I don’t know why it takes me so long to read one of Ernest Hemingway’s masterpieces: The Old Man and The Sea. Maybe it’s because of my first encounter with Hemingway years ago; back then I read the translation of To Have and Have Not. I don’t know whether it’s because of the bad translation or because I haven’t been familiar with classics works, but I didn’t enjoyed it at all—although I got a sense that it should be a good book if I could better praise it. I remember I have sensed Hemingway’s deep details of fishermen’s life and how beautiful he described about sea and fish. Anyway, it’s not until this month—thanks to Adam’s TBR Pile Challenge—that I am determined to finally read another Hemingway. And…I can say now that I enjoyed the story very much, and that I am planning to read more from Hemingway!
Like To Have and Have Not, the story of The Old man and The Sea is very simple. Santiago is an old poor fisherman in Havana, and lately his luck—if he ever had it—had evaporated. He lost his faithful assistant and friend, a boy who loved him, and for the last 84 days he hadn’t succeeded in catching fish. On the 85th day, Santiago sailed alone as usual, and suddenly his bait attracted a very big fish—his biggest catch—and from then on the old man had struggled in an equal fight with the big fish, which exhausted both creatures, went on for several days, and only stopped when one of them would win from the other. Could the old man return home safely this time?
Really, I have never imagined before, that catching fish could become a dangerous activity. Both the old man and the fish were fighting in a live-or-die battle against enemy whose minds was different from each other, and they must challenge each patience, used their instinct when to make a move and when to wait other to take action.
Hemingway’s experience in fishing helped him wrote detailed life of fishermen, the way they unite with the nature, the fishing tools, the fishing process, the beauty and richness of the sea and the creatures live under water. Hemingway also succeeded in catching the humanity aspect in a fisherman’s job. Reading this book is like going on board with Santiago, watching him skillfully preparing his ‘weapons’, feeling the same nervousness as Santiago’s when he met and must fight sharks, and share the same compassion towards the Fish—as a companion in the journey of competition to survive at the sea.
In today’s world where greediness is almost unbearable, it’s soothing to read how the old man regarded the Fish not as lower creature he must conquer; but as an equal partner at the sea. That he must kill the Fish, it’s because he needed to survive. Santiago only took what he needed, instead of robbing the sea for his own wealth. At some points, Santiago even questioned himself whether it’s wise to hunt the Fish. After the Fish has died and its blood attracted sharks to eat its flesh, Santiago fought bravely with the sharks, not only to protect his catch, but also to protect his ‘friend’ from being torn violently by the sharks. It’s an amazing harmony between man and nature; just as what God had created them for, to take and give, and to create a balanced life on earth.
The Old Man and The Sea also teach us to have patience in hard times. Santiago had never lost hope although he hadn’t caught fish for 84 days; he kept counting on the next days; that if not today, maybe the morrow would be another day when he would be lucky to catch some fishes. And isn’t it remarkable to see how Santiago patiently hunted the fish; how he waited till the perfect moment came, when the Fish lost hope and began to rise from the deep of the sea to the surface, where Santiago would be able to attack it?
It’s also remarkable how Santiago used his sharp intuition and long time relationship with the sea, that he could understand the Fish’ character, as if he was battling with human being instead of animal. And in that way Santiago treated and respected the Fish as if it’s a human being too. Isn’t it lovely when human could respect equally all God’s creature, so that we could all live in harmony?
To the world, Santiago was perhaps just a poor old man who was fading from life, from the world. But for the boy, he was a perfect example of how man should live his life. Success is not counted from how big or how many fish a fisherman could catch; it is how the fisherman keeps doing his job from day to day in the same manner and with the same hope that God would grant him everything he needs; it is how he is always prepared for everything, the good or the bad, when it comes his way; it is how he keeps doing his best and pushes to the limit, accepts what he receives, and lives with it—day by day, never loses hope. In that, I think, only the boy could praise the old man’s achievement. He looked at the boat, the fish’ remains, and the old man’s bleeding hands, and he understood, then cried. The old man might not get anything from his adventure that time, but he has done all his best, he has given all his strength and ability to do his job; and surely, some other day he’ll get the reward. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
Five stars for The Old Man and The Sea, and I understand now how this short and simple story was granted a Pulitzer Prize; it’s really well deserved!
*I read the translation in Bahasa Indonesia—translated and published by Serambi on 2008*
*This book is counted as*
1st book for Turn of The Century Salon
1st book for Turn of The Century Salon
1st book for 2013 TBR Pile Challenge
1st book for Back To The Classics 2013
1st book for Bucket List Reading Challenge
29th book for The Classics Club
49th book for 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
January theme: Pulitzer Winner Books for BBI (Blogger Buku Indonesia) Read Along