Guide: an A to Z ramble through the peaks of great literature (abridged)

H is for Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway

Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton which is where I first met him. We were reunited again in 1923 in Paris.
Paris is full to the brim with expatriate Americans like ourselves. We are all part of the Lost Generation – we should have turned left at Chicago. Robert is a writer like myself. He was waiting for me when i arrived at my office where I work as a journalist writing articles for the American papers.

"Hi Jake," he said

"Robert. What brings you here?"

"I was on my way to the Select but got lost"


"Let's go to a bar somewhere. I need to chat"

"Fine. It's already after nine in the morning and I haven't had a drink yet"

"Good. We'll go to Zelli's"

We left the building and walked down the Rue des Pyramides then onto the Rue de Rivili, into the Jardin des Tuileries to the Passerelle de Solferino, past the Musee d'Orsay, the Quai Voltaire, over the Pont du Carrousel and around the Place du Carrousel, before heading along the Rue Saint Honore and arrived back at my office.

Robert looked at me. "Oh, let's just go to that bar across the road."

We had two brandies each and three beers.

"How's things going with Frances?" I asked

"Not too well, Jake. She wants to marry me and I'm not sure I'm ready for that."

"Let's have another drink. This conversation is drying me out."

We ordered whisky and soda and a few more beers. Then we noticed it was evening and I hadn't written anything for the papers.
Never mind, I thought, I'll knock out a novel before I go to bed tonight. Maybe I'll write about going for a drink with Robert Cohn. Now there's an idea. That sorted, we set out for the Crillon to meet up with Frances Clyne and some of our other expatriate friends

We left the bar and walked down the Rue des Pyramides and onto the Quai des Tuileries, across the Pont Royal and swung onto the Rue des Saint Peres, then headed along the Rue d'Assas to Port Royal until it became Montparnasse, and then on past the Lilas, Lavigne's and all the little cafes, We. crossed the street to the Rotonde, past its lights and tables and ended up at the Select. Fortunately, Frances and our other friends where inside.

"I thought you were going to the Crillon," I said to Frances who is also a writer.

"We were but we ended up here somehow. Strange isn't it?"

"Yes," added Mrs Braddock, another writer, "We always seem to wonder around aimlessly. Just like one of your stories, Jake."

I ordered a pernod for Robert and myself.

"Tell us about your war wound, Jake," said Frances.

"No. I don't like talking about it."

"But it always seems to come up anyway." That started the girls giggling.

"That's a bit below the belt," said Robert which started the girls giggling again.

"Alright, I'm impotent. My war wound left me impotent. Let's all accept that and move on."

Robert looked pained.

"Ok, Jake, don't take it so hard."

The girls were rolling on the floor by now.

I decided to finish my drink and leave. I headed for the Closerie des Lilas and arrived at the Crillon. I ordered a bottle of wine and was half way through drinking it when Brett Ashley walked in with a bunch of her young male admirers in toe. Brett was beautiful. She had dark hair cut short like a boy's which appealed to some of the men she hung around with. Her slip-over jersey revealed the curve of her fine breasts and her skirt clung tight to her figure emphasising the swell of her thighs which appealed the other men she hung around with.

"Jake!" she called. I smiled and she came up to my table.

"Jake, so good to see you. Let's have a drink." I orderd a bottle of champagne and we drank it together.

"Shall we dance," I said

"Yes. let's."

Brett was married to an English aristocrat and had a title, Lady Ashley. It was her second marriage but it had been on the rocks for some time.

"Are you still planning to marry Mike Cambell?" I asked as the music played.

"Yes, once my divorce comes through. In the meantime I'm having an affair with Count Mippipopolous He's a millionaire and buys me everything I want. Such a dear."

"I thought you were having an affair with Harvey Stone."

"Jake! That was over a week ago!"

"I see."

"Oh Jake, you do know it's you I really love, don't you? If it wasn't for know, your...thing."

"My wound."

"In that awful war."

"Yes, I know."

"Which left you with your.....injury."

"I know. I miss it."

"I can imagine,"

"No you can't,"

"You know, if it's wasn't for that damned injury I wouldn't be shagging around with every character in this story. It's all your fault really."


"You should be."

"I am."

"That damned war?"

"Yes it changed everything. Emasculated the men and emancipated the women"

"That's a bit heavy."

"Yes. Let's have a drink."

"Good idea."

We sat down at the table and I ordered another bottle of champagne but before it arrived Robert Cohn walked into the bar. A good looking youth asked Brett up to dance and while she was away Robert asked me about her. I tried to put him off.

"She's a bit of a tramp, Robert."

"Tell me more,"

"She has an insatiable appetite for sex."

"Keep going."

"There's a waiting list."

"Where do I put my name down."

I wasn't having much success so I decided to go back to my apartment and get some sleep. I had a lot of drinking to do the next day; my old friend and war buddy, Bill Gorton, had travelled over from the States on a visit.
Bill is a writer. He'd been spending a week in Vienna before coming on to Paris. Bill is a lot of fun. He's about the same height as me – that's all you're getting about him. It was four o'clock in the morning by the time I found my way back home. I was woken up at five by Bill shouting up at my window from the street.

"Bill!" I shouted back, "That's not funny!"

"Jake! Let's go for a drink somewhere."

So I got dressed and went down. We walked along the Boulevard Saint Michel, to the Rue Gay-Lussac, then the Rue Claude Gernard, and the Avenue des Gobelins, turning right onto the Boulevard Arago, right again onto the Rue Pascal and a quick left onto the Rue Sain-Hippolyte, before turning right at the Rue de la Glaciere to the Boulevard de Port-Royal. By this time it was nine o'clock and the bars were opening.

We had a brandy, followed by a beer then we shared a bottle of wine.

"Good Breakfast," I said.


"So, how did you find Vienna?"

"I didn't. Ended up in Budapest."


"Yep. And I'm getting bored with Paris already."

"Me too. Let's go to Munich for the Oktoberfest."

"Good idea."

We caught the express at the Gare d'Orsay, travelling through Tours then onto Bordeaux and left the train at Bayonne. There we hired a car and driver to take us the rest of the way. We drank from the four bottles of wine we'd brought with us from the station. The road twisted and turned and went up then down then up again then round then down then up and we saw some pines growing and passed some oaks then the road turned on itself and went up then up some more into the mountains then down then down again and crossed a stream then the road slanted steeply and became dusty and then we came to the town. It said 'Welcome to Pamplona' in Spanish.

"We must be in Spain," Bill said.

"Yes, I think we just crossed the Alps in the last paragraph."

"Well we're going to look damned silly in this lederhosen."

"This is the seventh time I've set out for Munich and ended up in Pamplona."

"You must be taking a wrong turn somewhere."


"You should ask someone for directions – you can speak French and Spanish."

"I've tried that. They always turn out to be Americans and don't understand what I'm saying."

"Well, we can go fishing while we're here at least. There's good fishing on the River Irani near Burguete, I hear."

"That sounds very authentic."

"Nothing more authentic than men fishing."


"Except maybe hunting."

"Oh yes, Men hunting is more authentic Not as authentic as bull fighting though."

"Maybe not."

"Definately not."



"I've lost track of who is speaking."

"Me too."

"Did you say that thing about bull fighting?"

"I think that was you."

So we caught a bus for Burguete. The bus was full of Basque peasants who were pleased to see us and made us very welcome.
We stopped halfway through the journey for refreshments. The Basques followed us into the bar so we bought them all a drink then they insisted on buying us a drink back then we bought them another drink then they bought us another drink back then we bought them one more drink to say thanks and then they wanted to say thanks back by buying a drink for us then....I don't remember what happened after that.

We arrived at the Irati river and spent four days drinking wine and beer and talking about fish. When we got back to Pamplona we registered in at the Hotel Montoya and went straight to the bar where we bumped into Robert Cohn.

"Robert," I said, "What are you doing in Pamplona?"

"I was on my way back to Paris from San Sebastian."

"This isn't the way back, you idiot."

"Me, idiot. At least I'm not wearing lederhosen."

I introduced him to Bill and we had a few Martinis together. Then, who should walk in but Brett Ashley.

"Brett," I said, "What are you doing in Pamlona?"

"I was on my way back to Paris from San Sebastian."

"I see." Bill and I exchanged quick, knowing glances. Robert went red. Then who should walk in but Mike Cambell, Brett's new fiancé. Mike's not a writer. He's a bankrupt which I thought would make an excellent plot for a story if he ever did want to become a writer.

"Mike," Brett said, "What are you doing in Pamplona? You're supposed to be in Paris."

"I needed a drink, darling. Chap's got to have a drink don't y'know."

"Well you've ended up in the right place." I said, "Let's have a few drinks more and then go and watch the bull fighting."

We had a few more drinks and one or two after that in case we couldn't get a drink at the Bull fight.
Needless to say, we all dozed off during the Bull Fighting except for Brett who fell instantly head over heels in love with the new, young matador called Pedro Romero. When we woke up, she'd gone off to meet him in his hotel room. Robert was furious. He was still in love with Brett and thought they had something special between them. This made Mike angry because he was Brett's fiancé and didn't like Robert being more furious than him and we all started fighting. We were punching each other and gauging each other's eyes and pulling each other's hair and smashing bottles over each other's heads and shouting anti-Semitic slurs at Robert. Then we noticed it had all gone quiet around us and we realised that everyone was watching us: the crowd, the Matadors, the bulls. The Police threw us out and told us not to come back to Pamplona again. I'd had enough anyway and decided to travel back to Paris alone. I travelled to Perpignan where I changed trains and I arrived at Madrid railway station where I met Brett on the platform.


"Oh Jake, You'll never guess what happened,"

"I think I might,"

"I had to leave Pedro. He wanted to marry me, poor boy. Isn't everything just hell?"


"The hell we put ourselves through. You know, Jake, we could have had such a damned good time, just you and me."

"Yes," I said, "We could have gone to Munich together. I've got some lederhosen would look really good on you."