29 April 2023 at 11:29:23 am
Hong Kong Baptist University
Patrick Holland is a novelist, short story writer and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University. He is the author of seven books including The Mary Smokes Boys (2010) and The Darkest Little Room (2014), published in 2020 as La Donna del Club 49: Un noir in Vietnam by O Barro O Edizioni. His work has been recognised by such as the Miles Franklin Award, the Dublin Literary Award, the International Scott Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and has been published, performed and broadcast in Australia, the USA, the UK and Ireland, Italy and Japan. His newest novel, Oblivion, will be published by Transit Lounge Publishing in early 2024.
“The Delayed Broken Heart: Ma (間) and ‘Ten Indians’”
Hemingway, Silence, Ma, Short Story, Aesthetics
Ernest Hemingway famously attributed those gaps and silences remarked upon by critics of his fiction to what has become known as his “iceberg principle”, suggesting that just as stability of the iceberg’s movement over the water is due to the seven-eighths of its mass that remains out of sight, so a skilled writer might “omit things” and the reader still feel their presence (1932, 164).
In “The Ma of Hemingway” (2010) Christopher Loots writes that the omissions have led Western critics to engage in the detective’s task of identifying missing elements via circumstantial details in order to ‘solve’ a given story. Loots (ibid.) suggests the gaps and silences in Hemingway’s fiction – his stories particularly – might be more profitably considered as ma (間) silences after the Japanese religio-aesthetic that recognises silence as a generative quality, with its own phenomenal properties, rather than as an absence only. As such, critics might seek to appreciate the effect of the silences themselves, without the task of ‘filling them in’.
Via phenomenological and stylistic textual analysis, this essay examines the silence at the close of Hemingway’s story “Ten Indians” as an instance of ma. The essay finds that the period of “emptiness” and “forgetting” that Nick Adams’ experiences prior to his recalling his heartbreak over local Ojibway girl Prudence Mitchell does not signal insincerity or the youthful insignificance of Nick’s first romantic attachment and heartbreak, such as the prevailing criticism has it, but, rather, offers insight into the phenomenology of romantic love – particularly that fragility and sincerity are not mutually exclusive, but may coexist.
Hi all, hope you're well. The above is an abstract for a paper I've just finished, and I'd love to present it at your conference. Best. Patrick