Set during the Spanish Civil War, Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The
Bell Tolls tells the story of Robert Jordan,
a young American who is serving as a
demolitions expert for the Republican cause.
The novel follows his experiences with a
band of guerrilla fighters as he undertakes
a mission to blow up a strategic bridge. The
whole novel, except for some flashbacks and
reminiscences of various characters, covers
just a few days.
Although the novel focuses on a small number
of characters in a fairly compressed time
period, Hemingway attains a real epic feel
with this book. The novel is fairly lengthy
(471 pages in the 2003 Scribner edition),
but is a swift read - indeed, often
difficult to put down.
There is much that is noteworthy about this
novel. It offers a compelling perspective on
war from the viewpoint of guerrilla forces,
rather than conventional forces (interested
readers might want to check out Mao
Tse-Tung's On Guerrilla Warfare for some
theoretical and historical perspective). The
novel also deals with the phenomenon of
ideologically committed foreign forces in
Spain's Fascist-versus-Republican conflict.
Hemingway deals with the issues of love and
sex in a combat zone, as well as with the
roles of women in a guerrilla force. Other
significant issues include loyalty,
leadership, communications, military
hardware, the impact of weather and terrain,
and the connection between guerrilla and
conventional forces. Particularly
interesting is Hemingway's portrait of
Robert Jordan as a technically and
tactically skilled guerrilla fighter, and as
a leader of guerrilla fighters. Thus the
book should interest not just lovers of
literature, but also serious military
professionals and students of the history of
Hemingway offers a grim and graphic look at
the brutality of 20th century warfare. War
is not glamorised or sanitised, and
atrocities are described in unflinching
detail. The characters explore the ethics of
killing in war. As the story progresses,
Hemingway skillfully peels back the layers
of Jordan and other characters to reveal
their psychological wounds.
But the book is not all about pain and
violence. In the midst of war Hemingway
finds the joy and beauty that keep his
characters going. He also incorporates
storytelling as a powerful motif in the
book; his characters share stories with each
other, recall missing untold stories, or
resist a story too hard to bear. In
Hemingway's world storytelling is as
essential a human activity as eating,
fighting, and lovemaking.
Hemingway's writing appeals to all the senses
as he creates some vivid scenes. He
demonstrates his mastery of the art of
fiction; he continually makes interesting
choices and creates some really striking and
For Whom The Bell Tolls is an exceptionally
haunting work of literature; a rich and
rewarding text that is an essential volume
in the canon of war fiction. For intriguing
companion texts that also deal with the
Spanish Civil War,
Spain's Cause Was Mine: A Memoir Of
An American Medic In The Spanish Civil War,
by Hank Rubin, and The Confessions Of Senora
Francesca Navarro And Other Stories, by
Natalie L. M. Petesch could be recommended.
Jackson to make Hobbit movie after settling
Peter Jackson, the creator of the
record-breaking Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy, is to
executive produce two Hobbit movies after
settling a $100 million lawsuit with film
studio New Line, the studio announced. The
prequels will be based on the book of the
same name by J.R. Tolkien and will revolve
around Bilbo Baggins before he embarks on
the Lord Of The Rings quest.
The films will be shot simultaneously in 2009
and will be released in 2010 and 2011.
"I'm very pleased that we've been able
to put our differences behind us, so that we
may begin a new chapter with our old friends
at New Line," Jackson said in a
"We are delighted to continue our
journey through Middle Earth." It's
unclear whether Jackson will direct either
of the two movies, with the New Line
statement saying he and Fran Walsh, his wife
and co-producer on the Lord Of The Rings
trilogy, will act as executive producer and
"manage the production" of Hobbit.
The couple sued New Line in 2005, claiming
the studio cooked the books and seriously
short-changed the couple for a franchise
that earned $3 billion at the worldwide box
office and captured 17 Academy Awards,
including an 11- category sweep for 2003's
Return Of The King, the last in the series
and the Oscar winner for best picture.
"Peter Jackson has proven himself as the
filmmaker who can bring the extraordinary
imagination of Tolkien to life and we full
heartedly agree with the fans worldwide who
know he should be making The Hobbit,"
said Harry Sloan, chairman of MGM, which
owns the distribution rights to the film.
Lanka's first ever Audio Book
J.B. Muller's The Burghers, is now on CD. The introduction is by Errol
"J.B. Muller comes from the best
background a writer can hope to have. He has
variously been a gas station supervisor,
floral art dabbler, poultry keeper,
nightclub maitre d,' journalist and
broadcaster. He has been rather more than
casually visible on television. He has also,
on appropriate occasion, boxed the ears of
assorted hoodlums with commendable
enthusiasm, because Burghers, as a habit,
hate bullying and humbug.
"They are a remarkable people, coming
from a rich gene pool into which have gone
the bloodlines of almost every country in
Europe, with Arabs and Jews thrown in for
"The Burghers have given Sri Lanka some
of its finest intellectuals, poets,
painters, writers, musicians, engineers,
judges, doctors, police officers, and armed
services personnel, public administrators
and legislators, apart from naturally gifted
artisans and technicians. They remain a
proud people with a great zest for life and
an abiding love for their country.
"J.B. Muller has worked long and hard
researching a vast corpus of background
material for this book, and the result has
done the Burghers and Sri Lanka proud."
The audio book (in a three CD pack) will be
launched on January 4, 2008 at 5:30 p.m at
the Auditorium of the Sri Lanka National
Library, 7, Independence Avenue, Colombo 7.
argues that Bell stole phone idea
A new book claims to have definitive evidence of a long-suspected technological
crime - that Alexander Graham Bell stole
ideas for the telephone from a rival, Elisha
In The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander
Graham Bell's Secret, journalist Seth
Shulman argues that Bell - aided by
aggressive lawyers and a corrupt patent
examiner - got an improper peek at patent
documents Gray had filed, and that Bell was
erroneously credited with filing first.
Shulman believes the smoking gun is Bell's
lab notebook, which was restricted by Bell's
family until 1976, then digitised and made
widely available in 1999.
The notebook details the false starts Bell
encountered as he and assistant Thomas
Watson tried transmitting sound
electromagnetically over a wire. Then, after
a 12-day gap in 1876 - when Bell went to
Washington to sort out patent questions
about his work - he suddenly began trying
another kind of voice transmitter. That
method was the one that proved successful.
As Bell described that new approach, he
sketched a diagram of a person speaking into
a device. Gray's patent documents, which
describe a similar technique, also feature a
very similar diagram.
Shulman's book, due out January 7, recounts
other elements that have piqued researchers'
suspicions. For instance, Bell's transmitter
design appears hastily written in the margin
of his patent; Bell was nervous about
demonstrating his device with Gray present;
Bell resisted testifying in an 1878 lawsuit
probing this question; and Bell, as if
ashamed, quickly distanced himself from the
telephone monopoly bearing his name.
Perhaps the most instructive lesson comes
when Shulman explores why historical memory
has favored Bell and not Gray - nor German
inventor Philipp Reis, who beat them both
with 1860s telephones that employed a
One reason is simply that Bell, not Gray,
actually demonstrated a phone that
transmitted speech. Gray was focused instead
on his era's pressing communications
challenge: how to send multiple messages
simultaneously over the same telegraph wire.
As Gray huffed to his attorney, "I
should like to see Bell do that with his
rare collection that gives voice to the
This collection contains 19 stories of rare power from the heart of war-ravaged
Sri Lanka. In these stories Jean
Arasanayagam brings us voices that are not
normally heard: those of anonymous men and
women searching for order and reason in the
midst of a ruthless civil war: a young
Sinhala man turns his back on an aimless
upper-class existence and joins a group of
Tamil refugees smuggling themselves into
Germany; a woman goes out alone to a scene
of carnage to try to find her daughter's
lover among the dead; a maid returns from
the rich desert city of Doha to the green
half-jungle of her village in northern Sri
Lanka and rediscovers hapiness despite the
Review in a Hurry:˙ Will Smith grapples with
existential angst and cannibalistic
vampire-zombies (in that order) as,
apparently, the last man on Earth after a
bioengineered plague. Maybe not the most
uplifting choice for a holiday flick, but
Smith's riveting performance and tight
action scenes make this a smart, gripping
view of the end of the world.
The Bigger Picture:˙ Smith plays Lt. Col.
Robert Neville, a military medical
researcher living in the wasteland that used
to be Manhattan. He fills his days doing the
Last Man on Earth workout and hunting for a
cure with his faithful dog. At night, he
locks down his brownstone and hides from
what the rest of the world has become.
This version of Richard Matheson's sci-fi
classic owes more than a little to Charlton
Heston's campy classic The Omega Man (the
screenwriters of that 1971 movie get a
credit), with mannequins filling in for real
people as Neville goes through his daily
But for the most part,˙Neville is left to
interact with an empty planet as a blank
canvas.˙And Smith's performance˙knocks it
out of the park. His considerable charisma
turns inside out as he starts to fall into
despair, and it helps that the dogs playing
his canine costar are good enough for a best
supporting actor nod.
Neville refuses to give up on the world, even
as he gives up on himself. He captures
members of the Infected - although they
terrify him - to test his various cures.
(Another mark of Smith's ability: He seems
genuinely scared, even with his action-hero
The big problem is Neville's descent makes
the chance of hope at the end seem false.
There's probably a whole nerdy grad thesis
in all the recent apocalypses out there,
starting with 28 Days Later through Cormac
McCarthy's The Road. But the bottom line is,
despite the sci-fi setting, the implications
are a little too real to be wrapped up so
Still, Will Smith gets to kick some
vampire-zombie ass, and really, who doesn't
want to see that?
The 180 - a Second Opinion:˙ We're okay with
94 percent of humanity getting wiped out. We
can stomach what hits Neville's family. But
things happen to dogs in this movie that are
seriously not cool. Seriously.
Courtesy - E! Reviews.