Chapter 7 of In Our Time
Nick sat against the wall of the church where they had dragged him to be clear of machine gun fire in the street. Both legs stuck out awkwardly. He had been hit in the spine. His face was sweaty and dirty. The sun shone on his face. The day was very hot. Rinaldi, big backed, his equipment sprawling, lay face downward against the wall. Nick looked straight ahead brilliantly. The pink wall of the house opposite had fallen out from the roof, and an iron bedstead hung twisted toward the street. Two Austrian dead lay in the rubble in the shade of the house. Up the street were other dead. Things were getting forward in the town. It was going well. Stretcher bearers would be along any time now. Nick turned his head carefully and looked down at Rinaldi. “Senta Rinaldi. Senta. You and me we’ve made a separate peace.” Rinaldi lay still in the sun breathing with difficulty. “Not patriots.” Nick turned his head carefully away smiling sweatily. Rinaldi was a disappointing audience.
Hemingway – Genius Misunderstood
Not many people like this short story collection, despite its brilliance. Hemingway had a way of forcing the reader to use their imagination through subtle, brilliant, minimalist evocation. You have to work for it, but once you get it, it’s a revelation. Nick sitting against a wall, “legs stuck out awkwardly” from being hit in the spine. You feel and hear the machine gun fire across the street. Notice the mention of the word “face” twice, once when it’s sweaty and dirty, secondly when the sun shines on it. Add the oppressiveness of the day being very hot and you can imagine how uncomfortable he must be. Note the word use “brilliantly” describing how he looks across the street, indicating a sharpened, more acute sense in which he perceives the surrounding action. Seeing the dead Austrian bodies around him, Nick describes the battle as “going well” which to him, means stretchers will pick him up soon, which is why he tells Rinaldi that they’ve made a “separate peace” as the war for him will most likely end. Rinaldi’s lack of response can signify many things, perhaps he’s nearing death and is incapable of speech or maybe he sees Nick’s optimism as a delusion. We don’t know what will happen, but there’s a dread hidden in anticipating what might.