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Perhaps it’s his clear, concise use of language that you enjoy; his economy with words and his communication of feeling through action, dialogue and silence rather than flowery images and overwrought descriptions.
Perhaps you identify with his protagonists and their stoic manhood. The way they face the world unflinchingly, at once challenging and complicit with nature and their fellow man.
Perhaps it’s his treatment of foreign lands and how he manages to communicate a sense of loneliness and homeliness all at once; the familiar in the foreign.
Or maybe you prefer his novels and stories which concern themselves more with his home land and the rugged desolation of the American Midwest.
Whatever it is you enjoy about his works that has led you to track down this article, rest assured that there plenty of authors like Hemingway out there – and there’s inevitably at least one for you.
Another of America’s great writers, Mark Twain also wrote about the lives of young American men experiencing the world around them and attempting to find their own place in it. Hemingway himself once wrote that: “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”
Indeed, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and its slightly darker, more mature sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn concern themselves with little other than the development of the adolescent male and of the social issues which surrounded them in Twain’s time.
His strong command of narrative, descriptions of an active, outdoor life and social commentary can all be seen as pre-dating Hemingway’s depictions of the same themes.
Like Hemingway, London suffered hardships in his youth which would scar him physically but inspire him literarily. While much of Hemingway’s work is influenced by his time served in WWI and the injuries and memories sustained there, London’s is pervaded by his time participating in the Klondike Gold Rush, which left him suffering from scurvy and opened his eyes to the ruggedness of nature.
This love of the wilderness would shine through in all of his works, not least the two short novels which are perhaps his most famous: The Call of the Wild and White Fang. These are similar to Hemingway’s prose in their stark portrayal of the unforgiving but beautiful quality of the elements, but unique in that their central characters are both canines.
The only author on this list who is still alive, McCarthy, like Hemingway, focuses much of his work on the American Midwest, telling stories of laconic cowboys from a bygone age or desolate visions of a future ravaged by humanity’s own senselessness.
For specific examples of McCarthy’s terse and no-nonsense brand of storytelling, see No Country for Old Men and The Road, both of which have been adapted in highly successful motion pictures.
If it’s Hemingway’s honest depiction of a dusty and timeless middle-America you enjoy most, McCarthy’s novels might just be right for you.
If it’s Hemingway’s inimitable economy with words that you love, look no further than the writing of Algerian-born French writer Albert Camus. In particular, his outstanding novel The Outsider uses short sentences and imagery that is powerful yet not complex, mirroring the simple attitude with which his protagonist faces the world.
This economy with language was referred to by Hemingway himself as “the iceberg theory”; meaning that while his sentences may dispense with elaborate metaphors or similes, they betrayed a deeper meaning below the surface. Its distinctiveness has of course been copied and parodied by many authors similar to Hemingway, but I feel Camus, and in particular The Outsider, is an especially adept use of it.
Almost all of Graham Greene’s protagonists maintain a similar stoic pride as those in Hemingway’s fiction, but the comparison between the two authors becomes particularly noticeable in those tales not set in Greene’s home country.
There are a multitude to choose from, but especially noteworthy are The Quiet American, The Heart of the Matter and The Honorary Consul, all of which discuss a lonely man abroad in a foreign and hostile country, struggling to find meaning and familiarity in such things as routine and religion.
In fact, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 for that very reason; according to the prize-givers, it was “the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style” that was one of the crucial factors in his success. Authors who came after Hemingway were so affected by him that they either copied him or purposely deviated from his style in an attempt to avoid copying him.
But which ones did it best?
Which are your favourites?
Let us all know below.