This is a curious and interesting (and ultimately pretty good) Ernest Hemingway novel from 1937. I have read all of Ernest Hemingway’s short fiction (including The Old Man and the Sea) but only one novel, The Sun Also Rise. Because of this, my sense of him as a novelist is quite incomplete, and in addition because The Sun Also Rises is an Ernest Hemingway novel technically, but is THE SUN ALSO RISES as an institution all its own, it’s hard to tell.
Anyway, this novel is about Gulf Coast smuggling — of people, of alcohol, of weapons, especially between the Florida Keys and Cuba. And technically the protagonist is Harry Morgan, a workaday smuggler trying to make enough money to feed his family. But he is taken out of commission halfway through the novel (but in reality and as the narrator).
So the book is much more fractured than this because there’s a handful of different narrators, something that surprised me. And while these different narrators are not entirely distinct, they do capture something more complex about the story.
The opening section of this novel is incredibly well-handled. Through some careful plotting we come to understand the financial and moral stakes pretty clearly. Morgan is offered $3000 to smuggle three Cubans to Florida and he refuses, souring his relationship with them because they are involved in illicit activities. So the moral stakes are set, but how much $3000 to Harry? The next scene shows him broke, losing out on owed money, and taking a less lucrative, less dangerous but still morally complicated deal. Setting the stakes.
This book is good, but feels dated in some ways. But what’s hilarious to me is the absolute crazy, morally black and white screen play that Faulkner created out of this book.