I am a big fan of war-fiction and when it is from Ernest Hemingway, it’s going to delight me for sure. I have read his A Farewell to Arms, it was way greater than other war-fiction stories. A love story slightly unveiled in the dampness of First World War. Hemingway served in the WW-I, at times as an ambulance driver, well other times as a correspondent journalist. The coverage he has provided in his war-fiction stories is pure and seems surreal to the readers. On the similar lines, there is this story that I read twice since it was too short…heavy and influential. It is ‘Old Man at the Bridge’ – it takes place in Spanish Civil War – the timeline is WW-II.
A soldier while crossing a pontoon bridge sees people and carts moving away from the village that lies next to the river Ebro. He spots an old man sitting there. When the soldier comes back after doing the basic round of patrolling, he still finds the old man there and all people of the village gone ahead. The advancing army of the Franco (fascist) made all the villagers to flee their home and village. The old man was too tired to walk further. The soldier initiates talk with him. The old man says that he cannot leave his animals behind, cats, pigeons, goats, etc. The old man says that cats can take care of themselves but the goats are poor. And birds will fly away in any case. The soldier asks him about his native place and political inclination. Well, the old man says that is seventy-six years old and supports no party, as the soldier himself was from the Republican Party, which was fighting against the Fascist.
The soldier advises the old man to walk up further so that he can take up a ride on a truck. The old man denies saying he is too tired to walk anymore and worried about his animals. The soldier looks at the sky, which is overcast, it means German planes will not bombard today. He thinks that the old man may die in the attack.
The story is poignant in its theme and it depicts how war, silently, destroys the basic happiness of people, and renders them homeless, with no extra advantage. Great story!