The ten stories included in The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and Other Stories are among Ernest Hemingway’s best known. As occurs with any volume of selected stories, there are glaring omissions, but this book serves as a good introduction to Hemingway’s mastery of the form. Containing stories previously published in Men Without Women (1927), Winner Take Nothing (1933), and The Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories (1938), this collection highlights Hemingway’s style. His prose is terse—not uncomplicated, not simple—and readers are made to feel more than they know.
Introduced to characters who exemplify the Hemingway code of values (the old man in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” and Signor Maggiore in “In Another Country,” for example), a reader may become aware that Hemingway is a writer of manners and values as well as an observer of behavior. The stories display an intense animosity toward the wealthy, the undisciplined, and the lazy—toward people who do not live by a careful code of values. Hemingway’s exemplary characters are men and women of action, and his antiexemplary characters are decadent phonies who have been consumed by greed and excess.
The stories collected in this volume are highly indicative of Hemingway’s brilliantly difficult and dangerously complex art. They treat the major Hemingway themes and, as in all of his work, portray grace as both a possibility and a necessity. In a violent and meaningless world, this would not be so. Thus, although “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is often mistaken for a story about surviving in a violent and meaningless world, the story is clearly about “nothingness” in the mystical sense of the word. The old waiter knows that nothingness is not the absence of something but the presence of nothing.
In all of his stories, as in all of his novels, Hemingway’s poise, control, and endurance are evident. Everything he does is carefully calculated. The sentences here are not merely simple, but sharpened to a point; they are not careless, but careful and exact.