The Old Man and The Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
Read by Charlton Heston
Produced by Caedmon 1998
Approx 2.5 hours
Once again I've read one of those books that just should be read. This may have fallen into the category of "assigned reading" in either High School or University, but I was never assigned this book. This is the first Hemingway novel (or in this case novella) I've read or have listened in audio book form. It will not be my last. I'm not surprised at the storytelling talent in Hemingway, after all he is one of the greats, but I'm surprised that this writing seems to be so timeless. There were a few errors in the writing that I will write about later but nothing to really detract from a great story. All in all this was a great audio book to escape from reality during my commute to and from work.
One of the best things about this audio book is that it was read by Charlton Heston. His voice not only enthralled me, but his vocalization of the Old Man (Santiago) talking to himself seemed spot on. I understand there is another audio book read by Donald Sutherland, but I'm happy with the version I heard.
To summarize, "The Old Man and the Sea" is a story of human endurance and endeavor. Santiago, the old man in the story, has recently had an "unlucky streak" in his fishing. Living in a Caribbean fishing village a persons entire raison d'etre is fishing. He is so unlucky that his young apprentice, Manolin, has been forbidden by his parents to fish with Santiago. The night before the village is to go out fishing, Manolin hauls back Santiago's fishing gear, feeding him and discussing American baseball, especially Santiago's idol, Joe DiMaggio. Santiago tells Manolin that on the next day, he will venture far out into the Gulf to fish, confident that his unlucky streak is near its end. Their relationship is established and they have a very close relationship.
The next day Santiago, assisted by Manolin, prepares his skiff for a day of fishing. Santiago rows far off from the rest of the village and sets his lines. Eventually a fish grabs the bait on one line and starts pulling Santiago and his skiff far out to sea. Santiago eventually views the fish and sees that it is an 18 foot marlin and will yield about 1500 pounds of meat. Santiago is pulled out to sea for a couple of days before the fight can begin. The rest of the story is of Santiago's struggle to "land" the fish and then bring it back in. Being one man in a skiff the landing of the fish is a huge struggle but worse is his trip back to the village where he must fight off sharks to keep the fish. The sharks smell the blood in the water and the fish is hanging over the edge of the skiff, easy meal for sharks unless Santiago can defend his prize.
Now really the only thing I had a problem with in this book is the referring to dolphins as fish. Everyone knows dolphins are mammals. Now at first I forgave the error thinking that as a fisherman all bodies in the ocean are referred to as fish. But when Santiago catches a dolphin on the line and cuts it up to eat so he can sustain himself as the days long struggle with the large marlin, Hemingway writes that Santiago cut out the dolphin's gills. It just bothered me a bit, but after that was over the story was so great to hear that I forgave Hemingway for not knowing a dolphin has lungs.