In a famous quote from a 1958 interview with the "Paris Review," novelist Ernest Hemingway used the iceberg as a metaphor to explain how he achieved his terse style and exactly what details he had omitted from his most recent book, The Old Man and the Sea:
Interviewer: So when you're not writing, you remain constantly the observer, looking for something which can be of use.
Hemingway: Surely, if a writer stops observing he is finished. But he does not have to observe consciously nor think how it will be useful. Perhaps that would be true at the beginning. But later everything he sees goes into the great reserve of things he knows or has seen. If it is any use to know it, I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg. It is the part that doesn't show. If a writer omits something because he does not know it, then there is a hole in the story . . .
To write in this elliptical manner, Hemingway suggests, is far more powerful, poetic, and evocative, than a literal, all-inclusive record of one's experience could ever be. But at the same time, he cautions, it's still vital to be aware of all aspects of a given experience, even those one eventually chooses to omit when writing; the falsity of writing only pretending such awareness or knowledge will be quickly intuited by readers.
What is the purpose of writing this way? What did Hemingway believe was the function of his art?
Hemingway: . . . you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and . . . if you make it well enough, you give it immortality.