ACROSS THE RIVER AND INTO THE TREES - ERNEST HEMINGWAY
ACROSS THE RIVER AND INTO THE TREES - ERNEST HEMINGWAY
Across the River and Into the Trees is a novel by American writer Ernest Hemingway, published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1950, after first being serialized in Cosmopolitan magazine earlier that year. The title is derived from the last words of U.S. Civil War Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”
Hemingway's novel opens with Colonel Richard Cantwell, a 50-year-old US Army officer, duck hunting near Venice, Italy at the close of World War II. It is revealed that Cantwell has a terminal heart condition, and most of the novel takes the form of a lengthy flashback, detailing his experiences in Italy during World War I through the days leading up to the duck hunt. The bulk of the narrative deals with his star-crossed romance with a Venetian woman named Renata who is over thirty years his junior.
During a trip to Italy not long before writing the novel, Hemingway met young Adriana Ivancich, with whom he became infatuated, and he used her as the model for the female character in the novel. The novel's central theme is death, and, more importantly, how death is faced. One biographer and critic sees a parallel between Hemingway's Across the River and Into the Trees and Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. The novel is built upon successive layers of symbolism and, as in his other writing, Hemingway employs here his distinctive, spare style (the "iceberg theory"), where the substance lies below the surface of the plot.
Hemingway described Across the River and into the Trees, and one reader's reaction to it, using "Indian talk": "Book too much for him. Book start slow, then increase in pace till it becomes impossible to stand. I bring emotion up to where you can’t stand it, then we level off, so we won’t have to provide oxygen tents for the readers. Book is like engine. We have to slack her off gradually."
Written in Italy, Cuba, and France in the late 1940's, it was the first of his novels to receive negative press and reviews. It was nonetheless a bestseller in America, spending 7 weeks at the top of The New York Times bestseller's list in 1950, and was, in fact, Hemingway's only novel to top the list. It met with an unenthusiastic critical reception, one critic, J. Donald Adams writing in The New York Times, describing it as “one of the saddest books I have ever read; not because I am moved to compassion by the conjunction of love and death in the Colonel's life, but because a great talent has come, whether for now or forever, to such a dead end”.
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