Review: Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway
Like him or hate him (for the most part, I like him) Ernest Hemingway was undoubtedly one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Not only was his prose style – characterized by short, simple sentences – extremely influential, but the manly, whiskey-drinking, war-corresponding, bullfight-watching, big-game-hunting life Hemingway lived set a kind of standard for several generations of would-be male writers. Green Hills of Africa is a non-fiction account of one of Hemingway's manly exploits and details a month long safari Hemingway embarked on in the 1930s on the hunt for kudu. All that said, in my opinion, the book was not particularly enjoyable and has not aged well.
For one, the subject matter probably would not resonate with many modern audiences. Yes, the book is about hunting, but more specifically it is mostly about white guys hunting (aided by local guides) in colonial Africa – and the only reason they're hunting is for the thrill of it and to measure d*cks around who can kill the biggest animals. Also, while I can accept (and sometimes even like) Hemingway's machismo-laden prose when applied to fiction, when applied to non-fiction in which the author is the protagonist of the piece, the same prose feels a little gross/ off-putting.
In fairness, one reason why the prose and subject matter might feel particularly tired in this book is due to just how influential Hemingway was. Hemingway's style and life are so iconic, that when reading this book it almost felt like a parody of itself.
To me, the most interesting part of the book was a section during which Hemingway is talking to another traveler about American literature and his opinions on it. As someone who cares deeply about literature it was fascinating to hear how Hemingway viewed American literature from his particular vantage point in time (spoiler alert: he really liked Huckleberry Finn).
So if you're a Hemingway completist or super fan, then perhaps you'll want to read Green Hills of Africa – otherwise, there are probably at least five Hemingway novels and many Hemingway short story collections one should probably read first before getting to this book (if you get to it at all).