"'The marvelous thing is that it's painless,' he said. 'That's how you know when it starts.'
'Is it really?'
'Absolutely. I'm awfully sorry about the odor though. That must bother you.'"
Most American readers surely recognize these lines, though it may take a moment to remember where they recognize them from. They open "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," a short story by Ernest Hemingway that first ran in Esquire in 1936, then, two years later, appeared in the collection The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. (Find in our collection of Free eBooks.) Dealing with the memories and regrets of a writer on safari dying of a gangrenous thorn wound, the story has over the past 76 years become one of the most respected works in Hemingway's oeuvre and an essential piece of twentieth-century American literature. As often happens with essential pieces of American literature, Hollywood got to it, adapting it into a 1952 blockbuster featuring Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, and Ava Gardner. (Find in our collection of 535 Free Movies Online.)
Though the starring role of Harry, the fast-fading rough-and-tumble man of letters who sees himself as ruined by affluence and hedonism, went to Peck, I could also imagine it played by Charlton Heston. Even if you couldn't quite place that bit of dialogue from "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," you'd be immediately able to place Heston's voice reading the story aloud in the recording available on this HarperAudio Hemingway site. Listen below and see for yourself if the actor's delivery, so often associated with silver-screen roles meant to project a grand sternness, can also deliver the bitterness of Hemingway's protagonist, who certainly shares with his creator the conviction that "politics, women, drink, money and ambition" bring writers truly low, down to the point where they can declare, as Harry so memorably does, "The only thing I've never lost is curiosity."
- Part one: .au format (5.5 Mb), .gsm format (1 Mb), .ra format (0.6 Mb)
- Part two: .au format (5.5 Mb), .gsm format (1 Mb), .ra format (0.6 Mb)
- Part three: .au format (5.5 Mb), .gsm format (1 Mb), .ra format (0.6 Mb)
- Part four: .au format (5.5 Mb), .gsm format (1 Mb), .ra format (0.6 Mb)
Bonus: Here you can also listen to Donald Sutherland read an excerpt from Old Man and the Sea.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.