May 17, 2020
Sacred Reads: A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Heminway
A Farewell to Arms is a love story set against the backdrop of Italy during World War I. The protagonist, Frederic Henry, is a young American ambulance driver for the Italian army and Catherine Barkley is the English nurse he falls in love with. Having decided on a "separate peace", Henry eventually deserts the army and heads off to Stresa on the shore of Lake Maggiore to find Catherine. He checks in to the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromées where he celebrates his return to civvy street with several Martinis. “I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilised."
Hemingway is, of course, usually associated with daiquiris rather than Martinis but in fact he was extremely fond of a Martini as long as it was exceptionally cold. In a letter to his publisher he explained that he used tennis ball tubes to make thick blocks of ice for mixing martinis and would freeze both his Martini glass and Spanish cocktail onions to make his drink as cold as possible. He boasted that he made “the coldest martini in the world...so cold you can’t hold it in your hand. It sticks to the fingers.” And as A Farewell to Arms is based on Hemingway's own experiences with the ambulance services in Italy during the War, it is fairly safe to assume that Hemingway wholly concurred with Henry's pronouncement of the Martini as a symbol of urban living.