Nada, Nada, Nada: Thoughts on Hemingway & Existential Flames In The Head


I’ve just reduced my latest manuscript from 144,000 words to 83,000.

And lost nothing at all but fat (the manuscript, not me ….wish editing/writing could be more aerobic).

The editing, and a Facebook conversation with friend Mark York reminded me of Ernest Hemingway, one of the all-time masters of tight, powerful writing.

He wrote terse prose partly because he was a journalist and trained that way.

Partly because he spent so much time outrunning bullets and bulls to bother with flowery writing.

And he  wrote so intensely because he never lost the existential flames in his head.

All his life, he carried the deep sense of angst, the nagging and unknowable doubts about why we’re here, what it all means … stuff most people stash away in the back of the emotional closet.

Bus as we all know, Hemingway got too close to that heat in his head and it finally killed him.

I think that anyone who has read the following from “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” and truly paid attention to the meaning, knew why he died on the business end of a .12-gauge.

What did he fear?

It was not a fear or dread. It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order.

Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y naday pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada.

Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada.

Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.

Some of us live in it and never feel it. He felt it too intensely.



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2 Responses to “Nada, Nada, Nada: Thoughts on Hemingway & Existential Flames In The Head”

  1. Mark York 25 March 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    I’d forgotten that passage. He was a foxhole atheist according to the old man. Short stories tend to be so cryptic. Everyone wonders what the hell the writer meant by it. That never works in genre fiction.

  2. Saikat Rudra 30 August 2014 at 10:50 am #

    It’s a different genre. There is no problem in being cryptic. It insinuates nothingness and meaninglessness of all existence.


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