Remorse… five variations

Not remorse over what I’ve been reading/viewing lately (with one exception, you guess), but rather, sometimes you find the same theme in very different materials… a straight flush this time, actually.

  1. To Have and To Have Not.  Found it on the bookshelf of place we are house sitting.  I had never read it.  First two parts fantastic, as they introduce Harry Morgan. Typical straightforward Hemingway.  Apparently they were published as short stories first.  Then book goes into a long novella, with a very silly digression on a writer in Key West (hmmm, what could that be based on).  But the ending is decent, and Harry Morgan’s remorse (over certain choices he made, not over what he did) is prominent.  A nice book for a philosophy or ethics class, I guess, as the ambiguity in Morgan’s position is very sharply drawn by Hemingway, who uses multiple points of view to reinforce the ambiguity.
  2. Il n’y a pas de petit querelle” by Amadou Hampate Ba.  Published posthumously, the title story of a collection of folktales… the animals one by one decide they are above “doing the right thing,” with bad consequences for them all.  Beaucoup de remorse.  I’m sure the story is told often in management seminars.
  3. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.  At first I really was enjoying the fine writing, but it slowly dawned on me that this was a “writing exercise.”  Please write a novel about remorse.  The situation really begins to become quite contrived, and Barnes tries to throw in some twists in the end.  But the whole thing didn’t work for me as a reader.
  4. Survivor: Nicaragua Matthew “Sash” Lenahan was a great example of someone who should have felt remorse. He should not have double-crossed Brenda.
  5. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan probably the ultimate remorse book… found it on the bookshelf also.  Was fun to read; I had read it at 17 myself, so I vaguely remembered the plot.  I don’t know that it stands the test of time well.  Probably in 1954, Cécile’s lifestyle would have seemed to most readers almost like a fairy-tale… the leisure time, and the apparent extremely comfortable living.  Like a daydream for working class people, recovering from World War II, whose children were enjoying much better lives and far greater literacy.  But I wonder in a world of reality TV (Survivor?) Cécile doesn’t come across like Paris Hilton.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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