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Hemingway's Trail of the Novel A Farewell to Arms

by Aleksander Jankovic Potocnik and Branko Drekonja

Merriam Press Military History

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Paperback - ISBN 978-1482389135 - $16.95

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This work focuses on the period which has, due to its historic and epic dimensions, marked profoundly and quite possibly forever the valley of the Soca River, or Isonzo, as it is usually known in historic literature, speaking about the First World War and the Twelve Isonzo Battles.

In this regard the area of the Kanal community has a special privilege to feature in history and literature not as only a site of fighting but also to be remembered in the words of one of the most famous writers of the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway.

The problem, however, is that in his novel A Farewell to Arms Hemingway omitted most of the place names.

A Farewell to Arms is not considered Hemingway’s most important work. According to most critics this status belongs to his first novel The Sun Also Rises. For those interested in Hemingway’s biography A Farewell to Arms is important mainly as a novel that established him as one of world’s leading novelists and enabled him to become a professional writer. From the Slovenian point of view it is important since it was in this novel that for the very first time an important literary work chose what is now Slovenian soil as the setting for its story.

It is a sad truth though, that the writer himself was never aware of that. Neither are the majority of his readers. For him and for them the described territory remains simply Italy. The writer can be forgiven. In his hospital bed in Milan he must have inevitably become a victim of Italian irredentism which painted the contested areas as Italian. “This is a sacred land” speaks the Italian soldier Gino at Banjšice. In fact it is quite a surprise that Hemingway nevertheless detected the diversity of the population ethnicities. He mentions two girls that join Henry’s crew during their retreat from Gorica. They speak with a strange accent that neither Henry nor the other soldiers can understand. But he never pays any attention to their particular language, so we shall never know if they were meant to speak Slovene or Friulian.

The authors were tantalized by the question whether Hemingway had ever actually set foot on Slovenian soil. They decided to follow the trails of Hemingway’s semi-autobiographic hero Lt. Henry. They tried to recognize the places passed by the imaginary hero’s ambulance and they present their results to the readers of Hemingway’s work.


Part 1: Hemingway
Chapter 1: Kanal
Chapter 2: The Soca (Isonzo) Front
Chapter 3: Hemingway and A Farewell to Arms
Part 2: Gorica (Gorizia)
Chapter 4: At the Start of the Trail
Chapter 5: Villa Ritter
Chapter 6: The Presumed and the Actual Location of the Hospital
Chapter 7: Villa Rossa: A Bawdy House
Part 3: First Journey: Plave
Chapter 8: A Summary of the Journey
Chapter 9: Vrhovlje
Chapter 10: Plave
Part 4: The Second Journey: Kanal
Chapter 11: A Summary of the Journey
Chapter 12: Oslavje (Oslavia)
Chapter 13: Steverjan
Chapter 14: Brda
Chapter 15: Šmartno
Chapter 16: Dobrovo
Chapter 17: Mirnik: The Idrija River Valley
Chapter 18: Golo Brdo
Chapter 19: Miscek
Chapter 20: Britof
Chapter 21: Lig
Chapter 22: Ajba: The Bridge
Chapter 23: Kanal
Part 5: Testimonies
Chapter 24: The Diary of Anton Bajt (Summary)
Chapter 25: Marija Ipavec Diary (Summary)
Chapter 26: Petar Grgec: Wartime Memories
Chapter 27: Paolo Caccia Dominioni Diary (Summary)
Part 6: The Third Journey: Banjšice
Chapter 28: A Summary of the Journey
Chapter 29: Morsko
Chapter 30: Kanalski vrh
Chapter 31: Banjšice
Chapter 32: The Retreat
Chapter 33: Conclusion

218 6x9-inch pages, 112 photos, 1 illustration, 1 map

Hemingway's Trail of the Novel A Farewell to Arms

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