'Winner Take Nothing' Is Published

Returning to fiction in 1933, Hemingway published Winner Take Nothing, a volume of short stories.

The book contained 14 stories, including "A Clean Well Lighted Place," "Fathers and Sons," and "A Way You’ll Never Be." The book sold well despite a mediocre critical reception and despite the terrible economic depression the world was then mired in. James Joyce, one of Hemingway’s friends from his early Paris days, wrote glowingly of "A Clean, Well Lighted Place" as follows: "He has reduced the veil between literature and life, which is what every writer strives to do. Have you read ‘A Clean, Well Lighted Place’?...It is masterly. Indeed, it is one of the best stories ever written..."

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is a short story by American author Ernest Hemingway, first published in 1926. It was later included in his 1933 collection, Winner Take Nothing.

"The old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at the night it was quiet and he felt the difference". He was drunk as usual. The waiters are chatting about the old man who tried to commit suicide last week. The young waiter has no idea why he wanted to kill himself: "He was in despair" (...) "He has plenty of money".

Afterwards in the café, both waiters are talking about the reasons that some old people commit suicide. From this conversation, the reader can gather that the old man who was there last week hanged himself with a rope, and that it was his niece that cut him down. The young waiter again states that the old man who is there tonight should go home because he, the young waiter, wants to go home to his wife. Furthermore, the young waiter cannot understand that both the old man and the older waiter like to stay in the café longer: "He's lonely. I'm not lonely. I have a wife waiting in bed for me."- he said. Once again we can see that the young waiter has no regard toward the old, as he describes the old as a "nasty thing." The older waiter tries to explain a few things to the younger waiter.

Both waiters are pulling the shutter, only this time they are talking about a matter of being lonely, feeling no fear about going home before usual hours. Young man: "I'm confidence. I am all confidence." Then he says that the older waiter has the same things as he, but the older waiter says "No. I have never had confidence and I am not young (...) I am of those who like to stay late at the café," (...) "With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night." The young waiter seems to not comprehend the idea of a well-lighted and clean place where the old can escape from loneliness. "..there are shadows of the leaves"- the older waiter says. Well-lighted is a contrast with the darkness of death and bad thoughts. The darkness must be avoided because in the darkness everything is a "nada" (Spanish: 'nothing'). The older waiter stays in case someone needs a lighted cafe in the night, in contrast with a bodega or a bar, which may not be lighted or clean and thus will only increase the loneliness.

The young waiter leaves the scene, and after 'good night,' the older waiter begins a monologue in which "nada [nothing]" replaces words in the Lord's Prayer, and the first line in the Hail Mary prayer.

Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada [then nothing]. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.

After that he smiles and goes to stand in front of a bar, which he thinks needs cleaning.

"What's yours?" asked the barman. [apparently asking for an order, meaning "What is your drink"]


"Otro loco mas," [Another crazy person] said the barman and turned away. The waiter then finally orders a little coffee.

The story ends with these words: Now, without thinking further, he would go home to his room. He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it's probably only insomnia. Many must have it.