The Old Man and the Sea, Then and Now

By Kamil Kenders

HAVANA TIMES – For the second time, I am reading Ernest Hemingway’s book “The Old Man and the Sea.” I must confess that this time around, I find myself reflecting deeply on it, unable to avoid drawing comparisons between the life of the poor fisherman, Santiago, whom everyone called “the old man,” in Cuba of the 1940s and 50s, and our present.

No, it is not my aim to delve into historical or political details, though I enjoy them. It is a simple, pleasant read. A book that has been rated as one of the best by the US writer.

Photo: Kamil Kenders

The old man lived off what he caught, and after a bad streak of 84 days without catching anything in the sea, he sets out again in search of luck. This time, it accompanies him (depending on one’s perspective), as he catches a marlin, but it is a fish as stubborn as the fisherman, and neither wants to give up, resulting in a three-day battle where, in the end, both lose, although, in a way, Santiago regains his old reputation as a “good fisherman.”

No, dear readers of Havana Times, this is not a literary essay. Santiago, the old man, the fisherman, can be and is any ordinary Cuban of today’s Cuba, in the year 2024. Nearly seven decades apart.

Hemingway could not have done it better. The Hemingway of that era, who lived in Cuba, drank daiquiris and mojitos, for whom this island was a source of inspiration, now finds that it is simply not the same. “The Old Man and the Sea,” perhaps the author’s masterpiece, despite the criticisms following its publication, is undoubtedly a reflection of what we are today. For this novel, Hemingway received the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature the following year after it was published (1953).

Would a Hemingway of these times, of this Cuba, write a novel like that?

Poor Santiago, much like today’s Cubans, went through a bad streak, his lasted 84 days, ours has lasted more than six decades. Our fish have also been eaten by sharks, almost certainly from the north, who are blamed for everything. For this reason, on this island, our island, fish and seafood are not consumed, at least not by ordinary Cubans. What would Hemingway think of today’s Cuba?

Thanks always to Hemingway for his literary legacy.

Read more from the diary of Kamil Kenders here.

Kamil Kenders

I am old enough to move forward in search of opportunities. I like to dream but walk with my feet firmly on the ground. I love freedom and the sensation it provokes in me. I consider myself a fair person with solid principles. I enjoy reading and writing, but above all, the power of words as a tool for distraction, learning, and salvation.

One thought on “The Old Man and the Sea, Then and Now

  • I remember The Old Man and the Sea was a book that completely grabbed me. Afterwards I was quite disappointed with the audiovisual adaptation they made of it.

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