The Old Man and the SeaYou did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?

Reading this short novel – in bed, at one sitting – I was completely transported into the world of the old man, a wiry fisherman, ancient, unlucky for 84 days, fighting with all his strength and courage and grit to make the 85th day a lucky one.

For four days he fights to capture, kill and bring home a fish, the biggest fish he has ever seen, monstrous, noble, powerful and seemingly tireless. If he succeeds, it will end a summer-long grinding poverty, and it will feed him all winter. If he throws at it all he has, yet fails, then he will have lost everything for nothing, perhaps even his life will be lost in this epic fight.

It is not a macho-man-against-nature story (although, of course, it is really). It is a compelling battle of one old man’s will to conquer his own pain and weakness and to bring home his unfathomable, magnificent prey. Man and fish seem bound together.

The last page turned, I wondered why the author got a Nobel Prize for this book. It is a gripping story, told with Hemingway’s typical sparse elegance, without a word gone to waste. But it is only a shortish story about one man, and one fish. The deeper significance, if there is one, what was it?

But then, that is as it should be. It will come to me slowly, over time, as things do, and in the meantime I can read the story without tripping over the metaphor. Fantastic.

Here’s an Amazon link.
My copy was from the library.

PS Make sure you read an older, illustrated version. Saves having to work the anatomy of a skiff out on your fingers if there is a picture to show you what he means… :-)