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"Black sounds": Hemingway and duende.

In 1933, Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca gave an address entitled "Play and Theory of the Duende" in which he claims duende as a distinctly Spanish brand of artistic inspiration and performative signature, bound up with the seemingly antithetical qualities of joy and suffering that dominate Spanish culture. In this essay, I use Lorca's concept of duende as a tool for analyzing The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls, suggesting that such a comparison provides a new way of situating Hemingway's work Within Spanish and modernist milieux.


THE INFLUENCE OF SPAIN on Hemingway's aesthetic development cannot be overestimated and is indeed well-traveled territory in Hemingway criticism. As his prolific reading history indicates, his interest in Spain was not only tauromachian but also literary. Inventories of his library document that his collection included such Spanish authors as Jose Ortega y Gasset, Pio Baroja and Federico Garcia Lorca (Brasch; Reynolds). Although the Lorca works in Hemingway's library, including Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter and Other Poems (1937) and Romancero Gitano (1935), do not appear until the 1955 inventory of the Key West collection, Michael Reynolds thinks it likely that "[any] book with KW-55 as its only source was probably in the Key West library in 1940 when Hemingway packed for Cuba" (128, 75). An allusion in The Dangerous Summer to Lorca's 1936 execution substantiates this judgment; Hemingway recalls traveling from Pamplona to Granada, "[coming] down out of the hills in the dark past the entry to the ravine where they had shot Federico Garcia Lorca" (164). The allusion indicates his earlier knowledge of Lorca and the impression that Lorca's death made on him.

This evidence does not conclusively prove when Hemingway became familiar with Lorca or whether he knew Lorca's essays on deep song and duende. However, Hemingway demonstrates an implicit understanding of duende in a 1952 letter to Edmund Wilson, in which he comments that the trend of reading Lorca to learn Spanish is misguided, because "if you do not know the dissonances of [Andalusian] music, or if you do not know Arabic, [Lorca's, poetry] is almost meaningless" (SL 794). This comment suggests that Hemingway does know Andalusian music and understands the meaning it contributes to Lorca's poetry--the resonant quality Lorca calls duende.

Apart from any direct influence Lorca ma), have had on Hemingway's work, my purpose is to suggest Lorca's notion of duende as a way of rereading Hemingway against both modernist and Spanish milieux. To this end, I consider the way duende manifests itself in cante jondo, an older variation of flamenco that employs distinctly melancholic themes and tones, and toreo, commonly referred to as the bullfight. I demonstrate how the cantaor, the matador, and Hemingway all use similar techniques and tropes to the same end--to get at what Spanish novelist Miguel Unamuno and others have called "the tragic sense of life," which Hemingway regards as essential to authenticity. More specifically, I consider liminality and border phenomena, primitivism, and the performative as central and symbiotic characteristics of duende in the Spanish arts and in Hemingway's novels set in Spain, The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls.


Although its roots and meaning are contested, most dictionaries claim that the word duende derives from the phrase duen de casa or dueno de la casa, "master of the house;' and refers to a folkloric trickster figure similar to a goblin or poltergeist (OED). (1) In his essay "Play and Theory of Duende," Lorca uses the shape-shifting duende as a metaphor both for the inspirational catalyst and the arrestingly tragic quality found in the most profound art. This treatment of duende elaborates on the common Andalusian usage, which Allen Josephs claims "has more the sense of a chthonian daimon of force" (White Wall 95). The artist and audience are, metaphorically, "possessed" by the duende-spirit.

Lorca eventually arrives at a fairly coherent articulation of duende, but he does so through figurative language; he never explicitly defines the term. This evasive stylistic choice plays up the ineffable nature of duende; as Edward Hirsch puts it, duende "cannot be pinned down or rationalized away" (10). We can, however, derive several general criteria or characteristics of duende from Lorca's circumlocutions, keeping in mind their complex and dynamic relationship.

Firstly, duende functions both as a source of artistic inspiration and as an effect of witnessing the work of art produced by such inspiration. These two functions operate contingently, and neither can be summoned at will. Even when ideal circumstances present the opportunity for duende to arise, its appearance is not guaranteed. (We might liken duende to the potential energy of a stone suspended at the peak of an incline.) In order to evoke duende in an artistic gesture, an artist must confront the deepest recesses of his or her being. Unlike an angel or muse, duende emerges from within the artist, "in the remotest mansions of the blood" (Lorca 51). Its emergence is not revelatory, but is rather the result of an intense struggle between consciousness and unconsciousness, darkness and light, intellect and emotion: "the true fight is with the duende ... he rejects all the sweet geometry we have learned, smashes styles, leans on human pain with no consolation" (Lorca 51). The artist must struggle with an inconceivable depth of emotion in order to (re)produce it artistically and transmit it to his or her audience.

Duende, then, is not exactly an archetype or an aesthetic, but a depth and quality of emotion, a dramatic sense of emotional intensity, manifested in the production and experience of great art. Moreover, duende encompasses a range of human emotions, particularly the most intense passions identified by Molina as "'the universal anguish of death ... the mystery of sex ... the joy of being'" (qtd. in Josephs, White Wall 96). The ecstatic and tragic extremes necessarily implicate one another. The intense pain experienced at the death of a loved one implies an equally intense experience of love that precipitates and outlasts the trauma of separation. On the other hand, Cirlot notes, "'vital optimism and perfect happiness of necessity imply the other extreme, that is, the presence of death'" (qtd. in Josephs, White Wall 96). Duende foregrounds mortality by confronting the artist and audience with the presence of possibility of death, which in turn inspires passion for life. Lorca specifically claims that in order for duende to emerge, death must be possible; we might read this statement literally or figuratively. The dual recognition of life and death, along with the ritualistic aspect typically associated with duende-inspired experience, suggests that the artist occupies an ambiguous, liminal space when conjuring duende.

Thirdly, duende derives from and evokes the primitive past, and therefore carries with it the weight of human history. Lorca traces it, through cante jondo and the toreo, to Mithraic cults and ancient Dionysian rites, translated by the genealogical convergence of the ancient Iberian culture with African, European, and Oriental diasporas in Andalusia. This move, itself, is apropos of Andalusian culture, which Josephs characterizes as absorptive and atavistic (White Wall 3-5). (2) Lorca's invocation of Dionysus points, additionally, to Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche's concept of the Dionysian in The Birth of Tragedy is strikingly similar to Lorca's notion of duende, although Nietzsche explicitly calls the Dionysian an archetype. The primitive, atavistic aspect of cantejondo and toreo enhance their emotional resonance, making them the best suited of the Spanish arts for evoking duende at its purest, according to Lorca.

Lastly, duende requires a strong performative element. Art that has duende was not created for its own sake, but as a communicative gesture. Therefore, the audience's reception of duende matters as much as the artist's production of duende. The artist who performs with duende takes on a metonymic function, becoming a vehicle through which the audience achieves a cathartic release. Josephs notes that this catharsis is not merely purgative; rather, we must "understand catharsis ... as the sense of ex-stasis, that is, a temporary state of ... removal from self, an ecstatic identification with, or vicarious participation in, the ritual of the performance itself" (White Wall 153). The artist and audience become co-producers of a shared experience at once highly personal and at the same time intimately collective, collapsing the boundaries between self and other, private and public.

The ritual of toreo, for example, exceeds the confrontation of man and beast; it incorporates the crowd as well, which is "composed not of spectators but of actors" (Lorca 85). The torero "bears the yearning of thousands of people, and the bull plays the leading role in a collective drama" (Lorca 85). Moreover, the role of the audience is not peripheral; its presence is required, both as witness and participant, in order to ritualize the performance. (3) Similarly, both modern flamenco and cante jondo are often (though not always) performed collectively; the singer's voice, the guitar, and the percussive clapping, work in concert with interjections from the audience to achieve a combined effect which emphasizes the ritualistic and communal aspect of the performance.

Within the ritualized performance, duende requires an opening for spontaneity and improvisation. No particular set of rules, guidelines, or procedures can evoke duende. It will only appear organically, usually unannounced. Furthermore, the purity of emotion required to invoke and evoke duende makes its production necessarily unpredictable and ephemeral, and therefore no single encounter with duende can be reproduced. In cante jondo, the presence of duende during the performance is contingent both upon the lyrical power of the ancient songs and the conjuring power of the performer, his or her ability to render affective nuances that transcend mete language. The voice of a cantaor "caught by duende" might wail, quaver, or sound like breaking glass. The beauty of the song rests in the rawness (and therefore "purity") of the emotion it conveys and in its capacity to transport the singer, rather than in technical perfection. Such a performance expresses the unspeakable anguishes of the human heart--the anguish of love and of death.

Although Lorca acknowledges that duende is a phenomenon without borders (he finds it, for example, in the work of Paganini, Nietzsche, and Cezanne), he claims that it resonates particularly deeply within the souls of the Spanish people. (4) Lorca attributes the Spanish capacity for duende to the status of death in Spain. Death, he explains, permeates all aspects of Spanish culture, including folklore, ritual, and music, even lullabies: "Spain is moved by the duende, for it is a country of ancient music and dance where the duende squeezes the lemons of death--a country of death, open to death ... A dead man in Spain is more alive as a dead man than anyplace else in the world" (55)- However, Josephs elaborates, "it is precisely the positive and constant acceptance of death that creates the awareness of life and gives it its fullest meaning" (White Wall 27). Explaining duende in the context of Spanish tradition, profoundly and indelibly bound together, Lorca claims that duende exists at its purest in the Spanish arts of the bullfight and cante jondo. Hemingway's appreciation of toreo and his ostensibly intuitive appropriation of duende in his Spanish-themed texts seems both to affirm Lorca's claim that it is a distinctly Spanish phenomenon and to confirm his allowance that duende, as an artistic quality, allows for much cultural and geographic interplay.


The Iberian peninsula claims a complex ethnic heritage, comprised of elements as diverse as ancient Iberian, Roman, Jewish, Moorish, Oriental, and gypsy (likely of Indian origin). As Walter Starkie has suggested, the wide dissemination of gypsy culture in Spain has made the recognizable separation of "gypsy" and "Spanish" impossible (ix). The confluence of diverse cultures in Spanish society, in the history of cante jondo, and in Hemingway's Spanish-themed texts creates the condition of what Homi Bhabha, building on Sigmund Freud's famous 1919 essay, "Das Unheimliche," or "The Uncanny," calls "unhomeliness." Bhabha locates "unhomeliness" at the boundaries where "extra-territorial and cross-cultural initiations" occur (13). In this state of "displacement, the borders between home and world become confused; and, uncannily, the private and public become part of each other, forcing upon us a vision that is as divided as it is disorienting" (13). The importance of the "unhomely" to duende is its ability to "relate the traumatic ambivalences of a personal, psychic history to the wider disjunctions of political existence" (15). As liminal, "unhomely" figures, the gypsy cantaor, the bullfighter, and the expatriate writer exist in the creative interstices between cultures, a space that allows improvisation, incongruity, and transgression.

Recurring themes of "in-betweenness" in Hemingway's work suggest the importance of portraying the ambiguity and messiness of real experience to creating a sense of authenticity. In The Sun Also Rises, the protagonist Jake Barnes balances between insider and outsider in several senses. He is, in Daniel Traber's words, "a figure of hybridity who mixes identities to avoid claiming allegiance to any one totalizing narrative" (167). He narrates events retrospectively, functioning both as a character inside the narrative and as an interpretive voice detached from the action. He is sexually ambiguous in that he retains his sexual drive despite a wound that has left him incapable of fulfilling his desire. Moreover, he acts as a guide for the reader through the various cultural spaces with which he comes into contact.

Jake exhibits his "unhomeliness" differently in France than he does in Spain. He participates as a member of the expatriate crowd in Paris by fraternizing with them frequently, but he repeatedly emphasizes his detachment from them. In one instance, he describes the efficacy of saying he has to "get off some cables" (SAR 19) if he wants an excuse to leave a conversation, and in another he explains to the hostess at a restaurant that he does not frequent the place anymore because "too many compatriots" dine there (82). Most" pointedly, in a group where romantic and sexual exploits serve, in part, as identity markers, Jake can only be a marginal' member. The novel's sense of tragedy arises not only out of the impossible love between Brett and Jake, but also from the haunted sense of loneliness and despair in Jake, a sense inexpressible in language and characterized by the scenes in which he cries to himself when he is alone at night. The artistic spaces in which the writer, text, and audience seem to feel Jake's suffering most deeply mark the emergence of duende.

When the expatriate group migrates to Spain for the festival of San Fermin and the accompanying bullfights, the sense of their cultural parasitism, group identity, and insularity begins to disintegrate. (5) Jake undergoes a transformation as well. In Spain, Jake assumes a leadership role, and his confidence manifests itself in his ironic repartee with Bill Gorton. With his knowledge of Spanish language, customs, and geography, he acts as a linguistic and cultural interpreter for the group, patiently explaining customs and appropriate behavior to them. The Spaniards also treat Jake as both an insider and outsider. Montoya, in particular, appreciates Jake's aficion but distances himself when Jake dishonors the institution of toreo by acting as a liaison between Brett and Romero.

The theme of liminality functions more subtly by casting identity into the dichotomy of "self" and "other." As various identities ate interrogated (racial, national, gendered), the tenuousness and artificiality of such binaries become apparent. The question of national identity and the ambivalence of the expatriate in attempting to reconcile his or her position between multiple nationalities result from the inherent challenge to the insider/outsider paradigm posed by the state of expatriation. The complexity and ambiguity of identity highlighted in The Sun Also Rises and in Spanish art forms recalls this tendency of duende to undercut polarity and emerge as an outburst of emotion when the tension between these poles reaches a crisis of irresolvability.

Like Jake Barnes, Robert Jordan, the protagonist of For Whom the Bell Tolls, can be read as a liminal figure. An American volunteer working for the Republican faction in the Spanish Civil War, Jordan comes to Spain during a transitional phase in his identity. Unresolved issues from his past and his uncertainty about the future both complicate and limit his emotional and spiritual growth. Although he is the only non-Spanish member of the guerilla band, his Hispanicization far exceeds that of the other foreigners participating in the war, as evidenced by his purported fluency in the Spanish language and his knowledge of Spain's geography and customs (a trait he shares with Jake Barnes). His intermediacy enables him to act as a "bridge" between the various factions--Republican, Fascist, Spanish, Russian--whose points of view the narrative considers. Apart from Jordan's flashbacks, the action of the novel takes place during the Spanish Civil War, which has riven national identity and rendered both factions liminal.

The novel further traces the intricacies of the "unhomely" through the gypsy Rafael, Pilar's half-gypsy status, and the nature of the guerilla band itself--equally vulnerable to its "allies" in the Republican military and to the Fascist enemy, as seen when Andres is almost killed by Republican guards while attempting to get-a message to General Golz. Further, the strong evocation of gypsy culture in the novel, including cave-dwelling, wine drinking, singing, bullfighting, community identity, tribal politics, and fatalism, suggests by proxy the marginality of the guerilla group, as well as its strength and resilience. The lyrics of cante jondo also celebrate these characteristics. While cante jondo laments the persecution of the gypsies, it simultaneously celebrates the refusal of the liminal figure to be absorbed or bow to pressure, as well as the gypsy's ability to endure with dignity. This motif is readily evident in Hemingway's work, and his deep interest in the bullfight, in particular, is associated with its embodiment of a liminal hero who confronts his mortality and accepts his fate honorably.


The ability to produce the purity of emotion attributed to duende is integral to the gypsified versions of the Spanish arts of the bullfight and cante jondo. This ability closely aligns with the primitive due to the mythic qualities of these art forms, their function as cultural vehicles that communicate and carry gypsy tradition, and, in cante jondo, the use of primitive motifs such as love and death, wine, androgyny, and nature. While Hemingway's use of the primitive is one important element in his expression of duende, only the combined effects of primitivism, ritual, the performative, and the ineffable sense of tragedy in his work can give rise to duende.

The Spanish identification with the bull recalls the Mithraic cults of early Iberia, which originated in ancient Greece. The mythology of the bullas a symbol of both destruction and creation arose from these cults and gave birth to the art of toreo. The bullfight, according to Hemingway and other aficionados, is essentially a tragic ritual meant to give both the matador and, through him, the audience, a feeling of immortality. The survival and heroism of the matador becomes significant only through the death of the bull; the tragedy of the bullfight lies in the nobility, strength, and tenacity with which the bull faces his inevitable demise so that the matador might live. This ritual aspect of toreo clearly demonstrates a type of primitive paganism which honors and reveres the animal that must be sacrificed for the sustenance of the people. The fatalista punctuating the gypsy tradition is grounded in a persistent awareness of the inevitability of death; not incidentally, motifs of fatalism and death also figure prominently in deep song.

In addition, cante jondo often contains a theme of persecution that reinforces the insularity of the culture as well as its privileging of group identity over individualism. Cultural anthropologist Bertha Quintana reports that, apart from seasonal celebrations and extemporaneous performances, cante jondo is primarily performed at ceremonies of birth and marriage, and probably at funerals. (6) Its ritual function in rites of passage and its historical connection with the Dionysian rites of ancient Greece closely align cante jondo with primitivism.

Hemingway's use of primitivism in his Spanish-themed texts changes from his early, pre-contact short stories to his later post-contact fiction. This evolution problematizes any attempt to arrive at a categorical and cohesive interpretation of Hemingway's primitivism, which changes through his experience and exposure to his "primitive" subjects, with the rhetorical goals of each text, and even from character to character within a single text.

The juxtaposition of the cold, sterile Parisian cafe scene with the lush and warm natural landscapes of Spain in The Sun Also Rises suggests a privileging of the primitive over the civilized--or at least, of the rural over the urban. But Bill's irony undercuts the poetic description of the Spanish countryside and the Burguete fishing trip when he gives a mock sermon on nature: "Let no man be ashamed to kneel here in the great out-of-doors. Remember the woods were God's first temples" (SAR 126). This speech recalls the preceding scene, in which Bill mocks expatriates by telling Jake how he "ought" to behave as an expatriate; Bill seems to remind Jake that, while they might heartily appreciate their idyll, he should take care not to get too precious about it. (7) These conflicting attitudes toward the primitive mirror Jake's own ambivalence, his vacillation between attraction and repulsion in regard to both the civilized life in Paris and the primitive in Spain.

The use of nature in The Sun Also Rises is augmented by the introduction of primitive figures who transfigure the abstract qualities of primitivism into human form, reifying an archetype against which the other characters, and modern humanity in general, might be assessed. The Basque peasants in Book II are perhaps the most obvious example. On the bus to Burguete, Jake and Bill engage in a wine drinking ritual with the Basques that creates a moment of what Victor Turner calls spontaneous communitas, a phenomenon often associated with ritual which can be briefly defined as the spontaneous eruption of goodwill, camaraderie, and deep mutual understanding (137-138). This episode temporarily blurs cultural distinctions and ushers Jake and Bill into the primitive world of rural Spain.

The young bullfighter Pedro Romero also represents the primitive. Montoya believes him "unspoiled" by modernity and does not want him to associate with foreigners, stating that Romero should stay with his own kind. In addition, as a matador and carrier of ancient tradition, he displays an uncommon capacity for invoking duende in the bullring. Romero and Cohn create a provocative contrast between the primitive and civilized inasmuch as they are both marginal figures, Romero as a bullfighter and Cohn as a Jew. Cohn tries to downplay his Jewish heritage and assimilate with the "mainstream standards of 'civility'" (Traber 175). In Cohn, then, we have a character who identifies himself with modern "civility" but is uncomfortable with his identity. His behavior suggests a similar uncertainty about how to negotiate the social codes of the mainstream. Romero, on the other hand, is confidently and incorruptibly bound to his marginal identity as a bullfighter who exists outside of the mainstream and regularly mediates the boundary between life and death; despite Montoya's fears, the time Romero spends with Brett does not change this. (8)

Romero's grace in the bullring and dignity in social situations seem to come from the primitive cultural codes that formed him. The self-possessed and dignified way with which Romero faces Cohn's attack contrasts sharply with the lack of composure shown by Cohn at several instances throughout the novel, including his attack on Romero and the "scenes" with women in which he cries publicly. The emotional and physical conflict between these characters suggests the conflict between the primitive and the civilized. The struggle between self-possession and emotional outpouring, as exemplified by the confrontation between Romero and Cohn, also creates the central source of tension in cante jondo and the bullfight.

In For Whom the Bell Tolls, the struggle between Jordan's love for the primitive guerillas and his duty to the modern war machine suggests a much-needed balance between these two realms. As Rod Romesburg has proposed, the characters of Pilar and Anselmo offer such balance. Romesburg outlines a spectrum on which the feminine Maria represents nature and order, and the masculine General Golz "epitomizes the chaotic isolation of a [civilized] "patriarchal society" (144). Navigating between these two points, Jordan encounters Anselmo and Pilar, whom Romesburg posits as more realistic (both as characters and as people) than Maria and Golz (145). (9) This reading suggests that the text does not ultimately privilege either the primitive or the civilized, the female or the male, but seeks to blend the two. The creative tension between these binaries again recalls the struggle between the artist and his duende.

Mirroring her gender liminality, Pilar's half-breed identity locates her in a space between Spanish and gypsy culture. In this role, she acts as a cultural and spiritual guide between the primitive and civilized. The wisdom she imparts to Robert Jordan in her role as leader of the guerillas comes from both of these positions. Pilar's gypsy fatalism and the mysticism she possesses as a daughter of the gypsy people have as much impact on Jordan as her practical, strategic advice. He values, for example, her opinion about how her husband Pablo, who has "gone bad" should be handled. But Pilar does not limit her advice to the masculine and military aspects of their interaction. She acts as chaperone in the relationship between Jordan and Maria, and advises both of them in matters of love and sex. Her association with emotional matters arises from the mystical aspects of her heritage, exemplified by her ability to read palms and to detect the smell of death. This psychic empathy is bound up with her ability to invoke duende when she tells stories; indeed, she effects a deep, resonant sense of tragedy. The images of death and suffering she conjures haunt her audience because she, herself, is haunted; in this way, she performs metonymically, projecting her own emotion onto the audience.

The primitive is also strongly felt in the contrast between the natural setting of the Guadarrama mountains and the encroachment of machines such as armored cars, tanks, and airplanes. Further, the novel associates natural bodily functions with nature and the earth, perhaps in implicit contrast with the way these activities are either deemphasized or taken for granted in the "civilized" world. Much attention is given, for example, to descriptions of eating, drinking, physical exertion, and sex. Copulation becomes ritualized and associated with nature; Jordan and Maria always make love outdoors, and their most profound lovemaking occurs in a meadow of heather.

Maria's connection with the earth, established imagistically throughout the novel, further suggests her fertility and the possibility that Jordan, who as a soldier is trained to take life, might also be creating life. The guerillas' hunting for meat similarly creates a dual image of destruction and regeneration; animals die to nourish the bodies of the guerillas, and when the guerillas die, their bodies nourish the Spanish earth. The strong sense of mortality and immortality bound up in these images recurs in the ritual of the bullfight and in the themes of death, fatalism, and the endurance of tradition in cante jondo.

According to Stanley Diamond, ritual dramas in primitive societies "are cathartic in that they serve as occasions for open, if culturally molded, expressions of ambivalent feelings about sacred tradition, constituted authority, animal and human nature, and nature at large" (151). The bullfight and cante jondo are examples of primitive rituals that have survived the modernization of Spain and are reminders of its relatively recent primitive past. The struggle between the encoded forms that contain these rituals and the emotional and spiritual ecstasy achieved in their performance can also be found in the rhythms of Hemingway's prose and contribute to the conditions and inspiration necessary to evoke duende.

The rhythmic variations used in cante jondo and the bullfight to represent inner turmoil and achieve heightened emotion are also found in Hemingway's novels. In Hemingway and Spain: A Pursuit, Edward Stanton describes what he calls Hemingway's "ecstatic prose" remarkable in its variation from the otherwise tightly controlled, terse prose typical of the writer:
 The ecstatic passages are a liberation from the rigid control
 of the "Hemingway Style".... They do not represent
 conscious, rational control by the writer, but a tapping of
 the unconscious mind and an unleashing of irrational
 forces. As the bullfighter and the public are united by a
 common emotion, the creator who writes ecstatic prose
 and the public who reads it are united in a feeling of
 release, purification, and catharsis. (34) (10)

An analogous pattern underlies the structure of cante jondo: "'The melody of deep song is rich in ornamental turns, but they are only used at certain moments, like expansions or sudden gusts brought on by the emotional strength of the poem'" (Falla qtd. in Lorca 5). The prose of ecstasy has an incantatory, trance-like effect similar to that of religious ecstasy; (11) not incidentally, Lorca compares the corrida to the Catholic mass when he coins the phrase "liturgy of the bullfight." Aptly, then, Stanton compares Hemingway's writing style to the bullfight', in which tightly measured movements and great, sweeping movements work together to create and build the emotion of the experience for the matador and audience, thereby increasing the potential for duende to emerge.

In The Sun Also Rises, a marked change in tone and language occurs when the travelers cross into Spain. The poetic rhythms in descriptions of the landscape and the fishing trip serve as examples of ecstatic prose, as does the erotic language used to describe Romero's bullfighting technique. Hemingway also lapses into this style in Death in the Afternoon, as Stanton has noted, when describing the feeling of the faena "that takes a man out of himself and makes him feel immortal" (DIA 206). Perhaps the best example occurs in For Whom the Bell Tolls, in the famous love-making passage that replicates both the motion and emotion of sexual intercourse in language, the rhythm of the prose mimicking the act itself: "For him it was a dark passage which led to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere...." (FWTBT 159). The imbrication of terse, controlled prose and ecstatic prose suggests the tension between attraction and repulsion, intimacy and distance, private and public. This tension, in turn, heightens emotion by creating a "collective experience [in which the individual is] freed from the boundaries of his own consciousness" (Stanton 35).


Performance requires both a performer and an audience to give the action meaning; the specific performative context conjoins the performer and audience in an implicit acknowledgement of certain social and artistic conventions. Because of its ephemeral nature, performance invites variations which may be intentional or accidental, subtle or elaborate, scripted or improvised, but which must be witnessed in relation to a known paradigm to be effective. The performative nature of the bullfight and cante jondo creates the opportunity for spontaneity, improvisation, and inimitability that Lorca insists is necessary to the invocation of duende. (22)

As Lorca briefly notes, however, the requirement of performativity in the evocation of duende does not preclude literature from producing a similar emotional resonance. If we view the bullfight and cante jondo more specifically as ritual performances deriving from primitive traditions, we can readily find parallels--both direct and indirect--in Hemingway's Spanish novels. In these instances, individual identity gives way to collective experience; performer and audience relate across the medium of the scripted ritual, and both can be moved to a level of artistic ecstasy in which the inspiration of duende is felt and expressed.

Closely aligned with primitivism, ritual performance figures prominently in Hemingway's texts. As Peter Hays notes, toreo and primitive hunting rituals share a significant connection both with one another and with the Catholic communion. Commenting on the tendency of the Church to "syncretically assume many primitive rituals within its own," he claims that "as the primitives did with the animals they killed, we benefit from the death and we celebrate the Spirit and invite its return" (46). In return for the catharsis shared by the crowd when the matador is particularly successful at performing this sacrifice, the community traditionally rewards him with a part of the animal, normally the tail or an ear. The community shares this reward when the animal is butchered and sold at market as a delicacy; the consumption of the bull, particularly its testicles, symbolically transfers the strength and fertility of the bull to the people, thus serving a purpose similar to the Eucharist.

These three types of ritual--hunting rites, Catholic rites, 'and the corrida--are all evident in both The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls, and their presence magnifies and gives meaning to other, more personalized rituals and performative behaviors. The bullfight thus not only serves as "an attenuated form of religious worship" (Hays 47), but also codifies certain values and behaviors that are privileged by the narrators and acts as a metaphor for the performance of social and sexual relationships.

Because of its centrality both structurally and metaphorically, the bullfight ritual in The Sun Also Rises draws attention to other ritual performances in the text. For example, the wineskin ritual with the Basque peasants on the bus forecasts the San Fermin fiesta when a crowd of riau-riau dancers engulfs Jake, Bill, Brett, and Cohn and ushers them into a wine shop, where Mike later finds them. The dancers have a collective identity, described as "one mass of yellow shirts," and use Brett as "an image to dance around," mirroring the idol worship of the celebrated saint (SAR 159). Inside the wine shop, Jake "unscrewed the nozzle of the big wine bottle and handed it around. Every one took a drink, tipping the wineskin at arm's length," just as the Basques had instructed Jake and Bill to do (161). The purity of the collective ritual experienced on the bus undercuts this later scene and makes it perverse. The petty differences and competing egos of Brett, Cohn, and Mike interrupt the sense of community that might have been achieved by the ritual. The easy camaraderie and moderation of the earlier encounter contrast sharply with haphazard and meaningless binge drinking of the expatriate crowd, driven by individual egos.

The primitive, ritual performances of hunting, bullfighting, and Catholicism also figure in For Whom the Bell Tolls and serve to highlight other ritualized behaviors. For example, the Catholicism in For Whom the Bell Tolls can be characterized as an "absent presence"; the novel's characters mourn the loss of the organized, redemptive power of religious rites. Anselmo's desire for atonement serves as an example. He also repeatedly reverts to prayer in times of crisis, an action echoed by Joaquin just before he is killed by the Fascist cavalry. In the absence of Catholicism, which they have renounced, the guerillas seek other ways of structuring and coping with their experiences. Interpersonal confession provides one such way, as evidenced by Maria's need to cleanse herself of her trauma by telling Jordan what happened to her and by Pilar's desire to recount every detail of her own brutal story. Confession as an intimate type of testimony among the characters relieves their personal trauma by making it collective and public.

The killing of the Fascists in Pablo's village constitutes an explicit ritual performance that bitterly highlights both the corruption of Spanish Catholicism under Fascist influence and the spiritual impoverishment of the Republicans who have forsaken their faith. The leaders of the mob march the Fascists into the public square down a processional row and the villagers are expected to strike the prisoners, taking equal part in their execution so that, as Pilar tells a fellow villager, "each man should have his share in the responsibility" (FWTBT 106). In this way, "the ritual of death--the sacrifice of the landlords--will bring about the regeneration of the peasant community.... The peasants themselves understand that the revolution--like other rituals they have participated in (harvest fiestas, bullfights, the Catholic mass)--should bring about catharsis, a spiritual cleansing" (Buckley 55). This killing ritual directly parallels the bullfight, in which the audience achieves a cathartic release of emotion and a sense of immortality metonymically through the matador, who serves as an analogue in this example of the Catholic priest.

However, perhaps because the peasants lack the central authority of organized religion to guide them, the ritual sacrifice quickly degenerates to mob violence and chaos, demonstrating an anarchy antithetical to ordered and prescribed paradigms such as the liturgy and catechisms. In the absence of spiritual and political authority in For Whom the Bell Tolls, ritualized performances create a sense of community between participants and establish boundaries which might then be respected or transgressed.

The various performances in The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls exemplify the interrelationship between individual consciousness and collective consciousness. Hemingway accomplishes this association through a poetics of observation that highlights the performative nature of social conventions, as well as opportunities to transgress these conventions and the consequences of such transgression. Hemingway accomplishes this focus on social performativity through the staging of performance spaces or arenas of action in which ritualized social behaviors are enacted. Ritual performance spaces such as the bullring and the church mirror and magnify these social arenas, suggesting a comparison between the performative acts that take place in these various spaces.

In The Sun Also Rises, the life-or-death ritual drama that takes place in the bullring undercuts the petty social dramas enacted in the Parisian cafes, stages on which the expatriates perform their public personae for one another. In one darkly humorous example, Robert Cohn's girlfriend Frances quite deliberately takes Jake aside to confide in him about her problems with Cohn, knowing that he is watching them. When they return to Cohn's table, she launches a vicious verbal attack on him, as if her conspiratorial chat with Jake has created a bond through which they can share in the purgation she attempts to achieve in her attack. As Jake notes, "it was very satisfactory to her to have an audience for this" (SAR 56, my emphasis). Jake, the-bullfighting aficionado, walks away, refusing to witness the spectacle and thus be complicit in its performance.

This attitude is repeated later in his condemnation of bullfighters who "give a fake emotional feeling" by reducing the ritual to mere spectacle in which the torero appears to be in danger but is actually safe (SAR 172). The scene between Frances and Cohn prefigures Mike's verbal attack on Cohn, which directly follows the scene at the bullfight in which the wounded steer is cast out of the herd. By emasculating Cohn in front of Jake, Frances sets her former lover up for the comparison Mike later makes between Cohn and the wounded steer. The juxtaposition here between the serious and deadly ritual drama of the bullfight and the frivolous social drama of the expatriates invites a comparison that reveals the emotional and spiritual depth of one and the shallowness of the other.

In For Whom the Bell Tolls, ritual performance does not serve to undercut or parody social performance as it often does in The Sun Also Rises. Rather, the various social performances can be read as compensatory acts which seek to replace or mimic rituals lost in the chaos of war. Functioning both as domestic and performative space, the cave mimics the theatrical stage with its three walls and curtained proscenium. Many of the text's social performances ate enacted within this space, including Robert Jordan's courtship of Maria, which the other members of the guerilla band closely observe and Pilar orchestrates. (13) In this sense, the cave constitutes a domestic space, replacing the home. Pilar acts as Maria's mother in the courtship ritual, chaperoning the couple and giving Maria private lessons about marriage and sex. By simulating a normative family life, they attempt to recreate the sense of structure and community lost when their own families were killed in or dispersed by the war.

The cave provides an arena for another pivotal scene early in the novel, in which the guerillas show their lack of faith in Pablo by pledging their loyalty to Pilar. The voting that takes place among the guerillas to determine Pilar's ascendancy to leadership demonstrates their yearning for the ordered conventions of democratic governance and heightens the anarchic reality of civil war. Precipitating this coup, a tense confrontation, fraught with expectancy, occurs between Jordan and Pablo. During this standoff, everyone carefully observes Jordan to see how he handles Pablo. In the absence of political authority, the cave becomes a courtroom and, possibly, a platform for execution; the guerillas expect Jordan to pass sentence on Pablo, and they act as the witnesses and jury. While they all recognize the decisiveness of this moment, their judgments of Jordan's performance vary widely, suggesting that there are no definitive, encoded behaviors at moments of crisis. The uncertainty of such moments creates palpable tension that heightens the emotional effect of the performers' actions. (14)

The extratextuality of social convention invests the reading audience in the social performances in the novels, mirroring audience participation in cante jondo and the bullfight. Literary representations of social convention allow readers to escape to their individuality and relate emotionally to the characters as members of a common humanity. Moreover, the stage-like characteristics of the dominant spaces in both novels, spaces which are enclosed or defined but still public and inclusive, signal the performative nature of the actions that occur within them. In these spaces, and during these moments of heightened performance, the spontaneity associated with duende can occur organically. As in ritual performance, tension mounts in moments of uncertainty when the potential arises for characters to transgress convention and act spontaneously. This uncertainty, in turn, produces an emotional response shared both by the other characters witnessing the action and by the audience of readers.


Although abundant scholarship examines Hemingway's Spanish-themed texts and his literary relationship with Spain, little has been done to connect these texts with Lorca's concept of duende. Allen Josephs's and Edward Stanton's discussions of duende in relation to the characterization of Pilar in For Whorn the Bell Tolls are two important exceptions that invite further inquiry and analysis (Josephs, For Whom 75; Stanton 170-171). Recognizing and utilizing this connection may prove important to further study of Hemingway's Spanish texts because it provides a crucial link between the elements of liminality, primitivism, and ritual performance which scholars usually interrogate separately. Further, the connection between Hemingway and Lorca allows for a new way of placing Hemingway's work within the modernist canon.

The liminality of Hemingway's protagonists in The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls can be likened to that of the primitive figure undergoing a rite of passage, still in the middle phase when he has shed his former identity but has yet to realize his new identity fully. Uncertainty characterizes such transitional, borderline phases, and it is therefore not surprising that a modernist writer would turn to the trope of liminality as a source of inspiration for a new way of seeing and portraying the changing world. Hemingway's incorporation of duende in The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls, however, places his work apart from that of other modernist writers who adopted a primitivist aesthetic.

Read as a response to the same cultural pressures and spiritual uncertainty acting on the rest of the Western world, Lorca's 1933 essay "Play and Theory of the Duende," which elaborates on a theme begun in his 1922 address "Deep Song," is apropos of the larger modernist project abroad at that time. We might reasonably interpret Lorca's interest in exploiting the folkloric duende figure as a pointedly political response to the encroachment of Fascism. His participation in the revival of traditional Spanish music and theater attempted purposefully to promote nationalist sentiment and revitalize Spanish culture by returning to its past. Such an effort is similar to the work of writers such as William Butler Yeats, who returned to traditional myth and folklore during the Irish Revival at roughly the same time. Lorca's atavistic use of duende reconstitutes this trend by giving it a distinctly Spanish stamp. Duende has no illusions about a return to an Edenic past; it signifies, rather, a primal scream echoing through time and erupting through the body of the Spanish artist.

Hemingway's Spanish novels, examined through Lorca's concept of duende, reveal the larger modernist context and situate his work within the Spanish milieu, perhaps providing a greater understanding of Hemingway's setting these works in Spain. Although much attention has been given to Hemingway's thematic obsession with death, duende allows us to see that a profound interest in death comes from an equally profound celebration of life. Moreover, the importance of collectivity to the experience of duende calls for a revaluation of criticism that calls Hemingway's "code, hero" a solitary individual who faces his misfortunes alone. The portrayal of racial and gendered others in these texts can also be reconsidered in light of duende, which embraces in-betweenness, androgyny, and otherness. In this way, an understanding of duende can expand the current scholarship on Hemingway and Spain, as well as on his use of the contingent elements of duende discussed-here: the liminal, the primitive, and the performative


Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.

Brasch, James D. and Joseph Sigman. Hemingway's Library: A Composite Record. New York: Garland, 1981.

Buckley, Ramon. "Revolution in Ronda: The Facts in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls." The Hemingway Review 17.1 (Fal 1997): 49-57.

Diamond, Stanley. In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1974.

"duende." Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition. 1989. Oxford University Press. Purdue University Libraries. 1 Feb 2008. <>

--. Merriam-Webster Online. 2007-2008. Merriam-Webster. 1 Feb 2008. <>

Gadjusek, Robert. "Pilar's Tale: The Myth and the Message." The Hemingway Review 10.1 (Fall 1990): 19-33.

Hays, Peter L. "Hunting Rituals in The Sun Also Rises." The Hemingway Review 8.2 (Spring 1989): 46-48.

Hemingway, Ernest. Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961. Ed. Carlos Baker. New York: Scribner's, 1981.

--. For Whom the Bell Tolls. 1940. New York: Scribner's, 1995.

--. "On Writing." In The Nick Adams Stories. Ed. Philip Young. New York: Scribner's, 1972.

--. The Sun Also Rises. 1926. New York: Scribner's, 1995.

Hirsch, Edward. The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2002.

Josephs, Allen. For Whom the Bell Tolls: Ernest Hemingway's Undiscovered Country. New York: Twayne, 1994.

--. White Wall of Spain: The Mysteries of Andalusian Culture. Ames, IA: Iowa State UP, 1983.

Lorca, Federico Garcia. In Search of Duende. Tr. & comp. Christopher Maurer. New York: New Directions, 1998.

Miller, J. Hillis. Speech Acts in Literature. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2001.

Quintana, Bertha. !Que Gitano!: Gypsies of Southern Spain. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972.

Reynolds, Michael S. Hemingway's Reading: 1910-1940. Princeton, NI: Princeton UP, 1981.

Romesburg, Rob. "Shifting Orders: Chaos and Order in For Whom the Bell Tolls." Hemingway and the Natural World. Ed. Robert E. Fleming. Moscow, ID: U of Idaho P, 1999. 139-152.

Stanton, Edward. Hemingway and Spain: A Pursuit. Seattle: U of Washington P, 1989.

Starkie, Walter. Introduction. !Que Gitano!: Gypsies of Southern Spain. By Bertha Quintana. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972. ix-xiv.

Traber, Daniel S. "Whiteness and the Rejected Other in The Sun Also Rises." The Sun Also Rises: A Casebook. Ed. Linda Wagner-Smith. New York: Oxford UP, 2002.167-185.

Turner, Victor. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-structure. Chicago, IL: Aldine Transaction, 1969.


Purdue University


(1.) Some English dictionaries, such as Merriam-Webster, define duende as personal charm or magnetism. Because of its etymology, this second meaning seems to carry with it a metaphysical connotation from the earlier meaning.

(2.) Josephs's fuller characterization of Andalusian culture, as opposed to modern Western culture, is as "Eastern, consciously stylized, radically conservative, spiritual often in a Dionysian manner, atavistic, aesthetic, and visionary" (White Wall 27).

(3.) Josephs also notes Hemingway's eloquent description of this phenomenon in Death in the Afternoon, a text I do not treat in this paper.

(4.) Not coincidentally, in the posthumously published fragment of "Big Two-Hearted River" titled "On Writing" by Philip Young, Hemingway specifically cites Cezanne as an artist whose technique Nick had admired and attempted to emulate in writing: "He wanted to write like Cezanne painted. Cezanne started with all the tricks. Then he broke the whole thing down and built the real thing.... You had to do it from inside yourself. There wasn't any trick. Nobody had ever written ... like that. He felt almost holy about it. It was deadly serious. You could do it if you would fight it out" (NAS 239). The idea of the creative struggle as a "fight" with an element of "deadly" seriousness and "holy" overtones strongly suggests a description of duende.

(5.) Ironically, these are some of the characteristics most commonly attributed to Spanish gypsy communities.

(6.) While it seems likely that cante jondo would be performed at funerals given its thematic content (suffering, death), Quintana was unable to verify this in the course of her field research due to conflicting accounts, both among gypsy and non-gypsy informants. She attributes this to gypsy insularity and the fact that outsiders are rarely permitted to witness gypsy funerals (67).

(7.) In Torrents of Spring, Hemingway mocks Sherwood Anderson's primitivism, but his own work clearly engages with--and waxes nostalgic about--the primitive. The sermon scene in Burguete exemplifies this deep ambivalence.

(8.) In his presentation at the International Hemingway Conference in Ronda, Spain (2006), Jeffrey Herlihy noted that Romero is perhaps not as "unspoiled" as the aficionados would like to believe, as evidenced by the year he spent working in the British colony of Gibraltar, where he learned English and had sexual relations with at least two women. This highlights both the naivete of the aficionados (and perhaps their tendency to mythologize the matador) as well as the fact that Romero's exposure to foreigners does not ultimately have the corrupting influence they fear; he has retained his nobility and character despite this outside influence.

(9.) Romesburg bases this argument on the androgyny of Pilar and Anselmo. Androgyny is a functioning trope of Dionysian deep song, and is also part of the romantic image of the bullfighter. Much of Hemingway's work challenges gender roles in such a way.

(10.) Hemingway has also written of a similar exhaustion after watching a bullfight, which is further evidence of how, for Hemingway, bullfighting serves as a metaphor for writing. In The Sun Also Rises, Jake Barnes also reports that "Bill was tired after the bull-fight. So was I. We both 'took a bull-fight very hard'" (225).

(11.) Note the etymological connection between the cognates cantaor (flamenco singer), cantor (singer who leads church and synagogue services), and incantation (OED).

(12.) Duende is a form of inspiration that comes from deep within the performer and cannot be summoned at will, therefore duende requires a potential for improvisation. The conventions or framework of the ritual must be flexible enough to allow for--and even anticipate--transgressions of those conventions when such inspiration announces itself.

(13.) The vicarious pleasure Pilar gets from her role as audience to their love affair is not dissimilar to that of Jake when he acts as liaison between Brett and Romero. Pilar and Jake also acknowledge their jealousy over the sexual encounters they have facilitated.

(14.) A connection between the adrenalin rushes experienced at life-or-death moments and during sexual excitement is made imagistically. During his confrontation with Pablo, Jordan keeps adjusting his pistol to get it in position as the tension in the cave builds. Later that same night, lying in his sleeping robe, he again must adjust his pistol to get comfortable and to make room for Maria when she joins him. The pistol reference is hardly ah oblique metaphor here.
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Title Annotation:Ernest Hemingway
Author:Wilson, Kristine A.
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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