The SAU International Education Center administrator spelled my Spanish name, "Hemi" since Jaime from the Basque country after St. James (Santiago/San Diego in Castilian) did not spell right. My students turned it into "Hemingwei" when they found out I write, too. Evidently, Ernest Hemingway and his Old man and the Sea are familiar to English classes, so I immediately got dubbed as Mr. Hemingwei.
Not really that familiar with the famed American novelist, so we reacquainted our self with his life and his work, and other than his prolific hopping from one bed to another (ours is conservative compared to his), there is hardly any comparison, let alone, similarity.
His prose is terse, economical, and understated, short to being anemic; ours is very flowery, luxuriant, and robust. Our prose was once characterized as etching the trajectory of the moon while watching in masturbatory delight the slow movement of moonbeams. (We reread this sentence and concurred with the characterization, but we apologize to feminist colleagues for the sexist imagery.)
We self-indulge with this piece as we identify with the main character Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, rather than the author. Written as his last work of fiction before committing seppuku without a sword, we are in no danger to do the same since we have exceeded by almost two decades the mid-century age of despair. Besides, his Greco-Roman noble act (Socrates dutifully drank his hemlock) of euthanasia, or the Buddhist’s self-immolation (a scourge to Uncle Sam in Vietnam), is beyond us.
The "old man and the sea" is an islet in Saipan, a prominent rock outcropping at the edge of the northeastern part of the island. We’ve visited the place a couple of times when we had visiting guests, and yes, one can see a profile of a man, but in the same way that many find apparition of the Blessed Mary in "bleeding" stones and pealing bark trees. Hey, everyone is entitled to the formulation of images, even if it is heavily shaped by belief.
We still have figures on island who fit the "old man and the sea" image. Refaluwasch Lino Olopai managed to get his The Rope of Tradition out that he kept under wrapped for a while, and we know that the lone fisher beyond the reef was never an island option.
Wecan, of course, second guess Hemingway for the reality he might have meant had he intended the "old man" and the "sea", as well as the "marlin" and the "sharks", as metaphors. This is, of course, more a preoccupation of literary critics, and speculative philosophers than a concern of the soft cover reader. The narrative, with its powerful depiction of the battle of physical stamina and will, between the fisherman and the fish, is enough for us ordinary literary gawkers.
"Sharks" among lawyers and politicians are easier to identify, but that is more our bias than on practicing officers of the law, and their legislative and executive counterparts.
My mother once slipped on a wet floor at the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu, and though she was embarrassed since she was wearing her fineries to a cultural gathering, she was not hurt. A lawyer thought otherwise. He immediately got Mom to consent to a medical exam where the finding cleared the physique. He, thereafter, went for emotional distress.
The lawyer was a known ambulance chaser so the hotel settled rather than go through expensive litigation. My Mom got $3K for her signature and willingness to be examined by an MD; the counsel walked off with $12K, all on a day’s work.
In Hemingway’s tale, the old man defended his catch from parasitical sharks, harpooning one of them and attaching his knife to the end of his oar to drive away the others. But the three-day battle between the fisherman and the fish kept the combatants off the beach, and it took the catcher five days to bring his catch to landing. Save for the head and tail, the marlin was barely a carcass of its old self by the time it hit shore.
Not the kind of story fishing aficionado Diego T. Benavente would spin. While we may not have found find him exerting the same kind of determination that Santiago exhibited in driving out the sharks in his legislative sphere of influence, he is, nevertheless, into fishing, from the dinner table variety where he seemed to be seeking some commercial niche, as well as the recreational and tournament kind where he is better known. We trust his fish ventures will add value to the declining island economy.
We are a small fry in the vast ocean of literary currents. The late John Pangelinan, former publisher of the Saipan Tribune, encouraged our literary efforts in the Opinion page. It is in his memory that we continue to write. The opportunity has afforded us the chance to align our syntax to acceptable common usage, though colleagues remind us that we have a distance to go!
This piece ends our daily summer contribution as well, but we will continue weekly thoughts in this page, and will keep the Hemingwei name for the classroom. The name is easy to remember; it sounds Chinese (I was advised to spell it Hai Ming Wei, to denote the "power of the bright open seas," and He Ming Wei suggest the strength of the river, but we prefer the Heming, the small shrimp that Pinoys salt to fish-flavor their viands).
We decided to forego "Hemi", and went French: J’aime la vie, I love life!
Got a name story?