Pernod, parties and expatriate Americans, loose-living on money from home in Paris. The nineteen-twenties. Jake is wildly in love with the aristocratic and irresistibly beautiful Brett Ashley. The couple drifts to Spain to the dazzle of the fiesta and the heady atmosphere of the bullfight in Pamplona. Powerful, intense and magnificent, Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises is the novel which established Ernest Hemingway as a writer of genius, created a monument for Pamplona and set him on the way to being one of the greatest literary novelists of the twentieth century.
The novel is a roman à clef: the characters are based on real people in Hemingway's circle, and the action is based on real events. Hemingway first visited the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona in 1923, where he was following his recent passion for bullfighting. He returned to Pamplona in 1924, this time accompanied by Chink Dorman-Smith, John Dos Passos, and Donald Ogden Stewart and his wife. The two returned a third time in June 1925 and stayed at the hotel of his friend Juanito Quintana. That year, they brought with them a different group of American and British expatriates. Hemingway had intended to write a nonfiction book about bullfighting, but then decided that the week's experiences had presented him with enough material for a novel: The Sun Also Rises.
Based on Hemingway’s motley circle of friends and real events, The Sun also Rises describes the Lost Generation, decadent, disillusioned, angsty and damaged by the horrors of the Great War. In 1924, a hard drinking, fast living group of British and American friends travels from Paris to Pamplona. The little town lies in the fiercely independent Basque region, apart from the rest of Europe and thus the Great War, and maybe therefor is attractive to the friends, who are constantly and aimlessly transiting from one place to the next. The Sun also Rises is a war-, as well as a love-story. Jake Barnes, an American journalist, who was badly injured and rendered impotent during WWI, is deeply in love with Brett, an aristocratic, beautiful femme fatale. Due to his impotence she refuses to have a relationship with him and he is forced to witness and accept her sexual promiscuity. In Pamplona they watch the corrida, the running of the bulls and the bullfights during the Fiesta de San Fermin and wander from bar to bar in a state of constant exhilaration and drunkenness. The loosely knit, highly dysfunctional family of Jake, Brett and their friends are incapable of expressing their feelings and emotions, except in a destructive or cynical manner or when they are insanely drunk (which they often enough are). They embark on fleeting romantic affairs, that leave them isolated, emotionally drained, heart broken and violently fighting each other. The novel finishes with Lady Brett saying: "Oh Jake… we could have had such a damn good time together", to which Jake replies: "Isn’t it pretty to think so?".
Every time I start to read Ernest Hemingway, I think at first: Kind of boring, isn't it? After 5 hours of non-stop reading, I sit in the corner of my room, tear-stained, having entirely forgotten about time and space around me. The few words he chooses deeply affect me. And the indifference towards the living, angry bulls in the streets of Pamplona symbolizes an entire war-traumatized generation that no longer knows what is good or what is bad. So they hold on to their glasses and try to survive. A glass of rum to Hemingway and his friends!