quietly troubled, though calm. In so many ways it reflects to me the terrible burden our dying culture put on people in the 20th century.

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