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His best. Time may show it to be the best single piece of any of us, I mean his and my contemporaries. This time, he discovered God, a Creator. Until now, his men and women had made themselves, shaped themselves out of their own clay; their victories and defeats were at the hands of each other, just to prove to themselves or one another how tough they could be. But this time, he wrote about pity: about something somewhere that made them all: the old man who had to catch the fish and then lose it, the fish that had to be caught and then lost, the sharks which had to rob the old man of his fish; made them all and loved them all and pitied them all. It’s all right. Praise God that whatever made and loves and pities Hemingway and me kept him from touching it any further.

-William Faulkner’s Review of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea

What does he want to say with this sentence?

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I think that the sentence

Praise God that whatever made and loves and pities Hemingway and me kept him from touching it any further.

Could be roughly expressed as

  1. There exists some supreme power that made Hemingway and Faulkner.
  2. This power loves and pities both writers.
  3. It is very good (Praise God!) that this power kept Hemingway from trying to improve too much his novel named "The Old Man and the Sea".

To touch it further, in my opinion, here means 'edit the novel too much beyond its initial shape, adding details and cutting some parts excessively'.

Thus, praise God that Hemingway left his novel as it was written in the first burst of inspiration, without introducing into it plot elements that are seen in his earlier works.

Praise God is used as one would use an exclamation, without literary ascribing merit to some or other (or the one and only) god. Note the use of the word whatever: Faulkner feels that there likely exists some higher power, but is not sure about its exact nature or considers the question of its nature irrelevant to the purposes of his statement.

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    +1 I think, however, that touch it further specifically means "change it to fit his prior method of treatment" rather than the mechanics of cuts-and-additions. – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 9 '14 at 22:02
  • @StoneyB Praise God that whatever made and loves and pities Hemingway and me kept him from touching it any further. I thought that Faulkner was saying that Hemingway had discovered God and it was just as well that he hadn't gone much further than that; to get to know more, to see him more, would have ruined his work...this subtlety was good. – user8153 Jul 9 '14 at 23:49
  • You're right, StoneyB. – CowperKettle Jul 10 '14 at 4:26
  • He says "whatever" made them. He's not saying the "whatever" is a "supreme being". – reinierpost Sep 19 '16 at 13:28
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Without going into literary criticism, I can see how an English learner might have some trouble with parsing the basic sentence structure, which I'll address:

  • Praise God that whatever made and loves and pities Hemingway and me kept him from touching it any further.

  • [Praise God] [that] [whatever / made and loves and pities / Hemingway and me] [kept him] [from touching] [it] [any further].

  • [Praise God] [that] [whatever made, loves, and pities both Hemingway and me] [kept Hemingway] [from editing] [his book] [any further].

  • Well including the structure, I also provided some simplification and filled in two pronouns. Does this make the sentence more understandable? If not, could you please let me (us) know what you don't understand? Thanks - – CoolHandLouis Jul 9 '14 at 23:43
  • If you want to provide more information here I'd be welcome to address. But I'm not going to go hunt for a chat comment. – CoolHandLouis Jul 9 '14 at 23:46

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