Ernest Hemingway, 1953


We can’t ever go back to old things or try and get the 'old kick' out of something or find things the way we remembered them. We have them as we remember them and they are fine and wonderful and we have to go on and have other things because the old things are nowhere except in our minds now.
~Hemingway to Bill Horne, Paris 1923


Ernest Hemingway, artist's impression

Ernest Hemingway is a giant of modern literature. Among twentieth-century American fiction writers, his work is most often compared to that of his contemporaries William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Combined with his outstanding short stories, Hemingway’s four major novels — The Sun Also Rises (1926), A Farewell to Arms (1929), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), and The Old Man and the Sea (1952) — comprise a contribution to modern fiction that is far more substantial than Fitzgerald’s and that approximates Faulkner’s.

Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature a few years before Hemingway received this recognition, but their respective approaches to fiction are so dissimilar that this belated receipt says little or nothing about Hemingway’s stature relative to that of Faulkner. When set alongside Faulkner’s Mississippi novels, Hemingway’s major works feature simpler structures and narrative voices/personae.

As or more important, Hemingway's style, with its consistent use of short, concrete, direct prose and of scenes consisting exclusively of dialogue, gives his novels and short stories a distinctive accessibility that is immediately identifiable with the author. Owing to the direct character of both his style and his life-style, there is a tendency to cast Hemingway as a “representative” American writer whose work reflects the bold, forthright and rugged individualism of the American spirit in action.

His own background as a wounded veteran of World War I, as an engaged combatant in the fight against Fascism/Nazism, and as a “he-man” with a passion for outdoor adventures and other manly pursuits reinforce this association.

But this identification of Hemingway as a uniquely American genius is problematic. Although three of his major novels are told by and/or through American men, Hemingway’s protagonists are expatriates, and his fictional settings are in France, Italy, Spain, and later Cuba, rather than America itself.

While Hemingway’s early career benefited from his connections with Fitzgerald and (more so) with American novelist Sherwood Anderson, his aesthetic is actually closer to that shared by the transplanted American poets that he met in Paris during the 1920s; T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and, most crucially, Gertrude Stein. In this context, we must realize that Hemingway's approach to the craft of fiction is direct but never blunt or just plain simple.

Hemingway's text is the result of a painstaking selection process, each word performing an assigned function in the narrative. These choices of language, in turn, occur through the mind and experience of his novels' central characters whether they serve explicitly as narrators of their experience or as focal characters from whose perspectives the story unfolds. The main working corollary of Hemingway’s “iceberg principle” is that the full meaning of the text is not limited to moving the plot forward: there is always a web of association and inference, a submerged reason behind the inclusion (or even the omission) of every detail.

We note, too, that although Hemingway's novels usually follow a straightforward chronological progression as in the three days of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway does make use of summary accounts of the past, of memories related externally as stories, and of flashbacks. These devices lend further depth to his characters and create narrative structures that are not completely straightforward chronicles.

Hemingway is direct. But he is also quite subtle, and subtlety is not a trait that we ascribe to the American way. In the end, Hemingway is an international artist, a man who never relinquished his American identity but who entered new territories too broad and too deep to fit within the domain of any national culture.

Young Hemingway's passport
Ernest Hemingway was born on 21st July 1899 in Oak Park, Chicago, USA. He was the second of six children. He was born at eight o'clock in his grandfather's house which was located at 439 North Oak Park Avenue. He weighed a healthy nine and a half pounds and measured twenty three inches tall. At seven weeks old he was taken to Bear Lake, to the shorefront property that his father, Dr Ed Hemingway had purchased the summer before.

It was not until October 1st, on his parent's third wedding anniversary that he was christened, Ernest Miller Hemingway at the First Congregational Church. In his first year he experienced the pleasures of life on the shore at Bear Lake and at three he had caught his first fish. His mother described him at three and a half years of age as:

    " Ernest Miller is a little man - no longer lazy - dresses himself completely and is a good helper for his father. He wears suspenders just like Papa. Is very proud to be a member of Agassiz (a nature study group organised by his father). He counts up to 100, can spell by ear very well. He likes to build cannons and forts with building blocks. He collects cartoons of the Russo-Japanese War. He loves stories about Great Americans - can give you good sketches of all the great men of American History"

He sounded, even then, like an exceptional child.

When Hemingway was six, his grandfather died and the Hemingway family left his grandfather's house (and the house Ernest Hemingway was born in) and moved to a corner lot at 600 North Kenilworth Avenue and Iowa Street. It was an eight bedroomed, three storey house, with an office for his father, where he could conduct his medical business. It was a strict household, no enjoyment was to be taken on Sunday, the Lord's day. This was to be spent in church and pursuing religious interests. Disobedience was punished by a few lashes from a razor strap administered by Hemingway's father, or a hairbrush from his mother.

Ernest's mother taught all her children music and creativity and took them to concerts, art galleries and operas. Ernest's father taught his children to love nature. To build fires, to cook in the open, how to use an axe, how to tie wet and dry flies, how to make bullets, how to prepare birds and small animals for mounting. He insisted on the proper handling of guns, rods and tackle and he taught Ernest physical courage and endurance.

Ernest's winters were spent in Chicago, his summers at Bear Lake. It was on his twelve birthday he was given a present of a single barrel 20 gauge shotgun. Ernest loved to dramatize everything. He made up stories in which he was invariably the swashbuckling hero. He was also now singing regularly at the Third Congregational Church and was making his first attempts at writing.

On reaching adolescence Ernest had developed into a 'well rounded' young man. 'Afraid of nothing' appeared to be his motto. He loved nature and he sought scrupulously to uphold the code of physical courage and endurance and he had a determination to 'do things properly'. He attended high school at The Oak Park and River Forest Township High School. Academically he was good at English but uninterested in most other subjects. He learnt to box and it was said there was a streak of bully in his nature, after he learnt the power of his fists. He took up canoeing and he wrote articles for the school's weekly newspaper.


After Ernest graduated from High School, his father's desire was for him to go to college but Ernest had very different ideas. Ernest Hemingway wanted to join the forces or learn to write. Having been forbidden to join up for the First World War by his father, Ernest applied for a job as a journalist and by October 1917 Hemingway was employed by the Kansas City Star.

Ernest had to leave home to take up his job. His father accompanied him to the train station and stood by the train until his son's moment of departure. Ernest was to remember the leaving for a long time afterwards and wrote about it in For Whom the Bell Tolls relating the mixed emotions he felt of sadness, relief and adulthood.

He first lived in the 3600 block of Warwick Boulevard with his uncle whilst The Star newspaper building was at 1800 Grand Avenue between 18th and 20th Streets. Later he lived in a small rented apartment with his friend Carl Edgar, in Agnes Street. Ernest's job on the Star was to cover the 'short-stop run', which entailed the 15th Street Police Station, the Union Station and the General Hospital. This meant he had to write about everything that went on in the Police Station, the train station and the hospital. So his first training in writing was reporting stolen goods and crime, accidents and any famous people who might have passed through the Union Station. (According to his sister Marcelline, Hemingway covered "fires, fights and funerals, and anything else not important enough for the other more experienced reporters).

He was trained 'on the job' by studying a style manual which declared good writing entailed short sentences, vigorous English, positive and not negative writing. He learned at The Star that professional reporters stated the way things are. They did not ramble on about how things might be if this or that were true; they declared what was. The idea was to tell the readers what had happened, for first a man had to go out and find what was happening.

Hemingway also found a very good mentor in Lionel Calhoun Moise. Hemingway as a young rookie was impressed with Moise's facility with words and his hard drinking, along with his undisciplined lifestyle of alcohol and violence. Some insight into Hemingway's life as a newspaper reporter is written in 'Ernest Hemingway, Cub Reporter', edited by Matthew Bruccoli.

Ted Brumback, another rookie reporter for The Star, gave this account of an incident by the Union Station - the newspaper article was entitled "Throng at Small Pox Case:" Written by Hemingway and printed in the Kansas Star on February 18, 1918. What follows is the story behind the newspaper report and then the newspaper article written by Hemingway. On the stone floor lay a man on a stretcher. He was bundled in blankets. The crowd had formed a circle around him at a respectful distance, for his face was broken out in ugly sores. There seemed to be no one attending him. He was moaning a little.

'What's the trouble here?' Hemingway demanded.

'He's got a contagious disease,' someone in the crowd replied. 'No one dares touch him. Some one sent for an ambulance.'

'Why is he left alone like this? Isn't anyone in charge of him?'

Two men took him off the train and brought him here. Then they went back on the train. I suppose the man's a pauper and couldn't afford to pay anyone to take care of him.'

'How long since they sent for an ambulance?'

'About half an hour.'

Hemingway swore. 'Why, I wouldn't treat a dog like that. What's the matter with you people? Why didn't some of you carry him out on the stretcher and put him in a taxi and send him to the General Hospital? The man's got smallpox and will die if not given care immediately. I know what smallpox is because I'm a doctor's son and recognize the symptoms. Who'll help me get him out of here?'

At the word of smallpox, the crowd retreated. No one offered to help.

Hemingway became angry. 'What's the matter with you yellow bunch anyway? Are you going to stand there and let a man die?'

When still no one made a move, he himself picked up the man in strong arms and carried him out of the station. Then he ordered a taxicab and took him personally to the General Hospital, charging the expense to The Star.

THE NEWSPAPER ARTICLE - Kansas Star - February 18th, 1918


While the chauffeur and male nurse on the city ambulance devoted to the carrying of smallpox cases drove from the General Hospital to the municipal garage on the North Side today to have engine trouble 'fixed' a man, his face and hands covered with smallpox pustules, lay in one of the entrances to the Union Station. One hour and fifteen minutes after having been given the call the chauffeur and nurse reported at the hospital with the man, G.T. Brewer, 926 West Forty-second Street. The ambulance had been repaired.

Behind that vehicle was an ambulance from the Emergency Hospital, ordered to get the patient by Dr. James Tyree, in charge of contagious diseases, after repeated calls from the station.

Brewer, a life insurance agent, arrived from Cherryvale, Kas., this morning. At 9 o'clock James McManus, officer in charge of the police station at the depot, found him lying in the west entrance to the lobby. Streams of persons, hurrying past, eddied about Brewer while solicitous passersby asked the trouble. At 9:50 McManus placed a policeman near the sick man to keep persons away.

McManus says he called the contagious department of the hospital immediately after finding Brewer. An ambulance was promised. Two calls were sent the hospital later and each time, so McManus says, he was told the ambulance was on the way. Doctor Tyree once insisted McManus take the sick man into the police office there, but McManus refused, saying more persons would be exposed. Doctor Tyree also said the ambulance would be there "right away."

When the ambulance did reach the station at 10:15, the driver explained it had been broken down while out on another call.

Doctor Tyree explained later that the regular sick ambulance, No. 90, was wrecked last night. When the call first was received at the receiving ward of the General Hospital at 9:05 o'clock ambulance No. 92, the smallpox carrier, was dispatched, he said.

'But the ambulance had motor trouble,' Doctor Tyree continued. 'The chauffeur and the male nurse in charge decided to go to the municipal garage and get the trouble fixed.'

The garage, on the North Side, is about as far from the hospital as the distance from the hospital to the Union Station and return.

Doctor Tyree criticized the police for failure to remove Brewer to an isolated place instead of leaving him ‘where scores of travelers came in contact and were exposed to smallpox.'

February 18, 1918, The Star

Ernest learnt a great deal at the Star but by now he was bored with mundane news stories and quite desperate to see some real action. He wanted to become involved in the First World War.

Ernest had a defective left eye and it was thought his entry into the forces was not very likely because of this deficiency. However, Ernest learnt from another young reporter on The Star, Theodore Brumback, that he had enlisted in the American Field Service and had spent four months driving ambulances in France, despite having a bad eye himself, in fact a glass eye.

On Feb. 22, 1918 - The Star carried this headline: 'Red Cross Calls Men'. Also needed, listed in fine print: 'Four ambulance drivers for Italy'. Some stories state that Hemingway saw this article before it was actually printed in the newspaper and got accepted before over 200 other men applied for the position: he and Theodore along with another friend, Wilson Hicks. They were accepted by the Red Cross as ambulance drivers.

After only six months employment as a journalist, Ernest left the Star newspaper. It was April 30th 1918. A few weeks later, Ernest and Theodore (Wilson Hicks had backed out) received a telegram from the Red Cross headquarters in St Louis telling them to report for physical examination in New York no later than May 8th.

Agnes Von Kurowsky

Around midnight on July 8th, 1918 in a forward listening post on the west bank of the river near Fossalta, Ernest Hemingway was severely wounded. He was carrying a supply of cigarettes, postcards and chocolate for the Italian soldiers.

A projectile, the size of a five gallon tin and filled with steel rod fragments and miscellaneous metal junk, was sent by the Austrian Minenwerfer crews. Hemingway was chatting with Italian soldiers when it exploded in their midst. Several men were wounded. Hemingway was wounded but managed to carry another badly wounded man to the command post. As he was doing so he was hit by machine gun fire. It was two hours before a doctor came and administered morphine to him. He was taken to a field hospital near Treviso. He spent five days there, swathed in bandages. Then he was taken to Milan.

In Milan he was put in a large mansion at 10 Via Allessandro Manzoni along with three other wounded men. There were 18 Red Cross nurses to look after them. Hemingway had a machine gun slug in his right foot and another lodged behind his right kneecap. He was nicknamed 'Broken Doll'.

Hemingway was popular with all the nurses and he enjoyed their company and joking with them but he liked one nurse especially. Agnes Von Kurowsky. She was a tall dark haired girl, reared in Washington, D.C. After her father's death in 1910, she had worked as an assistant in the Washington Public Library and then gone on to nursing school at Bellevue. In January 1918 she applied for admission to the Red Cross Nursing Service and late in June sailed for Europe. Being in Milan was her first foreign assignment.

She was, by all accounts, a very good nurse. She had a kind temperament, was generous and was full of bubbly energy. All the men admired her and the joke amongst the men was who was to have a date with her first.

It appears Hemingway was the winner. He was the hero in the hospital. He was the first American to be injured in Italy and he had been injured in a very heroic way, saving the life of another man. Every nurse and wounded soldier admired Hemingway and Agnes Von Kurowsky said of him 'Men loved him. You know what I mean'.

Hemingway was nineteen years old, and perhaps, here in this romantic setting of a hospital in wartime Milan, he discovered for the first time, he was attracted to women and women were attracted to him. By the middle of August, Ernest was 'wildly in love' with Agnes. It was his first adult love affair and he hurled himself into his emotions. Agnes did not fully respond. She had a duty to do and refused to let the affair pass the kissing stage. Ernest wanted to marry her but she was committed to her nursing career.

Agnes called Ernest 'Kid' and herself 'Mrs Kid' and kept a picture of him in her pocket and wrote to him nightly, despite seeing him every day. But she possibly suspected this 'wartime' romance would not last.

After two months of looking after Hemingway in Milan, Agnes was posted to another hospital, Via di Camerata near Florence. They wrote to each other regularly, sometime three or four times a day. Ernest was very sad but resolved to return to the front. By October, Hemingway had returned to the fighting, but had to hurry back to the hospital in Milan with a severe case of jaundice.

In November Agnes returned to Milan, she knew of course what had happened to him, because of their daily letters. She only stayed a week with Hemingway in the Milan hospital before she left to go to Treviso, to look after more sick American troops.

In December Hemingway went to the hospital in Treviso to surprise Agnes in the hospital. It was not a very successful meeting. She criticized his manner and persuaded Hemingway to return to his home. She also hinted that maybe in two years or so they would get married. She wanted to pursue her career as a nurse and she was worried about their age gap. She was 26 and he was only 19. They did not spend the Christmas together.

They remained in touch but their relationship ended when Agnes sent him a letter of rejection. Hemingway was very upset at what he saw as Agnes running away from him and even wrote a bitter letter to another of the nurses (Elsie Macdonald) complaining about Agnes.

However, later when Hemingway married Elizabeth Hadley, he wrote to Agnes and told her of his marriage and his living in Paris. She responded writing to him 'Anyhow I always knew it would turn out right in the end, and you would realize it was the best way, as I'm positive you must believe, now you have Hadley....'

Later Hemingway wrote Three Stories and Ten Poems. One story summarized his love affair with Agnes in Milan, concluding with an account of his homecoming and her letter of rejection. It was, it was said, his way of getting rid of the remnants of spite.

Eleven years later Hemingway was still coming to terms with his love affair with Agnes. He wrote A Farwell to Arms, a story based on himself and Agnes. He was still trying to purge himself of his first real love. His five month unconsummated love affair with Agnes was to live with him for the rest of his life.


Hemingway went back to Michigan after leaving the ambulance service. He was trying to find a job, which was proving difficult. Eventually he found a job as a reporter for the Co-operative Commonwealth, a slick paper monthly magazine put out by the Co-operative Society of America. He was earning just forty dollars a week and he was unhappy and unfulfilled, worrying about his health and his future.

Meeting Elizabeth Hadley Richardson in a friends apartment seemed to put a spring back into his step. Elizabeth was twenty eight, educated at Mary Institute, a private school for girls and she appeared unworldly, naive and inexperienced. Although eight years older than Hemingway they married on September 3rd 1920 in the country church at Horton Bay. Their wedding feast was a chicken dinner.

Their honeymoon was spent at Hemingway's father's house at Bear Lake, where Hemingway had spent most of his summers in childhood. After the honeymoon they lived in a small top floor apartment in the 1300 block of North Clark Street. It was grubby and depressing. Hemingway was not working. He had given up his job with the Co-operative Commonwealth.

He and his wife, Elizabeth, known as Hadley, lived only on her trust fund income, although Hemingway still submitted the occasional article to the Toronto Star. They lived frugally in order to save up for a trip to Europe and shortly after their marriage they left for Paris. By January 9th 1922 they were living in a fourth floor apartment at 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine. Ernest wrote his family that he was living in the best part of the Latin Quarter, when in truth the apartment was squalid and sparsely furnished.

Hemingway set to work writing and working on a novel he'd boasted he started in Chicago. He visited Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein in Paris with his wife. Both Pound and Stein were to be a very great influence on Hemingway's style of writing.

Hemingway, desperate to see the world, went with Hadley to Italy. With the aid of his Press Card, he arranged a meeting in Milan with Mussolini, the emergent leader of the Black Shirts. He also relived his time in the ambulance service and showed Hadley all the places he'd been to and had been wounded in.

Shortly after their return to Paris, Hemingway left for Constantinople to cover the war between Greece and Turkey. Hadley was furious and did not want him to go. He was away for three weeks covering the war and when he returned he was covered in bug bites and his hair was so loused his head had to be shaved. He brought back peace offerings for Hadley - a necklace of ivory and one of amber.

By now Hemingway had some slight notoriety both for his journalism and for his service in the ambulance corps and his first portrait was painted by Henry Strater. It was the first likeness of Hemingway to show the new moustache he had begun to cultivate. Hadley became pregnant, but they took a trip to northern Spain, Pamplona. They were there for the fiesta on the sixth of July and both were amazed at the bullfights and the running of the bulls in the streets. This trip and a couple of others to Spain were to be the foundation of his novel, The Sun Also Rises also sometimes called Fiesta.

They returned to Paris, but then went on to Canada so their baby could be born on American soil. By this time Hemingway had written a series of sketches called Three Stories and Ten Poems which were to be published. Hadley gave birth to a boy to be called, John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway.

Hemingway was now a fully fledged author and his newspaper work was confined to feature articles for the Star Weekly. He did not enjoy journalism any more and he wrote to Gertrude Stein, now a very good friend in Paris, that he was going to give journalism up and concentrate solely on writing novels. True to his word on January 1st 1924, Hemingway resigned from The Star. On January 13th Hemingway, his wife and their baby son returned to Paris.

Hemingway and Hadley did a lot of travelling to Europe, Spain, Switzerland during their marriage. Hemingway wrote another novel besides The Sun Also Rises, The Torrents of Spring during their five year marriage. They separated after Hadley found out about his affair with a Vogue Editor from Arkansas called Pauline Pfeiffer. Hemingway dedicated The Sun Also Rises to Hadley and to his son, John Hadley Nicanor. It was, he said, the least he could do.

All royalties from this book also went to Hadley. Hemingway was devastated that he was losing a woman he had loved and still loved.


Hadley had insisted that in order for Hemingway to gain a divorce from her, Hemingway and Pauline Pfeiffer were to live apart for six months and if, after that time, they were still in love, she would give him a divorce.

During this six month period, when Hemingway had neither Hadley or Pauline to comfort him, he felt both alone and guilty. He wrote to Pauline of suicide. She was in America and he still in Paris to comply with Hadley's separation terms for a divorce. It was fall 1925 and Hemingway wrote to Pauline telling her it would be best for both of them if he died and went to hell. He had written Another Country during this period. The story tells of his physiotherapy in Italy. The central character was an Italian Major whose wounded right hand had turned into a claw and whose young wife has just died of pneumonia. Men without Women was also being formed during 1925 and 1926. His other two novels, The Torrents of Spring and The Sun Also Rises, were doing extremely well and Hemingway in a fit of guilt wrote a new will giving all the royalties of his books, present and future to his son, John Hadley, nicknamed Bumby.

On January 27th 1927 Hemingway was divorced from Hadley and on May 10th 1927 Hemingway married Pauline in a Catholic ceremony. Pauline was a Catholic and Hemingway, it appeared, had been baptised in the Catholic faith nine years earlier by an Italian priest whilst he served as an ambulance driver. Pauline's and Hemingway's three week honeymoon was spent at a small pension in Grau-du-Roi, a small fishing port in France. Sea, sun, fishing, swimming and writing occupied his time, but he cut his foot badly which became infected with anthrax.

On his return to Paris in June after his honeymoon Hemingway spent ten days in bed with fever and nursing his swollen, infected foot. He fell into a period of depression when he couldn't write, he was worried about his health and failing eyesight and he was trying to write a really good book about his experiences in the war. He was also desperate to leave Paris and to go back to America.

He and Pauline went to Key West, Florida. Pauline was pregnant and wanted, like Hadley, to have her baby on American soil. Hemingway fell in love with Key West, calling it a paradise and quickly fell into a routine of fishing and writing, apart from the odd night on the town, drinking heavily, followed by what he called 'gastric remorse'. (Hangover and sickness).

He wrote early in the mornings when the day was still fresh and talked endlessly to anyone he met in Key West, listening to their stories and interrogating them on their lives and backgrounds. Hemingway was a stickler for detailed information. He was particularly friendly with a man called Bra Saunderson, a professional fishing guide and Josie Russell, the owner of a bar called Sloppy Joe's. His closest friendship was with a man called Charles Thompson, both men shared a love of hunting and fishing.

Hemingway and Pauline were coming and going to Key West for some time until Pauline's uncle bought them 907 Whitehead Street in 1931. Key West became their base but Hemingway, sometimes with Pauline, continued taking trips to Europe.

In 1928 Hemingway's father died. He shot himself in the head. He was suffering from diabetes and angina pectoris. Hemingway was now head of another family, that of his mother's and her two small boys.

He had written A Farewell to Arms which had become hugely successful, topping the bestsellers list, which enabled Hemingway to send money to his mother, to help her difficult finances. Farewell to Arms was dramatised in New York although it was unsuccessful in the theatre and closed after three weeks. However, the novel’s movie rights were sold for $24,000.

Pauline had her baby by caesarean section: it was another boy, although Hemingway wanted a girl. They called the baby Patrick, nicknamed Sunny.

Hemingway was always concerned about his own health and he had reason to be. He easily fell prone to sore throats, kidney problems and haemorrhoids. He was also accident prone. He had broken his right arm in a car accident in 1930, cut his right eyeball, had a forehead gash, sliced his index finger, and a torn chin. He was also worried about his failing eyesight.

In 1931 Pauline had another baby, Gregory Hancock. Shortly after this Death in the Afternoon was finished. Hemingway kept writing and taking fishing expeditions to Havana with his friend Joe Russell, owner of Sloppy Joes. His first 'Cuban' trip taught him the joys of marlin fishing, but when he returned from a sixty-five day trip he once again suffered ill health, this time bronchial pneumonia.

Winner Takes Nothing was completed before Hemingway took a hunting trip to Africa to shoot lions. He got dysentery and had a prolapse of the lower intestine. He and Pauline were away for seven months. When he returned, he started writing a book about his African safari called The Green Hills of Africa.

Hemingway took ownership of a cruiser, the Pilar. He spent months fishing with his friends on his boat, often leaving Pauline alone with their two boys. In 1935 he had won his first fishing competition at Bimini in the British West Indies. Foreigners were unpopular in Bimini and Hemingway's victory provoked a number of quarrels. He offered the fishermen $200 to the man who could stay in the boxing ring with him for four rounds. No-one won the money, Hemingway beat them all.

In 1936 Hemingway met the journalist, Martha Gelhorn and began an affair with her. They were both planning to go to the Spanish Civil War together. In 1937 and 1938 he was in Spain with Martha, writing To Have and Have Not and a play, The Fifth Column. This he wrote whilst his Madrid hotel was under gunfire. (Because of the Civil War). By 1939 Hemingway and Pauline separated. Hemingway again suffered from guilt and shortly after their separation he wrote For Whom The Bell Tolls.


Hemingway got a divorce from Pauline and married Martha Gellhorn on 21st November 1940. But when they set off for the Far East to cover Chiang Kai-Shek's war against Japan in January 1941, their relationship was already strained.

Hemingway could not cope with a wife who had a career of her own. He had bought a house in Finca Vigia, Cuba with the proceeds from For Whom the Bell Tolls, which had sold 500,000 copies in the first five months. He found himself alone for most of the time in Cuba; Martha was acting as a reporter in wartime England.

In 1942 with USA now Britain's ally in the Second World War, Hemingway created the Crook Factory, a private undertaking whose self appointed mission was to investigate the pro-Nazi factions in Cuba. His headquarters were at Finca Vigia and until April 1943 its undercover agents - fishermen, priests, waiters, pimps and whores, collected information on the Spanish Falangists on the island. The organization was finally disbanded and Hemingway concentrated his efforts on sub-hunting, to identify and harass any German submarines that might be lurking in the area. Hemingway would be on his boat day and night looking for Germans, returning only to land to stock up on food and fuel.

In March 1944 he went to England at Martha's urging. Soon after he arrived, he was involved in another car accident. Several newspapers incorrectly reported his death. In May 1944 in London he met Mary Welsh, and fell in love with her. Martha had joined him in London. but things were very bad between them.

Between June and December 1944, Hemingway covered the European conflict. Officially he was attached to the Third Army, but he also went on reconnaissance and bombing raids with the RAF. He followed the Fourth Infantry on his reporting missions, but became so involved in actual fighting his articles were just a pretext to remain at the front. He was a Captain.

Because of his keenness to fight with the army, he was court martialled for violating the Geneva Convention, but his name was cleared and he rejoined Colonel Lanham and the Fourth Infantry Division and was with them for fierce fighting in the Hurtgenwald in November-December 1944. By early January he was back in Paris with Mary. His marriage to Martha Gellhorn was over.

Ernest and Mary

Hemingway did not stay in Europe for Armistice Day, but returned to Paris with Mary Welsh. He then went on to Finca Vigia in March 1945.

Guilty again about his failed marriage to Martha he fell into a state of alcohol and indulgence. After drinking too many daiquiris, he had another serious car crash. On March 14, 1946, with his divorce finalised from Martha, he married Mary Welsh.

He also started work on two projects The Garden of Eden and the first part of his proposed World War Two trilogy which was published after his death as Islands in the Stream. His health was deteriorating and his drinking had increased. His writing had almost come to a grinding stop and with the death of many of his close friends, including his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer, his mother and his publisher, Charles Scribner, Hemingway often found himself contemplating his life and what he felt was his immediate death.

Hemingway and Mary went to Northern Italy so he could relive his ambulance driving days. He met a woman called Adriana Ivancich and fell in love with her. This meeting inspired Across the River and Into the Trees [see review below]. The novel was panned by critics, but Hemingway quickly followed that novel with The Old Man and the Sea which won him critical acclaim again and he won the Pulitzer Prize in May 1953.

Adriana Ivancich
In June 1953 Hemingway and Mary went to Europe, Hemingway was planning an appendix to Death in the Afternoon. He travelled on to Mombasa and here he conducted a ritual courtship with a young Wakambu girl. His accidents continued in 1954 and he had two plane crashes, the second so serious that once again news of his death was published. He returned to Cuba only partly recovered from his serious injuries and saw Adriana for the last time.

On 28 October 1954 Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was too ill to receive the award in Stockholm, but held a party at Finca Vigia.

Filming of the Old Man and the Sea started in the mid 50s and he became involved in that. He was in Europe from September 1956 to January 1957 and he set sail for Spain in May 1959, a month after Fidel Castro's troops entered Havana. When he returned to Havana in early November, he publicly declared his support for the revolutionaries.

In the Spring of 1960 he completed his memoirs of life in Paris in the early twenties called a Moveable Feast. Hemingway left Cuba for the last time in July 1960. He was already showing signs of mental illness, his health had collapsed and he was forced more and more to rely on alcohol. In August he went to Spain alone, but was forced to cut short his trip and return to Idaho. On 30th November he was admitted to the Mayo Clinic for the first time. He stayed about a month. He was readmitted three months later and stayed another two months. He'd found his memory had gone and he couldn't write any more.

Hemingway shot himself in the head on a log cabin in Ketchum, Idaho on Sunday 2 July 1961. He tripped the trigger of his double barrelled shotgun and was instantly killed.

Ernest Hemingway and Fidel Castro

Nowhere does Hemingway appear truer to his nature than in the photographs that show him hunting or fishing or on the battlefield. Whether he holds the Tycoon rod he used to catch spearfish or his Austrian Mannlicher Schoenaur .256 which he used on elephant hunts, these images seem to encapsulate the truth. They show the Hemingway we remember, a bearded giant of a man in bermuda shorts and worn out loafers, an instantly recognisable larger than life hero of our times. We remember him as an 'action man'. A man filled with confidence and authority. But in reality he was shy and bitterly frustrated. He was a man with exceptional intelligence and an educated upbringing, so diverse it must have been confusing to a young man. His mother on one side was teaching him culture and took him to operas, concerts and art galleries and his father, on the other, was rugged and taught him outdoor life, how to use an axe, a gun, and to be afraid of nothing. Both parents were strong and each had a total conviction and enthusiasm to teach Ernest their own ideals. And of course he and his five brothers and sisters were brought up in an intensely religious atmosphere.

Hemingway's childhood and adolescence gave him an insight into all aspects of life and being such an inquisitive person with a determination for detail, he wanted to try everything and be exceptional at everything he did. He found it very frustrating when his health or poor eye sight kept him from fulfilling his goals. Right from adolescence when he wanted to join the forces he was unable to. His poor eye sight meant he could only join the ambulance corps. Enough for some people, but not Hemingway. He wanted to excel, to be thought of as the best. He must also have felt himself 'cursed'. His numerous accidents, starting with his wounding in the First World War, when of course, he felt he was invincible, was his first and serious setback. Prevented from achieving his first goal of being a war 'hero' -- fulfilling his father's teachings of being a strong, dominant, fighting man, afraid of nothing -- he turned to his mother's love - culture - and began to write.

He had of course been a newspaper reporter after leaving school, but his first choice was to follow his father's examples, to become a rugged, outdoor, independent man. Ironically it was his father who refused to let him join up for the First World War. He quickly got married after recovering from his injuries in the First World War and he married a woman eight years older than him, although it was said she was naïve, unworldly and inexperienced.

Perhaps he married Hadley for her money - she had private income from a trust fund and Hemingway, who was not earning much as a newspaper reporter, was determined to travel. He knew he needed some financial support for his plans. However his marriage to Hadley had produced a son, John Hadley. He was also having a number of affairs during his marriage to Hadley, but it was only when she found out about his affair with Pauline Pfeiffer that Hadley wanted to divorce him.

Why did he find it necessary to have affairs, why did he need everyone to 'love' him? The pattern of marriages and affairs stayed with him all his life and yet when he finally married a woman he considered his equal - Martha Gelhorn - he threw that away too, discovering he could not cope with a woman who had a career of her own.

Hemingway did not know what he wanted. He wanted everything and nothing.

His writing was his way of coping with life - to exorcise his ghosts, to achieve fame and glory - and yet he also had a natural talent. What came first, his writing or his adventures? What was most important to him? To fulfil his mother's wishes or his father's?

Maybe he felt unfulfilled at his attempts of being an adventurous, outdoor man? He certainly had more than his fair share of illness. Anthrax, digestive problems, pneumonia. Each illness seemed to occur after a long period of activity. Fishing, hunting, shooting. Maybe he was frustrated at his poor health, his proneness to sickness every time he made some exertion on his body. He eventually fell into a period of mental illness, overwhelmed by the demands put on him by others and himself.

His father had committed suicide, did he feel then it was perfectly ok for him to do the same? His medical treatment to overcome his mental problems did not work and he found his memory had gone and he could not even write to appease himself. His physical state was also too poor for him to carry on with his pursuits of fishing, shooting and hunting.

There was no other choice than to end his life.

The above information was written by Caroline Hulse with contributions from Kelley Dupuis. Reference sources include Carlos Baker and Norberto Fuentes.

Hemingway at his deskHEMINGWAY’S FAMILY


• Father - Clarence Hemingway. Born September 2, 1871, died December 6, 1928
• Mother - Grace Hall Hemingway. Born June 15, 1872, died June 28, 1951


• Marcelline Hemingway. Born January 15, 1898, died December 9, 1963
• Ursula Hemingway. Born April 29, 1902, died October 30, 1966
• Madelaine Hemingway. Born November 28, 1904, died January 14, 1995
• Carol Hemingway. Born July 19, 1911, died October 27, 2002
• Leicester Hemingway. Born April 1, 1915, died September 13, 1982

Wives and children

• Elizabeth Hadley Richardson. Married September 3, 1921, divorced April 4, 1927.

--Son, John Hadley Nicanor "Jack" Hemingway (aka Bumby). Born October 10, 1923, died December 1, 2000.
---Granddaughter, Joan (Muffet) Hemingway
---Granddaughter, Margaux Hemingway. Born February 16, 1954, died July 2, 1996
---Granddaughter, Mariel Hemingway. Born November 22, 1961

• Pauline Pfeiffer. Married May 10, 1927, divorced November 4, 1940.

--Son, Patrick. Born June 28, 1928.
---Granddaughter, Mina Hemingway
--Son, Gregory Hemingway (called 'Gig' by Hemingway; later called himself 'Gloria'). Born November 12, 1931, died October 1, 2001.
---Grandchildren, Patrick, Edward, Sean, Brendan, Vanessa, Maria, John Hemingway and Lorian Hemingway

• Martha Gellhorn. Married November 21, 1940, divorced December 21, 1945.

• Mary Welsh. Married March 14, 1946.

On 19 August 1946, she miscarried due to ectopic pregnancy.


During his lifetime Hemingway was awarded with:

• Silver Medal of Military Valor (medaglia d'argento) in World War I
• Bronze Star (War Correspondent-Military Irregular in World War II) in 1947
• Award of Merit from The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1954
• Pulitzer Prize in 1953 (for The Old Man and the Sea)
• Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 (for his lifetime literary achievements)
• He won 2 medals for bull fighting as well.

A minor planet, was discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh in 1978 and named after him, 3656 Hemingway.


• Hemingway is the implied subject of the Ray Bradbury story The Kilimanjaro Device. Using the plot device of a time machine, the tale creates a loving tribute that undoes his suicide. The story appears in the Bradbury collection I Sing The Body Electric.

The Ernest Hemingway Hotel in downtown Havana, Cuba was named after the writer, as well as a drink that they serve, the Hemingway.

Hemingway's Resort, at Watamu Marine Park in Malindi, Kenya, is also named for the writer.

• In 1999, Michael Palin retraced the footsteps of Hemingway, in Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure, a BBC television documentary, one hundred years after the birth of his favorite writer. The journey took him through many sites including Chicago, Paris, Italy, Africa, Key West, Cuba, and Idaho. Together with photographer Basil Pao, Palin also created a book version of the trip. The text of the book is available for free on Palin's website.

• Since 1987, actor-writer Ed Metzger has portrayed the life of Ernest Hemingway in his one-man stage show, Hemingway: On The Edge, featuring stories and anecdotes from Hemingway's own life and adventures. Metzger quotes Hemingway, "My father told me never kill anything you're not going to eat. At the age of 9, I shot a porcupine. It was the toughest lesson I ever had." More information about the show is available at his website

• Hemingway's World War II experiences in Cuba have been novelized by Dan Simmons as a spy thriller, The Crook Factory.

• Hemingway is portrayed as the stoic butler of Constance Garnett in the Christopher Durang play, The Idiot's Karamazov. Within, Hemingway is subject to every beck and call of the ever-maddening translator and ultimately, ends up committing suicide in the final scene.

• Hemingway, played by Jay Underwood, was a recurring character in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. In one episode, set in Northern Italy in 1916, Hemingway the ambulance driver gives young Indy (Sean Patrick Flanery) advice about women -- only to discover that he and Indy are rivals for the heart of the same woman. (The episode shows Indy unwittingly influencing Hemingway's future writing, by reciting the Elizabethan poem, A Farewell to Arms by George Peele.) In another episode, set in Chicago in 1920, Hemingway the newspaper reporter helps Indy and a young Eliot Ness in their investigation of the murder of gangster James Colosimo.

• The 1993 motion picture Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, about the friendship of two retired men, one Irish, one Cuban, in a seaside town in Florida, starred Robert Duvall, Richard Harris, Shirley MacLaine, Sandra Bullock, and Piper Laurie.

• The 1996 motion picture In Love and War, based on the book Hemingway in Love and War by Henry S. Villard and James Nagel, is the story of the young reporter Ernest Hemingway (played by Chris O'Donnell) as an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I. While bravely risking his life in the line of duty, he is injured and ends up in the hospital, where he falls in love with his nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky (Sandra Bullock).

• The 1982 Rush song, Losing It, sings of a dancer and a writer who could no longer perform their crafts. Drummer Neil Peart hints the writer, who was unnamed, was Ernest Hemingway. The song's lyrics indicate, "For you the blind who once could see, the bell tolls for thee." Hemingway had lost his mind later in life and this was a double entendre since Hemingway had written "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

• The song "Here's to Life" by Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution, refers to authors Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, Albert Camus, artist Vincent Van Gogh, in addition to musician Kurt Cobain, as being influences to Tomas Kalnoky.

• The Michigan Humanities Council directed a year long program, The Great Michigan Read, in 2007-2008. It selected the Ernest Hemingway short story collection, The Nick Adams Stories, as the statewide read. It was the first known instance an organization had selected a Hemingway book for a statewide reading initiative.

• In the 1989 James Bond film Licence to Kill, Bond (played by Timothy Dalton) meets with M at the Hemingway House. When asked for his gun after handing in his resignation, Bond exclaims "I guess it's a Farewell To Arms", in reference to the work of the same name.

In World of Warcraft, Hemet Nesingwary, is a tribute to Hemingway. The in-game character gives various quest in which players hunt animals.


• In a boxing match with friend and writer Morley Callaghan, Hemingway's lip was cut. Hemingway spit blood into Callaghan's face and said: "The bullfighters do that when they are injured, it is how they show contempt."

• In a letter to Ezra Pound, Hemingway describes why bulls are better than literary critics: "Bulls don't run reviews. Bulls of 25 don't marry old women of 55 and expect to be invited to dinner. Bulls do not get you cited as co-respondent in Society divorce trials. Bulls don't borrow money. Bulls are edible after they have been killed."

• According to various biographical sources, Hemingway was six feet tall and weighed anywhere between 170 and 260 pounds at varying times in his life. His build was muscular, though he became paunchy in his middle years. He had dark brown hair, brown eyes, and habitually wore a mustache (with an occasional beard) from the age of 23 on. By age 50, he consistently wore a graying beard. He had a scar on his forehead, the result of a drunken accident in Paris in his late 20s (thinking he was flushing a toilet, he accidentally pulled a skylight down on his head). He suffered from myopia all his life, but vanity prevented him from being fitted with glasses until he was 32 (and very rarely was he photographed wearing them). He was fond of tennis and boxing, fonder of fishing and hunting, and hated New York City.

• Though Hemingway did not have a favorable opinion of his hometown of Oak Park, IL, describing it as a town of "Wide yards and narrow minds," the town has adopted a favorable opinion about him. Today a Hemingway Museum exists in that town. Every summer a Hemingway festival is staged in that city, complete with a "running of the bulls", using a fake bull on wheels. This festival also features readings of the author's work and Spanish food.

• The original short short story. In the 1920s, Hemingway bet his colleagues $10 that he could write a complete story in just six words. They paid up. His story: "For sale: Baby shoes, Never worn." In a contest in Wired magazine inspired by Hemingway's story, 33 authors recently submitted 6-word efforts.

• Hemingway's unique prose style spawned legions of imitators and many notable writers have attempted to satirize his style, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote and George Plimpton. For thirty years an International Imitation Hemingway Writing Contest was held and writers submitted the 'best bad Hemingway,' and two anthologies of 'The Best of Bad Hemingway' have been published.

• The film director Howard Hawks made a bet with Hemingway, saying that he could make a great film from what the author considered his worst book. The result was the classic To Have And Have Not (1944), with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, although the film was only loosely based on Hemingway's original 1937 novel.

• Shine Forbes, a local Key West boxer was chosen to be a cornerman for an overmatched young boxer named Alfred "Black Pie" Colebrooks against Cuban boxer Joe Mills; none other than Ernest Hemingway was the referee for the match held at the Blue Goose Arena, now the backyard of the Blue Heaven restaurant. Shine was not aware of who Hemingway was at the time and reportedly thought he looked like a "hippie." Inevitably, Shine attempted to throw in the towel for the doomed Colebrooks, but Hemingway repeatedly threw the towel back. Shine Forbes jumped into the ring and jumped to swing at Hemingway, only to land on his chest. Hemingway then lifted Forbes by the ears and shook him; police soon were on the scene to arrest Shine but Hemingway stopped them saying "Don't arrest him. Any time a man's got guts enough to take a punch at me, he's alright." Shine Forbes apologized that day and became a close friend and sparring partner of Hemingway. Shine Forbes remained a regular at the Blue Heaven until his death in 2000.


[titles linked to study guides & synopses]


• (1926) The Torrents of Spring
• (1926) The Sun Also Rises
• (1929) A Farewell to Arms
• (1937) To Have and Have Not
• (1940) For Whom the Bell Tolls
• (1950) Across the River and Into the Trees
• (1952) The Old Man and the Sea
• (1970) Islands in the Stream
• (1986) The Garden of Eden
• (1999) True at First Light


• (1923) Three Stories and Ten Poems
• (1925) In Our Time
• (1927) Men Without Women
• (1933) Winner Take Nothing
• (1936) The Snows of Kilimanjaro
• (1938) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories
• (1969) The Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War
• (1972) The Nick Adams Stories
• (1987) The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
• (1995) Everyman's Library: The Collected Stories

Anthologies - edited by Hemingway

Men at War


• (1932) Death in the Afternoon
• (1935) Green Hills of Africa
• (1962) Hemingway, The Wild Years
• (1964) A Moveable Feast
• (1967) By-Line: Ernest Hemingway
• (1970) Ernest Hemingway: Cub Reporter
• (1981) Ernest Hemingway Selected Letters
• (1985) The Dangerous Summer
• (1985) Dateline: Toronto
• (1999) Hemingway on Writing
• (2000) Hemingway on Fishing
• (2003) Hemingway on Hunting
• (2003) Hemingway on War
• (2005) Under Kilimanjaro
• (2008) Hemingway on Paris

Stage Plays

• (1961) A Short Happy Life
• (1967) The Hemingway Hero
(working title was: Of Love and Death)


Television productions

• (1958) Scouting on Two Continents, by Frederick Russell Burnham (not completed)
• (1959) For Whom the Bell Tolls

• (1959) The Killers (CBS Buick Electra Playhouse)
• (1960) The Fifth Column
• (1960) The Snows of Kilimanjaro
• (1960) The Gambler, The Nun and the Radio
• (1960) After the Storm
(not completed)

U.S./UK Film Adaptations

• (1932) A Farewell to Arms (starring Gary Cooper)
• (1943) For Whom the Bell Tolls (Gary Cooper/Ingrid Bergman)
• (1944) To Have and Have Not (Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall)
• (1946) The Killers (starring Burt Lancaster)
• (1950) The Breaking Point
• (1952) The Snows of Kilimanjaro (starring Gregory Peck)
• (1957) A Farewell to Arms (starring Rock Hudson)
• (1957) The Sun Also Rises (starring Tyrone Power)
• (1958) The Old Man and the Sea (starring Spencer Tracy)
• (1962) Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man
• (1964) The Killers (starring Lee Marvin)
• (1965) For Whom the Bell Tolls
• (1977) Islands in the Stream (starring George C. Scott)
• (1984) The Sun Also Rises
• (1990) The Old Man and the Sea (starring Anthony Quinn)
• (1996) In Love and War (starring Chris O'Donnell)
• (1999) The Old Man and the Sea


Ernest's longer beard
Pieces by Kelley Dupuis (2000):


By Kelley Dupuis

In 1970, when Ernest Hemingway had been in his grave for nine years, Norman Mailer published Of A Fire On The Moon, a long series of baroque ruminations centring upon the July, 1969 mission of Apollo 11, the space flight in which men set foot for the first time on the moon.

What does this have to do with Hemingway, who had committed suicide just a few months after Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard had become the first men to venture into space?

Well, Mailer thought Hemingway germane enough to the discussion of moon missions to open his book with the following sentence: "Norman, born sign of Aquarius, had been in Mexico when the news came about Hemingway." The chapter that begins with this sentence bears an epigram from one of Hemingway's ghastly poems: "Now he sleeps with that old whore death...Do thee take this old whore death for thy lawful wedded wife?" And Mailer proceeds to explain why he chose to open a discussion of one of technology's most spectacular triumphs with a reminiscence about Hemingway's death: "Now the greatest living romantic was dead. Dread was loose. The giant had not paid his dues, and something awful was in the air. Technology would fill the pause. Into the silences static would enter..."

You would have to go back to Tolstoy to find a writer who towered over his age the way Hemingway towered over his. But Hemingway's stature was of a different nature than Tolstoy's, necessarily, because it was a phenomenon that took place in a wholly different context -- an American one. In the Russian tradition, writers whose celebrity grows to a certain degree tend to take on the mantle of the sage. Certainly Tolstoy did this, and more recently, Solzhenitsyn has tried to. But America is not a country that generally takes to sages. America takes to successes. Become successful enough at something in America and you might become a celebrity, especially if there are large sums of money involved.

Before the invention of cinema, American celebrities tended to be statesmen, captains of industry or characters who had distinguished themselves in some way directly connected with public life-Jane Addams setting up Hull House, Carrie Nation and her crusade against the saloons. The late 19th century in America did have its literary celebrities, but they tended to be imports, like Oscar Wilde, or exports, like Henry James. Huckleberry Finn aside, (a book that Hemingway loved, by the way) Mark Twain's fame rested chiefly on his being a funny guy.

But the rise of the movie industry and its consolidation in Hollywood during the years after World War I created a new breed of celebrity in America. Celebrity was no longer chiefly the province of the mighty and the wealthy -- they had to move over now and make room for the beautiful and the glamorous.

I have noted elsewhere in discussing Hemingway that one of the most remarkable things about his remarkable life was his timing. It was as flawless as that of the best vaudeville comedian. Hemingway always somehow managed to be right where he had to be. For example he was in Chicago in 1921 at just the right time to meet Sherwood Anderson, who dissuaded him from his plans to return to Italy, where he had served as an ambulance driver in World War I, and talked him instead, as an aspiring young writer, into going to Paris, where the author of Winesburg, Ohio used his influence to get Hemingway introduced to both Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. It's not often that an aspiring writer gets a string of "good breaks" like that, but for Hemingway this was a "natural."

And so it could be observed (and argued endlessly whether this was a good thing for Hemingway or a bad one) that his career as a writer was "taking off" at the very moment when America was in the midst of the last long party it would enjoy until the economic boom of the post-Reagan era: the fabled "Jazz age," as Hemingway's on-again, off-again friend Scott Fitzgerald named it, that dizzy decade the 1920s. As the twenties progressed, Hollywood was remaking and redefining Americans' very notion of celebrity in an endless cavalcade of the glamorous and the more glamorous: Rudolf Valentino, Gloria Swanson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Clara Bow, Charlie Chaplin...the list goes on and on.

Between the two of them, Hemingway and Fitzgerald did much to capture the tone and spirit of that era. The Great Gatsby could be part of a social study of the 1920s, and so could The Sun Also Rises. In fact I would recommend that any historian or sociologist preparing to write about that decade in America be sure and read these two novels. But Hemingway managed to transcend the era in a way that Fitzgerald didn't. Fitzgerald became identified in the public mind with the age that he had given a name to, and when it was over, Fitzgerald's career faded with the memory of it and his reputation would not revive until his works underwent a critical re-evaluation following his death in 1940.

Perhaps one of the reasons why Hemingway transcended the age in a way Fitzgerald would not be perceived as having done until after he was dead is because, while Fitzgerald obviously mirrored the era in his writings, Hemingway mirrored an attitude toward it. He created a persona, the "Hemingway hero," that tight-lipped, tough-talking stoic guy who struck such a resounding chord with the generation of males that was coming of age between the two world wars. Young men in America now had a choice: they could ape their favourite Hollywood movie star, or they could imitate a Hemingway character. Many did-the wisecracking dialogue of The Sun Also Rises became a generation's way of talking to itself, and the romantic tragedy of A Farewell to Arms reflected that same generation's more sentimental side.

Add to this what his public knew about Hemingway the man-the sojourns in Europe; the passion for marlin fishing in the Florida keys and for bullfights in Spain; following his first safari in 1934, the passion for hunting "big game" in it any wonder that in this age of "stars," Hemingway managed to become one?

He was in fact the first "creative-artist-as-star" in America. I say "creative" artist to distinguish his celebrity from that of "performing artists," a tradition that would include all those Hollywood celebrities, not to mention musical celebrities like Caruso and dozens of others. Hemingway was the first writer (discounting Fitzgerald, who "burned out") to carve out a place for himself in the gossip columns and the glossy magazines. There would be many creative artists after him -- Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer himself -- who would achieve the kind of celebrity that today we associate with People magazine, but it really did start with Hemingway, and the phenomenon has much to say about Hemingway's fate, both in the way his life turned out and in the way he came to dominate his age such that Mailer wanted to "tip his hat" to the great man before proceeding to talk about voyaging to the moon.

The difference between a major artist and a minor one is that a major artist "develops." Judged by that standard, Yeats would be considered a major artist because his late poetry is nothing like his early work. A.E. Housman, on the other hand, would have to be adjudged a "minor artist" according to that standard, because once he had down the "voice" he wanted to use, he stuck with it and never went any further. Quite often, part and parcel of that process of development is "the reinvention of the self." Yeats famously played with different masks. In our own time Bob Dylan -- often to his audience's chagrin -- has chosen to "reinvent" himself several times.

Hemingway went through discernable stages in his life as man and artist. Some time around the middle of the 1970's I remember watching a television drama called The Hemingway Play, in which four characters representing Hemingway at difference stages of his life met and interacted with each other. The outcome, as you might imagine, was violent, poignant and pitiful.

The fact is, "reinventing" yourself can be a two-edged sword. In Hemingway's case, the reinventing took the form, whether intentionally or not, of creating a Doppelgaenger version of himself, one which subsumed the "real" Ernest Hemingway as his ever upward-ratcheting celebrity kept raising the stakes on him. Hemingway repeatedly insisted that his fictions were fictions, and that they shouldn't be construed as anything other than that. But increasingly as time went on, particularly after World War II, when Hemingway's service as a war correspondent for Collier's magazine had given him the opportunity to inflate his legend to ever-more gargantuan proportions against the backdrop of that conflict, Hemingway and the media played each other like a couple of violins. Had he been content to remain simply a writer-or perhaps "allowed" would be a more charitable word-things might have turned out differently, both with his life and with his art. Who knows? But he was a star, and as a star he had an obligation to perform. The media were interested in the Doppelgaenger Hemingway-they assumed, a few dissenting voices notwithstanding, that he was the "real" Hemingway. Hemingway's ego was such that it would have been difficult if not impossible for him to admit that the "press release" version of himself, the barrel-chested he-man sipping a Daiquiri with one hand while landing a giant marlin with the other, had taken over centre stage and sent the writer to his room.

Hemingway was a natural-born performer. It was part of his personal charm and a not-insignificant factor in what made him a writer. The flair for storytelling in a manner all the more vivid for its understatement had a counterpart in a flair for self-dramatization, whether it took the form of dressing up in a soldier's uniform to have his picture taken for the folks back home in 1918 or grinning ear-to-ear for the cameras after resurfacing from an African safari in 1953 when, after two consecutive plane crashes in Kenya, the press had mistakenly reported him dead. The second of these two plane crashes had in fact very nearly killed him, and what happened afterwards was a particularly grotesque example of the Doppelgaenger Hemingway in the spotlight. Hemingway, suffering from injuries to his liver, spleen, kidney and head, nevertheless met with reporters. An apocryphal version of that press conference got out in which Hemingway had reportedly showed up waving a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin and boasting that his luck was running good. The story reached the ears of Ogden Nash, who wrote a song about it which was subsequently recorded by Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney: "A bunch of bananas and a bottle of jeen/Keeps the hunger out and the happiness een/A bunch of bananas and a bottle of jeen/My luck she is running very good."

His luck was in fact running out, even though he would win the Nobel Prize a few months later for "The Old Man and the Sea." But the world at large didn't know or, I daresay, even think much about how badly things were turning in the true life of its most celebrated author. Repeated head injuries combined with years of very heavy drinking had taken their toll, and Hemingway's health problems, both physical and mental, would double and redouble until the end finally came in 1961. Suicide ran in Hemingway's family, and the fear that he might commit suicide, as his father had, and as his brother and one of his granddaughters subsequently would, had haunted Hemingway for most of his life. But of course the media-generated version of Hemingway included nothing of this. When Hemingway did finally succeed in bringing about his own demise, many people saw the headline and couldn't believe their eyes. The larger-than-life novelist, the man who had done just about everything in the world you could do, the big-game hunter, bullfight-aficionado, fisherman, connoisseur of fine food and wine, the man who had been at Normandy on D-Day and who had also appeared in countless newspapers and magazines rubbing elbows with people like Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich, a man who, to all appearances, had every reason to go on living, had killed himself?

All the questions were asked. And for a long time, all of the answers were inadequate. Many of those questions would be asked again, just over a year later, when another of America's favourite celebrities decided to go for "the big out." In the nearly 40 years since Hemingway's death, writers, scholars and journalists have been going over the evidence, reconstructing their various versions of what went wrong. But that other celebrity's death is still shrouded in mystery, still being argued. Even Norman Mailer would find the story of Marilyn Monroe intriguing enough to write a book about her.

* * * * *


By Kelley Dupuis

One of the first things you realize when you read Hemingway, and this was in fact one of the boldest brushstrokes in the portrait of himself which he presented to the world, is that the man loved to eat and drink. His Rabelaisian appetite for life included, (and quite logically so) a concomitant appetite for the pleasures of the table (not to mention the bar.)

In fact, it has occurred to me more than once that had Hemingway not taken up the writing of fiction as his life's work, he might have had a brilliant career as a restaurant critic for the slicker magazines, a sort of foul-mouthed Duncan Hines.

I've mentioned in other places the fact that the self-educated Hemingway liked to boast about the breadth of his reading and his knowledge of books; one of Hemingway's best-known affectations was in fact his claim to have "the inside dope" on just about everything, and that went for food and wine as well as books, baseball, boxing, battles, bullfighters and trout-fishing streams.

Yes, Hemingway loved to eat and drink. And of all the claims he made about himself which, over the years, various people have questioned, none succumbs to the pin-prick of evidence more quickly than his claim, late in life, that he and his first wife were going romantically hungry in Paris during the 1920s. True, they were living simply and economizing so that they could afford to go on ski trips and such, but starving? I don't want to be catty about this, but take a look at a photograph of Hemingway taken on his wedding day in 1921, and then glance at a photo of him taken in 1924 in the courtyard of 113 rue Notre Dame des Champs in Paris, where he and his wife Hadley were living at the time. After less than three years in Paris, the slender bridegroom of 1921 is already getting a bit jowly, and that suit he's wearing looks tight. If "hunger was good discipline," as he boasted in his late-life memoir A Moveable Feast, Hemingway was getting his discipline somewhere else. I won't stoop so low as to point out the irony in the book's title. (In fairness to Hemingway, I've been to Paris, and you can't not eat there. Those travel brochures which tout Paris as the world capital of good food are only stating an objective fact: it is that.)

I confess that I once ate something pretty disgusting, if not exactly on Hemingway's recommendation, then at least because he made it sound so good. No, it wasn't a thousand-legger, but in the terms that any gourmet would understand, it might as well have been.

I was 18 and had already been under Hemingway's spell for a couple of years. One fine Saturday afternoon I was re-reading one of my favourites among his early stories, Big Two Hearted River, Part I. I read through the following passage. (See if this doesn't make you hungry too, even though we're clearly not talking here about anything you'd be served at Michaud's in Paris):

    Nick was hungry. He did not believe he had ever been hungrier. He opened and emptied a can of pork and beans and a can of spaghetti into the frying pan. "I've got a right to eat this kind of stuff, if I'm willing to carry it," Nick said. His voice sounded strange in the darkening woods. He did not speak again.

Then a little further on:
    The beans and spaghetti warmed. Nick stirred them and mixed them together. They began to bubble, making little bubbles that rose with difficulty to the surface. There was a good smell. Nick got out a bottle of tomato catchup and cut four slices of bread. The little bubbles were coming faster now. Nick sat down beside the fire and lifted the frying pan off. He poured about half the contents out into the tin plate. It spread slowly on the plate. Nick knew it was too hot. He poured on some tomato catchup…He ate the whole plateful before he remembered the bread. Nick finished the second plateful with the bread, mopping the plate shiny…While he waited for the coffee to boil, he opened a can of apricots. He liked to open cans. He emptied the can of apricots out into a tin cup. While he watched the coffee on the fire, he drank the juice syrup of the apricots…

By now, depending on the sophistication of your palette, you're probably either salivating or becoming nauseated. But after reading this vivid passage, I just had to find out what all of this actually tasted like, so I walked over to Safeway and bought a can of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee spaghetti, a can of Van Camp's pork and beans, and a can of Del Monte apricots. Then, grossing my mother right out of the kitchen, I cooked up this mess, sliced some bread and dumped catchup over it, just like in the story.

You know, it actually wasn't bad, and sipping apricot juice right out of the can while the coffee was perking was also kind of pleasant.

Give me a break. I was 18.

Hemingway wrote "Big Two Hearted River" in 1923, when he was on the verge of his first triumphs. And although his powers waned with the passing years, the victims of too many injuries and too much booze, not to mention too much fame and adoration, more than 30 years later he had lost none of his touch for making his readers hungry. Check out this mouth-watering passage from A Moveable Feast in which Hemingway walks into Lipp's, a bistro on the left bank in Paris, and orders himself a fine lunch:

…I sat down on the bench against the wall with the mirror in back and a table in front and the waiter asked if I wanted beer and I asked for a distingue, the big glass mug that held a liter, and for potato salad.

The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink. The pommes a l'huile were firm and marinated and the olive oil delicious. I ground black pepper over the potatoes and moistened the bread in the olive oil. After the first heavy draft of beer I ate and drank very slowly. When the pommes a l'huile were gone I ordered another serving and a cervelas. This was a sausage like a heavy, wide frankfurter split in two and covered with a special mustard sauce.

I mopped up all the oil and all of the sauce with bread and drank the beer slowly until it began to lose its coldness and then I finished it and ordered a demi and watched it drawn. It seemed colder than the distingue and I drank half of it.

Are you hungry yet? I had to go to the kitchen while I was typing that out and get myself a snack. And by the way, Lipp's, like Pamplona, is one of those places that Hemingway "put on the map." A couple of years ago I was in Paris and thought I'd drop in at Lipp's and sample some hemingwayesque ambience. No way-the place was wall-to-wall tourists, all doing exactly what I was doing. I ended up having my lunch at a tiny Greek grill (not there in Hemingway's time, I'm sure) on a tiny side-street across from the Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame.

Or try this meal, from an earlier sketch in the same collection:

    I asked the waiter for a dozen Portugaises and a half-carafe of the dry white wine they had there…As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I...began to be happy and to make plans.

Yes, after a meal like that, I probably would too.

As the short-story example cited above makes clear, Hemingway didn't confine his culinary passages to memoirs. I always loved this little scene from The Sun Also Rises in which his two male characters, who have left a couple of bottles of wine in an ice-cold stream to chill while they go off trout-fishing, sit down to enjoy their picnic lunch and, using the news of the recent death of William Jennings Bryan as the springboard for a bit of typical snappy jazz-age repartee, indulge in a little creative playing-with-their-food:

    The wine was icy cold and tasted faintly rusty. "That's not such a filthy wine," Bill said. "The cold helps it," I said. We unwrapped the little parcels of lunch. "Chicken." "There's hard-boiled eggs." "Find any salt?" "First the egg," said Bill. "Then the chicken. Even Bryan could see that." "He's dead. I read it in the paper yesterday." "No. Not really?" "Yes. Bryan's dead." Bill laid down the egg he was peeling. "Gentlemen," he said, and unwrapped a drumstick from a piece of newspaper, "I reverse the order. For Bryan's sake. As a tribute to the Great Commoner. First the chicken, then the egg." "Wonder what day God created the chicken?" "Oh," said Bill, sucking the drumstick, "how should we know?"

In the almost universally-panned Across the River and Into the Trees (1950) Hemingway seems to spend half of what's purportedly a tragic love story going on and on about what his characters are sipping or digging into:

    "Two very dry martinis," the colonel said. "Montgomerys. Fifteen to one."…"The Martinis were icy cold and true Montgomerys, and after touching the edges, they felt them glow happily all through their upper bodies." …

    "Just then the lobster was served.

    It was tender, with the peculiar slippery grace of that kicking muscle which is the tail, and the claws were excellent, neither too thin nor too fat. "A lobster fills with the moon," the colonel told the girl. "When the moon is dark he is not worth eating."

It's been speculated that if Hemingway's editor Max Perkins had still been alive when Hemingway wrote this novel, he might have tried to persuade the touchy Hemingway to cut it down to novella-length. It would have been easy to do, actually-cut out all the talk about eating and drinking and Across the River would have been a novella by default.

In truth, Hemingway was anything but a gourmet. To the chagrin of anyone who had to live with him, in fact, one of his favourite taste-treats was raw onion sandwiches with plenty of ketchup. And although he boasted throughout his life of his supposedly great knowledge of wines, true wine connoisseurs who either knew him or have read his works assure us all that much of it was pose. No, Hemingway's value to us as a "food writer" does not lie in any claim he can make to directing his readers toward the most exquisite and the best-prepared. Rather, it lies where the rest of his value lies, in an art so deeply involved in the world of sense-experience, an art in which the five sensory organs are virtually instruments of thought and expression, that we share in that world, which Hemingway made to come alive at his fingertips. Just as Hemingway's chiselled prose brings us to breathe the air his characters breathe and feel their emotions at a remove, so that same prose makes us taste the meals they eat and savour the wines they sip in a world as three-dimensional as good writing can make it. Hemingway wrote well about everything he loved, and he loved a good meal. We're all a little richer (and maybe a little fatter) for his having done so.

* * * * * *


by Kelley Dupuis

In the movie Patton, George C. Scott, playing the role of the legendary-infamous World War II general, surveys a column of tanks advancing over rough terrain and says exultantly, "Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavour shrink to insignificance!"

That statement might have been taken directly from the mouth of Ernest Hemingway. While it would be wrong to say that Hemingway approved of war as a thing-in-itself the way Patton seems to have, (and by the way, Hemingway spent part of World War II with one of Patton's armoured divisions and thought little enough of the general to have one of his later fictional characters all but call Patton a pathological liar) the fact remains that violent death was one of Hemingway's lifelong fascinations, and if contemplating violent death is what you're after, war is as good as it gets.

Throughout Hemingway's life, timing was to be a key factor in what happened to him and in how he reacted. Hemingway's timing was always very good, whether with regard to external events or to his own endeavours first at becoming a writer and then at promulgating his career as one. With regard to timing, war was one of the areas in which history accommodated Hemingway-his lifetime spanned four major wars, three of which he saw close-up, though never as a soldier, and he often embroidered his war experiences for presentation to the home audience to make them look as "soldierly" as he possibly could. In his youth this would take the form of getting himself seriously wounded and then playing a form of "dress-up;" on a later occasion the play-acting almost got out of hand. But young or old, "playing soldier," whether in real-life or vicariously, through his fictional characters, was something Hemingway found nearly irresistible.

When he was young, it was part and parcel of his natural desire to be where the action was. Contemporaries who worked with the teenage Hemingway during his days as a cub reporter on the Kansas City Star reported that he would dash around the city compulsively, wanting always to know where the ambulance went, where the crime had occurred, and to get there quickly.

His tenure at the Star was to be a short one for precisely this reason. He had graduated from high school in 1917 and, turning down the chance to go to college, proceeded directly into newspaper work after an uncle pulled some strings and helped him get the job in Kansas City.

But 1917 was also the year that America entered World War I. Hemingway, like many young American males at the time, heard the stories coming back from Europe and was determined to get into the war somehow. He would have liked to enlist as a soldier, but his father was opposed to that idea and in any case Hemingway's famously poor vision in his left eye probably would have gotten him a 4-F. But while working on the Star, he struck up a friendship with 22 year-old Ted Brumback, who just the previous summer had enlisted in the American Field Service and spent four months in France as an ambulance driver. Since it was unlikely that he would get into the war as a combatant, Hemingway decided to go this route, and after persuading his father to drop his objections, he, Brumback and another friend, Wilson Hicks, signed on with the Red Cross and by the following spring were on their way to the war. They ended up serving in northern Italy, not far from Milan.

The world knows the rest of this story. On the night of July 8, 1918, while he was passing out chocolate bars, cigarettes and magazines to Italian soldiers on the Piave River near Fossalta, Hemingway's dream of being where the action was came true in nightmarish fashion. The Austrians launched a mortar attack and Hemingway was badly wounded by shrapnel. His later recuperation in a Red Cross hospital would include a brief romance with a nurse several years his senior, Agnes von Kurowsky. This romance, in turn, would result a decade later in his novel A Farewell to Arms, and many decades later, in 1996, in the movie In Love and War, although to the end of her life Kurowski kept denying that it ever happened.

Hemingway's natural flair for self-dramatization never had a better opportunity than this one. The relative gullibility of Americans on the home front during the First World War gave him a clear playing field for his love of pose. It was after all an era in which there was no CNN to bring the horrors of war right into everyone's living room. Even newsreels were in the future. The war was an ocean away, and the domestic attitude toward it was shaped by patriotic songs, jingoistic slogans and romantic stories of faraway Europe. Nineteen year-old Ernest Hemingway wasted no time in creating the image for the folks back home of himself as Warrior. He wrote extravagant letters claiming, among other things, that his wounds had been caused by machine-gun bullets as well as shrapnel. (This is still being argued.) He got himself all dolled up in a tailor-made uniform and had his picture taken wearing military insignia that he was not entitled to, and when he returned to Oak Park, Illinois the following winter, hobbling on a cane, his romantic tales of war were made more plausible by the soldier's cap and boots that he wore, not to mention the custom-made Italian cape.

Hemingway's next trip to war was a short one. In 1922 he was Paris correspondent for the Toronto Star and that newspaper sent him to Constantinople to cover the war between Greece and Turkey. He was there only for a few weeks, but the result was two striking pages of fiction, On The Quai at Smyrna, the "opening note" in his first book of short stories, in our time. He would not see war again for 14 years.

To outline the political and military chaos that brought about the Spanish Civil War (1936-38) would be beyond my purposes here, not to mention my space. Although this is a gross oversimplification, the war between those who supported the left-wing Popular Front in Spain and those who supported the right-wing National Front is often seen as having been a "dress rehearsal" for World War II, with Hitler backing one side and Stalin backing the other. Stalin's side lost the actual war, but won the propaganda war, not least because it was supported by a solid international phalanx of writers and intellectuals, not the least of whom was Ernest Hemingway.

In 1937-38, Hemingway went to Spain four times, the first three as a reporter for the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA.) By now an international celebrity with a hairy-chested image to maintain, he sent back reports from Madrid and from the countryside filled with details suggesting that he was constantly in danger from artillery bombardments as well as machine-gun and automatic rifle-fire. He was indeed in harm's way his share of times, and the evidence suggests that he always kept his composure in such situations. But as usual, his embroidering is never far away. He boasted that he was even in danger when he went to bed in his room at the Hotel Florida in Madrid, because as he explained to his readers, his room was on the front side of the building, facing the Nationalist guns two miles away. Here we find two of Hemingway's biographers offering different stories. In his groundbreaking 1969 biography, Carlos Baker tells us that Hemingway's roommate at the Hotel Florida was his old friend the American bullfighter Sidney Franklin. Franklin was indeed there, but Kenneth S. Lynn, in another biography published 17 years after Baker's, reveals that Hemingway's roommate at the Florida was actually his fellow journalist and soon-to-be third wife Martha Gellhorn, adding that he probably would not have been living there under those circumstances if it were as dangerous as he claimed.

Hemingway's involvement in the Spanish Civil War ended certain of his friendships, notably with fellow novelist John Dos Passos. Dos Passos was among those intellectuals who were initially sympathetic to the Loyalist cause, (another was George Orwell) but who, upon observing that the Communists and the anarchists were murdering people with no less alacrity than the fascists, became disillusioned with the cause (and in Dos Passos' case, with left-wing politics generally.) The politically-naive Hemingway, whose pride moreover dictated that he always seem to have more and better information than anyone else, refused to acknowledge the atrocities being committed on the Loyalist side and reported the war in a one-dimensional, one-sided manner. (Happy to the point of lionizing Hemingway at first, the political left would eventually turn against him when he recovered enough equanimity to write For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which he not only maligned such loyalist icons as Andre Marty, commander of the International Brigades, but also, in the book's "massacre" chapter, committed the heresy of depicting fascists as victims.)

But if his first two major wars had served as canvases on which Hemingway drew sketches of what he wanted his own legend to look like, his third and last war was to be the biggest such, and this time he pulled out all the stops as promoter of his own image, to the point where he came very close to getting into serious trouble.

Shortly before D-Day in 1944, Hemingway arrived in London as a correspondent for Collier's magazine. He was to cover the invasion of Normandy, and he accompanied a number of armoured and infantry battalions as they moved across France.

He was present on D-Day, was in fact aboard an LCVP landing craft as it advanced on Omaha Beach. Having dropped off its troops, the LCVP then returned to its ship with Hemingway still sitting astern. But what Hemingway subsequently wrote not only implied that he had gone ashore with the troops, but that he had played a vital role in helping to locate the beach. The Hemingway legend being what it was by then, few questioned his assertions.

And he was only warming up. Later came his claim to have entered Paris with the first troops, which led to the still-persisting myth that he personally liberated the Ritz Hotel. (Neither is true.)

And in fact this time Hemingway's military play-acting caught up with him. Other reporters resented his flamboyant showboating, which included travelling around to all appearances in command of a group of French Resistance irregulars and keeping firearms, bazookas, grenades and other ordnance in his Rambouillet hotel room. A complaint was filed that his activities were violating the Geneva Convention's rules regarding the conduct of news correspondents. In what must have been a particularly galling moment for him, Hemingway, at the risk of losing his reporter's credentials and being expelled from France, had to appear before a military panel and deny ever having taken part in any actual fighting himself. He offered deft excuses for some of the other things he was accused of, claiming for instance that weapons and ammunition had been kept in his hotel room only because storage space was in short supply.

But such was the Hemingway myth by 1944 that few concerned themselves with such niggling details. Hemingway had done such a good job for so many years as his own press agent, inflating his public persona to gargantuan proportions, that much of the world was prepared to accept his tall tales of war at face value. What few realized at the time was that Hemingway's real war, the one between his desire to go on living and his deep-seated desire not to, was even then being lost. Much of what passed for combat- zone bravery on Hemingway's part was in fact suicidal behaviour, a point he would drive home at the end of a shotgun barrel 17 years later.

Artist's rendering of Hemingway, Key WestA CASE OF IDENTITY: ERNEST HEMINGWAY

by Anders Hallengren

(28 August 2001)

The recognition of Hemingway as a major and representative writer of the United States of America, was a slow but explosive process. His emergence in the western canon was an even more adventurous voyage. His works were burnt in the bonfire in Berlin on May 10, 1933 as being a monument of modern decadence. That was a major proof of the writer's significance and a step toward world fame.

To read Hemingway has always produced strong reactions. When his parents received the first copies of their son's book In Our Time (1924), they read it with horror. Furious, his father sent the volumes back to the publisher, as he could not tolerate such filth in the house. Hemingway's apparently coarse, crude, vulgar and unsentimental style and manners appeared equally shocking to many people outside his family. On the other hand, this style was precisely the reason why a great many other people liked his work. A myth, exaggerating those features, was to be born.


After he had committed suicide at Ketchum, Idaho, in 1961, the literary position of the 1954 Nobel Laureate changed significantly and has, in a way, even become stronger. This is partly due to several posthumous works and collections that show the author’s versatility - A Moveable Feast (1964), By-Line (1967), 88 Poems (1979), and Selected Letters (1981). It is also the result of painstaking and successful Hemingway research, in which The Hemingway Society (USA) has played an important role since 1980.

Another result of this enduring interest is that many new aspects of Hemingway’s life and works that were previously obscured by his public image have now emerged into the light. On the other hand, posthumously published novels, such as Islands in the Stream (1970) and The Garden of Eden (1986), have disappointed many of the old Hemingway readers. However, rather than bearing witness to declining literary power, (which, considering the author’s declining health would, indeed, be a rather trivial observation even if it were true) the late works confront us with a reappraisal and reconsideration of basic values. They also display an unbiased seeking and experimentation, as if the author was losing both his direction and his footing, or was becoming unrestrained in a new way. Just as modern Hemingway scholarship has added immensely to the depth of our understanding of Hemingway - making him more and more difficult to define! - these works reveal and stress a complexity that may cause bewilderment or relief, depending on what perspective one adopts.


The slang word "hard-boiled", used to describe characters and works of art, was a product of twentieth century warfare. To be "hard-boiled" meant to be unfeeling, callous, coldhearted, cynical, rough, obdurate, unemotional, without sentiment. Later to become a literary term, the word originated in American Army World War I training camps, and has been in common, colloquial usage since about 1930.

Contemporary literary criticism regarded Ernest Hemingway’s works as marked by his use of this style, which was typical of the era. Indeed, in many respects they were regarded as the embodiment and symbol of hard-boiled literature.

However, neither Hemingway the man nor Hemingway the writer should be labeled "hard-boiled" - his style is the only aspect that deserves this epithet, and even that is ambiguous. Let us get down to basics, concentrate on one main feature in his literary style, and then turn to the alleged hard-boiled mind behind it, and his macho style of living and speaking.

An unmatched introduction to Hemingway’s particular skill as a writer is the beginning of A Farewell to Arms, certainly one of the most pregnant opening paragraphs in the history of the modern American novel. In that passage the power of concentration reaches a peak, forming a vivid and charged sequence, as if it were a 10-second video summary. It is packed with events and excitement, yet significantly frosty, as if unresponsive and numb, like a silent flashback dream sequence in which bygone images return, pass in review and fade away, leaving emptiness and quietude behind them. The lapidary writing approaches the highest style of poetry, vibrant with meaning and emotion, while the pace is maintained by the exclusion of any descriptive redundancy, of obtrusive punctuation, and of superfluous or narrowing emotive signs:

    IN the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterwards the road bare and white except for the leaves.

At the end of the sixteenth chapter of Death in the Afternoon the author approaches a definition of the "hard-boiled" style:

"If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things."

Ezra Pound taught him "to distrust adjectives" (A Moveable Feast). That meant creating a style in accordance with the esthetics and ethics of raising the emotional temperature towards the level of universal truth by shutting the door on sentiment, on the subjective.


Later biographic research revealed, behind the macho façade of boxing, bullfighting, big-game hunting and deep-sea fishing he built up, a sensitive and vulnerable mind that was full of contradictions.

In Hemingway, sentimentality, sympathy, and empathy are turned inwards, not restrained, but vibrant below and beyond the level of fact and fable. The reader feels their presence although they are not visible in the actual words. That is because of Hemingway’s awareness of the relation between the truth of facts and events and his conviction that they produce corresponding emotions.

"Find what gave you the emotion; what the action was that gave you the excitement. Then write it down making it clear so the reader will see it too and have the same feeling as you had."

That was the essence of his style, to focus on facts. Hemingway aimed at "the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or in ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always" (Death in the Afternoon). In Hemingway, we see a reaction against Romantic turgidity and vagueness: back to basics, to the essentials. Thus his new realism in a new key resembles the old Puritan simplicity and discipline; both of them refrained from exhibiting the sentimental, the relative.

Hemingway's sincere and stern ambition was to approach Truth, clinging to an as yet unwritten code, a higher law which he referred to as "an absolute conscience as unchanging as the standard meter in Paris" (Green Hills of Africa, I: 1).


Though Hemingway seems to have seen himself and life in general reflected in war, he himself never became reconciled to it. His mind was in a state of civil war, fighting demons inwardly as well as outwardly. In the long run defeat is as revealing and fundamental as victory: we are all losers, defeated by death. To live is the only way to face the ordeal, and the ultimate ordeal in our lives is the opposite of life. Hence Hemingway's obsession with death. Deep sea fishing, bull-fighting, boxing, big-game hunting, war, - all are means of ritualizing the death struggle in his mind - it is very explicit in books such as A Farewell to Arms and Death in the Afternoon, which were based on his own experience.

Modern investigations into so-called Near-Death Experiences (NDE) such as those by Raymond Moody, Kenneth Ring and many others, have focused on a pattern of empirical knowledge gained on the threshold of death; a dream-like encounter with unknown border regions. There is a parallel in Hemingway's life, connected with the occasion when he was seriously wounded at midnight on July 8, 1918, at Fossalta di Piave in Italy and nearly died. He was the first American to be wounded in Italy during World War I. Here is a case of NDE in Hemingway, and I think that is of basic importance, pertinent to the understanding of all Hemingway's work. In A Farewell to Arms, an experience of this sort occurs to the ambulance driver Frederic Henry, Hemingway's alter ego, wounded in the leg by shellfire in Italy. (Concerning the highly autobiographical nature of A Farewell to Arms, see Michael S. Reynolds’s documentary work Hemingway's First War: The Making of A Farewell to Arms, Princeton University Press 1976). As regards the NDE, we can note the incidental expression "to go out in a blaze of light" (letter to his family, Milan Oct. 18, 1918), and the long statement about what had occurred: Milan, July 21, 1918 (Selected Letters, ed. Carlos Baker, 1981).

Hemingway touched on that crucial experience in his life – what he had felt and thought - in the short story "Now I Lay Me" (1927):

"my soul would go out of my body ... I had been blown up at night and felt it go out of me and go off and then come back"

- and again, briefly, in In Our Time in the lines on the death of Maera. It reappears, in another setting and form, in the image of immortality in the African story The Snows of Kilimanjaro, where the dying Harry knows he is going to the peak called "Ngàje Ngài", which means, as explained in Hemingway's introductory note, "the House of God".


Hemingway's seeming insensitive detachment is only superficial, a compulsive avoidance of the emotional, but not of the emotionally tinged or charged. The pattern of his rigid, dispassionate compressed style of writing and way of life gives a picture of a touching Jeremiad of human tragedy. Hemingway's probe touches nerves, and they hurt. But through the web of failure and disillusion there emerges a picture of human greatness, of confidence even.

Hemingway was not the Nihilist he has often been called. As he belonged to the Protestant nay-saying tradition of American dissent, the spirit of the American Revolution, he denied the denial and acceded to the basic truth which he found in the human soul: the will to live, the will to persevere, to endure, to defy. The all-pervading sense of loss is, indirectly, affirmative. Hemingway's style is a compulsive suppression of unbearable and inexpressible feelings in the chaotic world of his times, where courage and independence offered a code of survival. Sentiments are suppressed to the boil.

The frontier mentality had become universal - the individual is on his own, like a Pilgrim walking into the unknown with neither shelter nor guidance, thrown upon his own resources, his strength and his judgment. Hemingway's style is the style of understatement since his hero is a hero of action, which is the human condition.

There is an illuminating text in William James (1842-1910) which is both significant and reminiscent, bridging the gap between Puritan moralism, its educational parables and exempla, and lost-generation turbulent heroism. In a letter written in Yosemite Valley to his son, Alexander, William James wrote:

    "I saw a moving sight the other morning before breakfast in a little hotel where I slept in the dusty fields. The young man of the house had shot a little wolf called coyote in the early morning. The heroic little animal lay on the ground, with his big furry ears, and his clean white teeth, and his jolly cheerful little body, but his brave little life was gone. It made me think how brave all these living things are. Here little coyote was, without any clothes or house or books or anything, with nothing but his own naked self to pay his way with, and risking his life so cheerfully - and losing it - just to see if he could pick up a meal near the hotel. He was doing his coyote-business like a hero, and you must do your boy-business, and I my man-business bravely, too, or else we won't be worth as much as a little coyote." (The Letters of William James, ed. Henry James, Little, Brown and Co.: Boston 1926.)

The courageous coyote thus serves as a moral example, illustrating a philosophy of life which says that it is worth jeopardizing life itself to be true to one's own nature. That is precisely the point of the frozen leopard close to the western summit of Kilimanjaro in Hemingway’s famous short story. That is the explanation of what the leopard was seeking at that altitude, and the answer was given time and again in the works of Ernest Hemingway.

* * *

But what about the ugliness, then? What about all the evil, the crude, the rude, the rough, the vulgar aspects of his work, even the horror, which dismayed people? How could all that be compatible with moral standards? He justified the inclusion of such aspects in a letter to his "Dear Dad" in 1925:

    "The reason I have not sent you any of my work is because you or Mother sent back the In Our Time books. That looked as though you did not want to see any. You see I am trying in all my stories to get the feeling of the actual life across - not to just depict life - or criticize it - but to actually make it alive. So that when you have read something by me you actually experience the thing. You can't do this without putting in the bad and the ugly as well as what is beautiful. Because if it is all beautiful you can't believe in it. Things aren't that way. It is only by showing both sides - 3 dimensions and if possible 4 that you can write the way I want to.

    So when you see anything of mine that you don't like remember that I'm sincere in doing it and that I'm working toward something. If I write an ugly story that might be hateful to you or to Mother the next one might be one that you would like exceedingly."


Like many other of his works, True at First Light was a blend of autobiography and fiction in which the author identified with the first person narrator. The author, who never kept a journal or wrote an autobiography in his life, draws on experience for his realism, slightly transforming events in his life. In this sense, the posthumous novel Islands in the Stream is in some places neither fictional nor fictitious. The Garden of Eden, however, a book brimming with the author’s vulnerability just as A Farewell to Arms is, treats intimate and delicate matters. It is a story told in the third person, as are all his major works. Thus we get to know the writer David Bourne, assuredly an explorer like Daniel Boone, on his adventurous Mediterranean honeymoon.

The anti-hero’s wife in The Garden of Eden, Catherine Bourne, is one of the most persuasive and lively heroines in Hemingway’s works. She is depicted with fascination and fear, like Marcel Proust’s Albertine and, at least in name, she reminds us of the strong and attractive Catherine Barkley (alias the seven-year-older Agnes Von Kurowsky), the Red Cross heroine in A Farewell to Arms. The former character is much more complex and difficult to define, however, and her ardor and the fire of marital love prove consuming and transmogrifying.

Living at the Grau ("canal") du Roi, on the shores of the stream that runs from Aigues-Mortes straight down to the sea, the newly wedded couple in The Garden of Eden live in a borderland where "water" and "death" are key words, and where connotations like L’eau du Léthe present themselves: Eros and Thanatos, love and death, paradise and trespass.

In this innocent borderland, moral limits are immediately extended, and conventional roles are reversed. Sipping his post-coital fine à l’eau in the afternoon, David Bourne feels relieved of all the problems he had before his marriage, and has no thought of "writing nor anything but being with this girl," who absorbs him and assumes command. Then the blond, sun-tanned Catherine appears with her hair "cropped as short as a boy’s," declaring:

"now I am a boy ... You see why it’s dangerous, don’t you? ... Why do we have to go by everyone else’s rules? We’re us ... Please understand and love me ... I am Peter ... You’re my beautiful lovely Catherine."

From that moment the tables are turned. David-Catherine accepts and submits, and Catherine-Peter takes over the man’s role. She mounts him in bed at night, and penetrates him in conjugal bliss:

"He had shut his eyes and he could feel the long light weight of her on him ... and then lay back in the dark and did not think at all and only felt the weight and the strangeness inside and she said: ‘Now you can’t tell who is who can you?"


Women with a gamin hairstyle, lovers who cut and dye their hair and change sexual roles, are themes that, with variations, occur in his novels from A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, to the posthumous Islands in the Stream. They culminate in The Garden of Eden. When writing The Garden of Eden he appeared as a redhead one day in May 1947. When asked about it, he said he had dyed his hair by mistake. In that novel, the search for complete unity between the lovers is carried to extremes. It may seem that the halves of the primordial Androgyne of the Platonic myth (once cut in two by Zeus and ever since longing to become a complete being again) are uniting here. Set in a fictional Paradise, a Biblical "Eden", the novel is perhaps even more a story about expulsion, the loss of innocence, and the ensuing liberation, about knowledge acquired through the Fall, which is the basis of culture, about the ordeals and the high price an author must pay to become a writer worthy of his salt. Against a mythical background, the voice of Hemingway’s father is heard, challenging his son, as did the Father in the Biblical Garden. Slightly disguised, Hemingway’s dear father, who haunted his son’s life and work even after he had shot himself in 1928, remained an internalized critic until Ernest also took his life in 1961. Hemingway's père pressed his ambivalent son to surpass himself and produce a distinct and lively multidimensional text, - "3 dimensions and if possible 4":

"He found he knew much more about his father than when he had first written this story and he knew he could measure his progress by the small things which made his father more tactile and to have more dimensions than he had in the story before."

After they had committed honeymoon adultery with the girl both spouses equally love passionately, David exclaims: "We’ve been burned out ... Crazy woman burned out the Bournes." This consuming and transforming fire of love and its subsequent trials and transgressions, in the end has a purging effect on the writer, who finally, as if emerging from a chrysalis stage, rises like the Phoenix from his bed and sits down in a regenerated mood to write in a perfect style:

    "He got out his pencils and a new cahier, sharpened five pencils and began to write the story of his father and the raid in the year of the Maji-Maji rebellion ... David wrote steadily and well and the sentences that he had made before came to him complete and entire and he put them down, corrected them, and cut them as if he were going over proof. Not a sentence was missing ... He wrote on a while longer now and there was no sign that any of it would ever cease returning to him intact."


But why is Maji-Maji so important to the author when he has attained perfection?

When Tanzania gained independence in 1961-62, President Julius Nyerere proclaimed that the new republic was the fulfillment of the Maji-Maji dream. The Maji-Maji Rebellion had been a farmers’ revolt against colonial rule in German East Africa in 1905-1907. It began in the hill country southwest of Dar es-Salaam and spread rapidly until the insurrection was finally crushed after some 70,000 Africans had been killed. The farmers challenged the German militia fearlessly, crying "Maji! Maji!" when they attacked, believing themselves to be protected from bullets and death by "magic water". Maji is Swahili for "water" – one of the key words in Hemingway’s novel.

The conviction and purposefulness of the Maji-Maji in The Garden of Eden, corresponds to the Kenyan Mau-Mau context of the novel True at First Light, which Hemingway started writing after his East African safari in 1953. Mau Mau was an insurrection of Kikuyo farm laborers in 1952. It was led by Jomo Kenyatta, who was subsequently held in prison until he became the premier of Kenya in 1963 (and the first President of the Republic in 1964). For Kikuyo men or women (and there were several women in the movement), to join Mau Mau meant dedicating their lives to a cause and sacrificing everything else, it meant taking a sacred oath that definitely cut them off from decorum and ordinary life.

In Hemingway’s vision, Maji-Maji and Mau Mau blend with his notion of the ideal committed writer, a man who is prepared to die for his art, and for art’s sake.

In the private library of Dag Hammarskjöld, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after his death in the Congo (Africa) in 1961, the year Hemingway died, a copy of the beautiful original edition of A Farewell to Arms (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929) may still be seen (now in the Royal Library, Stockholm). In a way it is significant that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who was dedicated to peacemaking, should have been a Hemingway reader.

* * * * * * * *


I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AMAZED at the place that Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) has achieved in American letters. To be sure, he was a celebrity and I have no argument or quarrel with those who have made him so. I simply believe that he is not a novelist who deserves the adulation that he has received from the American public. Hemingway is very much like the musician who knows only one note or tune and who plays it over and over again, and as a result enters the pantheon of artists.

More than anyone else, perhaps, Ernest Hemingway was the most famous representative of the so-called "lost generation," that group of young writers who contributed to one of the greatest outpourings of modern literature in our history. For the most part, they were young men who were either directly or indirectly involved in World War I and who belonged to a young generation that went to fight in that war, having been brought up on a very romantic and idealistic diet of Jeffersonianism and American Transcendentalism. Yet, they emerged from the experience of the war disillusioned and bitter. This disillusionment served more than anything else as a stimulus for a remarkably impressive literary production and a philosophical stance on life represented in that literature.

"The American Dream" is an expression that has been used to describe America and its promise to the individual, in which we can detect the thrust of three very essential influences: the Puritan "wealth-goodness concept," Jeffersonian democracy, and the Transcendentalist idea of the dignity of man. In The Great Gatsby (1925), F. Scott Fitzgerald addresses the "wealth-goodness concept" and its effect on American life, clearly subordinating any notion of a positive correlation between the possession of wealth and the possession of character and goodness. Clearly, for him, rich people were not and are not the "best" people. Hemingway, in his work, rejects the Transcendentalist notion that man is free to do what he wishes, that human beings create their own destinies, that nothing is preordained, and that man is in complete control of his own life. Fate, according to the Transcendentalists, is an expression of nature; nature was one with God and God was higher than man. Hence, fate was no threat to man. Hemingway's theme is a rejection of this principle.

Hemingway's essential message is that man is a helpless victim of a malevolent environment, an environment which inflicts violence and pain. He believed that life wounds all of us unreasonably; it wounds each of us in a way that is most hurtful. If we love something then we will lose it because life will rob us of it. John Aldridge, the well-known American critic on literature, suggests that Hemingway's characters behave according to a "code" which is necessary if one is to survive as a human being in a threatening world. It is the code of the hero who suffers from an "unreasonable wound," and who is inwardly tough and outwardly reticent, and who must be able to live by self-restraint and perhaps even by self-hypnosis. One must show no emotions and form no emotional attachments. One must face life realistically without resorting to abstractions or to complex thought. This stance, this code of conduct, is clearly defensive. Hemingway has turned it into a kind of religion that insures safe-conduct through life.

He believes that emotions will "tip off" those who are out to "get us." If we show emotions and find ourselves, for example, openly expressing love for someone, then that person will in time be taken away from us. We have, you see, tipped our hand by showing our emotions. If we become directly or intimately involved with someone else or with some cause, then that person or that cause will be destroyed. We have shown a weak spot by our involvement.

In Hemingway's code, love is dangerous and therefore inadmissible since to love is to render oneself vulnerable to fate. When you love, you lose, and this law lies beyond the will of man. We cannot affect it, although we would like sometimes to think that we can. In A Farewell to Arms (1929), Frederick Henry is living a relatively safe life as an ambulance driver on the Italian front in World War I. He is uncommitted and has no genuine commitment to the war or to a cause. Things go well for him until he falls in love with a nurse and after that all hell breaks loose. Catherine Barkley, the nurse, is taken away from him and from then on his life is chaotic. He is ruined. Toward the end of A Farewell to Arms, Frederick Henry, the protagonist awaiting the agonizing death of Catherine, says in a monologue: "They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base they killed you. Or they killed you gratuitously like Aymo. Or gave you the syphilis like Rinaldi. But they killed you in the end. You could count on that. Stay around and they would kill you." It seems to me that this is Hemingway's basic theme--the danger of commitment to anyone or to any cause, even to life itself. As a refutation of commitment, it exposes young people to a moral and ethical relativism insofar as it completely denies that human beings have any responsibility to anything or to anyone other than to themselves.

In other words, Hemingway is saying that in order to be invulnerable, life must be performed as a ritual, and the ritual of the bullfight is Hemingway's emblem of man's appropriate role in life. In fact, the bullfight became an obsession for Hemingway, with the matador acting as the representative of the individual in Hemingway's lexicon. The matador faces the full, the extreme danger, without showing fear and almost with an indifference as to whether or not he survives. This is not because he does not care to survive, for he cares a great deal, though he is showing or attempting to show through his indifference that he does not care. In so doing he protects himself from a cruel fate that he knows is "out to get him" but will leave him alone for a while because "it" does not know that he really wants to live.

Life for Hemingway is unreasonable and its wound is unreasonable. In some ways, one could say that the disinterested factor in Hemingway's code ("grace under pressure") is the first expression of "cool." Hemingway was a frightened man and "cool" people are frightened people. Be "cool," show no emotion, and live by ritual. I submit that this approach is the legacy that Hemingway has left to society. In The Sun Also Rises (1926), we see that, while Jake Barnes lives a controlled life, things run rather smoothly, but when he becomes emotionally involved, life becomes unbearably painful. In short, in this novel, Hemingway's characters are playing it "cool." Some literary critics claim that Hemingway's treatment of Robert Cohn is anti-Semitic, but I would submit that it is not anti-Semitism that causes the figures in the novel to turn against Robert. Rather it is the fact that he is a relatively normal person capable of showing love and anger and resentment. Since he is not the least bit "cool," then, he is conceivably a threat to the other characters.

Hemingway has achieved one artistic goal, and that is because he has devised a style of writing which perfectly carries out his theme. In it, for example, there are no, or at most a very few, introductory adverbial clauses since an introductory adverbial clause implies a cause and effect principle in life. For instance, Hemingway would not write the sentence, "It began to rain and I got dry." He would be much more apt to say, "When it began to rain, I got dry." In essence, what Hemingway is saying is that there is no rhyme nor reason to life and that "they" threaten us all the time and offer us no warning but kill us gratuitously. To read the first chapter of A Farewell to Arms is to come into contact with typical Hemingway prose. It is made up of a series of coordinate clauses, representing, in my opinion, life which lurches at us, camouflaging the one clause that will eventually kill us. This chapter ends with a typical Hemingway understatement: "At the start of the winter came the permanent rain and with the rain came the cholera. But it was checked and in the end only seven thousand died of it in the army." Only seven thousand! That is a true understatement and is typical of Hemingway's belief that the only way to survive in a violent world is to pretend that one does not care; indeed, minimizing seven thousand deaths is a very good way of minimizing one's concern for life.

And so I would say that Ernest Hemingway, aside from the fact that he was able to create a singular style that expressed his credo and theme, had only one tune to play. It is the theme of non-commitment and uninvolvement. This is a nihilistic idea and does not in the end qualify him for the honor of literary genius that has been assigned to him by American critics.

Stephen Crane, in The Red Badge of Courage (1895), a novel written only a few years before The Sun Also Rises, pictures nature as being indifferent toward man and this is frightening enough. Hemingway, however, goes one step further and pictures life as being actually "out to get us" while we remain helpless in the face of a pitiless fate. In order to ratify his view of life, his people must show no emotion or involvement in anything. We can express no allegiance to any cause, for if we let our guard down we will fall into an emotional trap that life has prepared for us, and ultimately we will suffer greatly. The humanistic idea that man has dignity or that he is able to control his environment or his future destiny is refuted over and over again by that famous "cool" member of the "lost generation," Ernest Hemingway himself.

* * * * * *


(St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, 2002)

At the height of his popularity, Ernest Hemingway was hailed as the greatest writer of American literature, a hero of several wars, a world-class sportsman in the fields of bullfighting, boxing, hunting, and fishing, and a connoisseur of food, wine, writing, and painting. He was viewed as a colossus who strode all fields of action, excelling in all the manly pursuits. At his worst, Hemingway was derided as a writer who specialized in evasion and repression; an illiterate, inarticulate ox who avoided literary circles to disguise his own limitations; a bully, misogynist, and homophobe with the world's most famous castration anxiety; a self-aggrandizing egotist and poseur who shamelessly promoted the legend of his exploits in popular magazines; a belligerent and jealous writer who betrayed and publicly insulted all the authors who helped his career; an overpaid, glorified journalist who sold his talent to feed his ego, ending up as a rich, decadent alcoholic who succumbed to dementia in later years, and who finally took his own life when he realized that he could not write anymore.

Born Ernest Miller Hemingway in Oak Park, Illinois, on July 21, 1899, Hemingway developed his terse style by writing for the Kansas City Star in 1917. In 1918 he volunteered as a Red Cross ambulance driver in Italy, where he was badly wounded attempting to save a soldier's life. Hemingway's war experiences and his severe injuries seem to have carved a deep scar in the young man's psyche, and he suffered from insomnia and a fear of sleeping in the dark. All his early writing reveals a preoccupation with violence and wounds, and a terror of death. The honesty with which Hemingway wrote about naked emotions in the 1920s--which contrasts sharply with the bloated legend of himself that he promoted in the 1930s and beyond--was immediately greeted as a major innovation in modern writing. His rapid development and swift rise to acclaim derived from his willingness to learn from older writers: while living in Paris among the expatriates he sought, and followed, the advice of Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Though most famous for his terse, stark narrative style and realistic dialogue, Hemingway was certainly not the first to write plainly and simply; he did not singlehandedly overthrow the decadent conventions of the Victorian novel. Many predecessors, including Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein, and Sherwood Anderson, had cleared the prolix path that Hemingway strode more boldly. He did however drive verbal terseness and austerity to its limit, setting an unsurpassable standard, while avoiding Stein's and Anderson's eccentricities. Hemingway's early prose was taut and brittle, achieving its effects through extremely subtle suggestion while refusing to be "literary." He jettisoned the worn accouterments of alliteration, assonance, simile, and metaphor to look directly at life and report only what he saw, unencumbered by literary conventions. This does not mean, however, that Hemingway's fiction was stripped of emotion, as it may seem to a careless reader. Hemingway refrained from describing emotion, avoiding phrases like "he felt," or "he thought," and discarding adverbs and adjectives, but he suggested the characters' emotions by reporting what they saw, noticed, or did. For instance, in the short story "Big Two-Hearted River," Hemingway conveys the anxiety of a veteran, Nick Adams, returning home from the war and trying to repress his painful memories. But the author does this not by telling us that Nick is trying to repress his thoughts, but rather by meticulously reporting Nick's concentration on mundane but consoling activities such as fishing and making lunch. Such indirect and subtle effects were quite powerful when done well, but could result in long passages of pointlessness when done badly, as in some of his later work.

Also notable in his early writing is a willingness to portray what his characters really felt rather than what they were supposed to feel. He did not care to write edifying stories: if his character felt empty and hollow after an event that was supposed to make a respectable man feel sad, the story gained power through its honest realism. The most successful specimens of Hemingway's method were his short stories. His first novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926), also managed to sustain the dramatic tension and power of the shorter works. Hemingway made extensive revisions at Fitzgerald's suggestion, and the book revealed remarkable parallels with Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925). But ironically Hemingway soon displaced Fitzgerald as the major new author of the postwar generation. Fitzgerald had been feted as the author of the Jazz Age, and appealed to collegiate readers stateside. Hemingway became known as the author of the "Lost Generation" (though the phrase, made famous by Gertrude Stein, referred cynically to the same generation as Fitzgerald's Jazz Age). Hemingway made a stronger impression among war veterans, and The Sun Also Rises became the most significant work of the growing genre of post-war novels about world-weary veterans. The book was amazingly influential: young women began talking like the flippant heroine, Brett Ashley, and young men started acting like Jake Barnes or Hemingway's other male characters, muttering tough-sounding understatements and donning the repressive sackcloth of machismo. Hemingway's portrayal of the wounded, taciturn hero resounded among men who might not ordinarily read "serious literature," and validated an archetype in popular culture which survived for several generations in icons such as John Wayne, Charles Bronson, and Clint Eastwood.

Hemingway's next novel, A Farewell to Arms (1929), returned to the theme of the wounded soldier, and the pastoral charms of escape and a "separate peace." It was a bestseller, as all of Hemingway's subsequent books would be, and secured his reputation as a major author. Unfortunately, A Farewell to Arms marked the end of Hemingway's rapid development and uncompromised artistic integrity. In 1932, he published Death in the Afternoon, a handbook on the art of bullfighting. Treating bullfighting as a tragic ritual, the book provides many insights into Hemingway's views on death, performance, courage, and art -- all important themes in his fiction. Although the book has interesting digressions on literature, it also has entire chapters devoted to specific bullfighting techniques or appraisals of long-dead bullfighters which make for very tedious reading.

But the real subject of the book was not bullfighting; it was Hemingway. In Fame Became of Him, John Raeburn identifies nine personae that Hemingway projected in Death in the Afternoon and in later autobiographical works: world traveler, arbiter of taste, bon vivant, heroic artist, exposer of sham, initiated insider, battle-scarred stoic, sportsman, and manly man. Three of these--arbiter of taste, world traveler, and bon vivant -- form a cluster of roles typical of the literary gentleman. Writers can often be counted on to offer tips on wine, dining, arts, and travel. In these roles Hemingway was similar to the effete, foppish dilettantes whom he usually detested, such as Ford Maddox Ford or Henry James. To a lesser extent, the roles of heroic artist, exposer of sham, and initiated insider are also common among writers. The heroic artist who suffers for his muse was a familiar pose of the Romantics (particularly Byron), and the exposer of sham has a long pedigree in satirical writing. The battle-scarred stoic had become a common, though resonant, figure in post-war writing. The initiated insider was partly related to the veteran figure, but initiation into a select fraternity of like-minded fellows became quintessentially Hemingway. He pretended to follow a code of conduct which was all the more dignified for being unspoken, above defense, and inscrutable to outsiders.

But the uniqueness and popularity of Hemingway's public personality lay in joining these highbrow roles with those of sportsman and manly man. Readers knew of his interest in fishing, hunting, and bullfighting from his early fiction, where these sports were embraced as pastoral pleasures of escape for the physically or mentally wounded, solitary pastimes for taciturn men. But when described as Hemingway's own hobbies in his non-fiction, they lost the therapeutic element--presumably because Hemingway was loath to admit any psychological wounds -- and became games of competition, obligatory tasks of masculinity, demonstrations of "cojones," or balls. Indeed, Hemingway seemed to devote the rest of his life from the 1930s onward to proving his cojones, perhaps embarrassed by theories that Jake Barnes, the protagonist of The Sun Also Rises whose penis was shot off in the war, was an autobiographical character. In later works Hemingway seemed to dissociate himself from such vulnerable characters, and also alienated himself from writers -- an unmanly lot -- by quarreling with, defaming, and even threatening almost every major writer of his generation. He derided homosexuals in Death in the Afternoon, dismissing the artistry of Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, Andre Gide, Walt Whitman, and Francisco Goya on the theory that they were inherently flawed and therefore disqualified as artists.

Such masculine posturing proved enormously popular, and soon after Death in the Afternoon Hemingway began a series of essays for the newly founded men's magazine, Esquire, which was marketed toward a sophisticated, though not intellectual, audience. He wrote 36 Esquire essays on topics such as fishing, hunting, and wine. He even wrote beer ads disguised as essays. Whereas Death in the Afternoon had a professed artistic impetus in Hemingway's desire to view death in order to write "truly" about the experience, the Esquire articles lacked any artistic purpose and were pointedly non-literary. Hemingway was beginning to fashion a new character, whose name was Ernest Hemingway. He continued this farce in another book of non-fiction, Green Hills of Africa (1935). A personal account of Hemingway's safari adventure, Green Hills of Africa reads more like a novel than Death in the Afternoon, sporting vivid descriptions of action and dialogue. But Hemingway's style of writing "truly" faltered the more he wrote about himself: the book simply promoted the virile Hemingway legend without revealing anything intimate about the author. The Esquire experience and his swelling fame distorted his self-awareness and blurred his ability to distinguish fact and fiction. His self-aggrandizing grew more frequent as the burgeoning medium of photojournalism got bigger and flashier. Hemingway's striking demeanor and handsome, husky appearance made him a favorite of glossy magazines such as Life and Look, which wedded big colorful photos to the trenchant aphorisms Hemingway was happy to provide.

Another product of Hemingway's African adventure was the short story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," which told of a writer who, dying of gangrene while hunting in Africa, realizes too late that he has squandered his talent. The protagonist laments "poor Scott Fitzgerald" as a writer ruined by his fascination with the rich. Hemingway thus deflected suspicion that the ruined writer of the story might represent himself by this slanderous jab at Fitzgerald. Whether or not he needed this decoy to write with his old frankness, he wrought a rich and complex story. However, most critics recognized that the declining writer was Hemingway himself, and soon it would be obvious to everyone.

When Hemingway finally returned to novel writing in 1937 with To Have and Have Not he was a very different writer from the artistic innovator of the 1920s. Whereas his earlier fiction masterfully portrayed vulnerable characters through extremely subtle prose which seemed to mirror the repressed nature of the character himself, in To Have and Have Not repression triumphs over revelation. Masking his own vulnerabilities, Hemingway also masked those of his characters, stripping them of human interest. His latest protagonist, Harry Morgan, a tough-talking weapons smuggler in trouble with the mafia and the government, betrayed no weakness and awoke no pathos. After losing his arm in an accident, he stoically responds, "[If] you lose an arm, you lose an arm." The novel was barely distinguishable from pulp fiction. Hemingway's half-hearted attempts at political significance made the work more embarrassing than redeeming. During the Depression, critics of the New Left favored novels of social relevance, like those of John Steinbeck or Sinclair Lewis. Many writers of the 1920s, such as Fitzgerald and Thornton Wilder, had fallen out of critical favor for their indifference to politics. Hemingway, who seemed to appeal to the common man because of his simple prose and simple pleasures, was urged by some critics to write more socially relevant stories. He capitulated with To Have and Have Not, and found favor with the more naive members of the Left, but most critics recognized the novel as politically simplistic. Although the novel was a bestseller, and Hemingway was more popular than ever, his critical reputation sunk to its lowest.

Whereas William Faulkner had spent the 1930s producing one masterpiece after another in the most astonishing series of achievements in American literature since Henry James, Hemingway had churned out a preponderance of facile nonfiction, mostly in slick popular magazines. Always jealously competitive, Hemingway responded to the challenge of Faulkner's achievement and set out to regain the championship he had held in the 1920s. The result was For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), his longest and most ambitious work. The novel seems to have been intended as his masterpiece, embracing a wider range of themes than any of his previous novels. However, Hemingway's carefully crafted style was ill-suited for such a broad canvas, and the novel's sheer bulk diluted the potency of his prose. The novel was almost as politically simplistic as To Have and Have Not. Although Hemingway strove to weave grand themes of nature, technology, and the unity of mankind, his truer, deeper preoccupations were still with the solitary man proving his mettle and facing death alone. The hero, Robert Jordan, was cut from the same cloth as earlier Hemingway heroes, solitary, glum, absinthe-drinking men. Robert Jordan was a professor of Spanish, but the intellectual side of the character was sketchy, unconvincing, and incongruent with his more familiar Hemingwayesque traits. The intended effect of the novel was unachieved. Hemingway failed to unify his themes and symbols, all the more ironic since the unity of mankind was the overarching theme. Nevertheless, the novel was extraordinarily successful, selling 360,000 copies and generating a movie.

Hemingway continued to make money by writing for Collier's magazine as a war correspondent in Europe during World War II. The 1940s were highly profitable for Hemingway, and brought him fame as a war hero (although the extent of his military participation is disputed). He did not return to novel writing until 1950. At the pinnacle of fame and arrogance, Hemingway consented to an interview with Lilian Ross, in which he boasted about his forthcoming work and his enduring position as "champ" in American fiction. This memorable character sketch, entitled "How Do You Like It, Now, Gentlemen?" was very different from the usual adulating articles honoring Hemingway as a champion sportsman and manly man. Although affectionate, the sketch revealed Hemingway's eccentricities and egotism. He called himself Papa, posing as the wise, grizzled old man of American letters. He claimed that he had once lived with a bear in Montana, where they drank and slept together. But what proved to be most embarrassing to Hemingway was his boast that his forthcoming novel would be his best ever. When Across the River and into the Trees appeared four months later, it was almost unanimously regarded as the worst novel of his career. It was an abysmal work, so poorly written that it seemed a parody of his own style, riddled with his pet words "good," "true," "well," and so on. Though not without redeeming qualities, it is best enjoyed as a parody of the famous Hemingway style from the master's own pen.

The contrast between Hemingway's published boastfulness and the critics' sudden disfavor became even more painful when Faulkner won the Nobel Prize that same year. Five years earlier Faulkner had been a well-kept secret, and Hemingway (in his role as initiated insider and arbiter of taste) had been able to confide to Jean-Paul Sartre and others that Faulkner was a better writer than himself. Once Faulkner won the Nobel Prize, and myriad belated accolades tumbled his way, Hemingway could no longer regard himself as the champ of American letters, as he had boasted in the Ross interview, and he turned on Faulkner, declaring that no one ever wrote a decent novel after winning the Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, Hemingway labored over a long autobiographical novel, Islands in the Stream. The novel was disjointed, tedious, and uninspired. Aging, alcoholic, and unhealthy, Hemingway seemed to be losing his talent. However, he salvaged the last part of the novel and published it as an independent work in Life in 1952 as The Old Man and the Sea. A painfully poignant tale of an aged fisherman who catches the biggest marlin of his life and loses it to sharks, the story was told in a beautifully simple, chaste style that surpassed anything Hemingway had written since the 1920s. Struggling with artistic and physical decline, Hemingway had made one final effort to write truly, and succeeded by reaching inside himself to wrench out the painful theme of failure. "Man was not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated." The Life issue sold five million copies, and the story was instantly hailed as a masterpiece. In 1954, Hemingway won the Nobel Prize, largely on the achievement of The Old Man and the Sea.

Throughout the 1950s Hemingway worked on a novel, The Garden of Eden, but remained unhappy with it and withheld publication. He also discovered a cache of memoirs he had begun in the 1920s, and proceeded to revise and expand them into a book called A Moveable Feast. The rediscovered writings reminded Hemingway of his youth, when he was establishing his reputation as a bold new artist of uncompromised integrity, and made it painfully clear that the aging writer had squandered his talent for the gratifications of fame. Although he had accused Fitzgerald and Faulkner of ruining their talent on stories for the Saturday Evening Post and movies for Hollywood, Hemingway had compromised his talent even more grotesquely by creating an absurd fabrication of himself. His public persona was his own worst character and had infected most of the characters he had created since the 1920s. Realizing that he could no longer write, nor maintain his own egotistical standards, Hemingway shot himself on July 2, 1961.

The adulation continued years after his death, and posthumous novels, stories, and nonfiction continued to appear well into the 1990s. But biographies also appeared, and emerging evidence gradually revealed Hemingway to be a despicable man motivated by egotism, jealousy, and a sexual insecurity that led him to ridicule others and prove his own manhood ad absurdum. Such macho posturing already seemed out of place in the 1960s, and utterly ridiculous by the 1990s, though academic interest in Hemingway continued to thrive under deconstructive and feminist approaches to literature. By the turn of the century it seemed unlikely that Hemingway would ever regain the swollen stature of his middle period. However, his influence over American literature is immense and ubiquitous. As one of the major prose stylists of the English language, he has bred more imitators than any other American writer. But few authors were able to attain the suggestive power and subtlety of Hemingway's finest work. Faulkner captured it in his stark, brittle potboiler, Sanctuary, and Fitzgerald employed a certain Hemingwayesque subtlety amid the softly echoing motifs of Tender Is the Night. But more often one found mere verbal imitation by inferior authors such as Erskine Caldwell, who simply borrowed the outward trappings of conscientious monosyllables and tough dialogue for their otherwise conventional narrative and perfunctory symbolism. Hemingway's best fiction set a standard that few could attain, not even the later Hemingway.

* * * * * *

Across the river and into the trees

by Lesley McDowell

JUST one year after Ernest Hemingway shot himself through the head with a hunting rifle, his literary legacy was being summed up by one New York Times critic thus: "He is a writer who gets smaller as you grow older." That the larger-than-life figure of "Papa", the booze- guzzling, womanising, hunting, fighting father of 20th century American fiction could recede in any way must have seemed a cheaply provocative remark at the time.

Exactly 50 years ago, Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, ostensibly for the novella The Old Man And The Sea, written two years earlier.

Hemingway found himself out of favour with the critics, who felt his love of battling with nature and cheating on his wives had superseded his love of writing. His 1950 novel Across The River And Into The Trees was savaged by the critics uneasy with the direction his work had taken since For Whom The Bell Tolls in 1940.

But The Old Man And The Sea reversed all that. Garnering glowing reviews, it was seen as a recall to past glories, an echo of the man before Hollywood and wealth corrupted him. This was the Hemingway the critics knew and loved, a muscular, pared-down stylist who exemplified all that was best about America and American writing.

It was based on an experience Hemingway had had in his beloved Cuba in the 1930s, when he found a fisherman far out in the Gulf Stream with the remains of a giant Marlin tied to his boat. (This real-life fisherman, Gregorio Fuentes, loved to regale about the writer until his death earlier this year.) In the fictional version an ageing fisherman, Santiago, who is on his last fishing expedition, catches a great Marlin after a struggle that almost kills him. But while he defeats the great fish, the sea defeats him. By the time he reaches home the Marlin is a carcass, devoured by sharks.

The Old Man And The Sea is still widely-read, as are For Whom The Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. The public popularity of all three titles may owe something to reading lists but his place in today's literary canon is still pretty unassailable.

It's extraordinary that The Old Man And The Sea should still be regarded a "timeless classic" by a "genius" for it encompasses so much of what we have long been encouraged to think of as old hat, embarrassing experiments by another generation, nave and more than a little obvious. Full of "simplicity" and rich in "allegorical overtones", one American critical study of Hemingway published two years ago even praises its "absence of sexuality", to which, rather surprisingly, it attributes much of its popular success.

Absence of sexuality? This is a novella so steeped in Lawrentian imagery that old Freud himself would surely have sued for plagiarism. This is how Hemingway describes the moment that Santiago finally begins to overcome the great Marlin: "He took all his pain and what was left of his strength and his long-gone pride and he put it against the fish's agony and the fish came over onto his side and swam gently on his side, his bill almost touching the planking of the skiff and started to pass the boat, long, deep, wide, silver and barred with purple and interminable in the water." Recognising cigars, guns and harpoons as penis-substitutes is not merely the reading of a more cynical age. It suggests that the knowledge we have as readers hampers our appreciation of this particular kind of writing.

Given that the monumental themes Hemingway liked to explore would often result in an almost innocent use of Freudian images and simplistic portrayals of men and women, his all-too-often self- indulgent prose demands the question: does such an easily-parodied writer really deserve the respect of the readers from another age, however "grand" his subject matter? Should writers like Hemingway really be allowed to cast their shadows over the landscape of literature of the 20th century?

It would seem so. The Hemingway legacy is an industry now that will forever produce secondary material; biographies, previously undiscovered letters, half-forgotten manuscripts. His is a legacy that falls to few and it would seem that we need that select few to hold up as exemplars of literary excellence.

Hemingway with pigeons, Venice



Set in Venice at the close of World War II, Across the River and into the Trees is the bittersweet story of a middle-aged American colonel, scarred by war and in failing health, who finds love with a young Italian countess (Renata, who actually existed in Hemingway's love life -- see biographies above) at the very moment when his existence is becoming a physical hardship to him. It is a love so overpowering and spontaneous that it revitalizes the man's spirit and encourages him to dream of a future, even though he knows that there can be no hope for long. Spanning a matter of hours, Across The River And Into The Trees is tender and moving, yet tragic in the inexorable shadow of what must come.

I read it in the 60s in my late teens, and loved it. I re-read it in my forties, and still loved it -- as I love it now. But when it was published in 1950, the negative criticism for this novel was almost unanimous. Some 150 newspaper and magazine critics reviewed the book and most of them panned it. The novel was characterized as disappointing, trivial, garrulous, and tired. In an interview in the New York Times Book Review Hemingway defended himself by saying that the critics were confused by the novel's experimental complexity. "In writing I have moved through arithmetic, through plane geometry and algebra, and now I am in calculus". More than fifty years after Hemingway's statement, readers familiar with metafiction and the nouveau roman have little difficulty with Across The River And Into The Trees's circular structure, time shifts, and inner resonance, and the complexity of the novel is no longer daunting or, worse, dismissible. At the time, Hemingway's frustration at not being understood stemmed from the fact that in his final years, his subjects of war, love, and remembrance were "all explorations into death's fusion with a creative consciousness".

Although Across The River And Into The Trees is a flawed novel (is it really?), Hemingway believed it was the best book he had ever written. The best it is not, but its experimental complexity has elicited a number of revaluations that may indeed reveal a calculus of writing. In this connection, Venice, stones, time, and remembrance are the elements of a narrative convergence between Hemingway and Proust that deserves analysis. Marcel, the narrator of Proust's novel, and Richard Cantwell, the narrator of Hemingway's novel, remember the past as though it were the present and they compress time by reliving events that dramatize love and death.

This is not to say that Across The River And Into The Trees and A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu are stylistically and structurally identical. They are not, and the differences are striking. First of all, Across The River And Into The Trees is 308 pages long, whereas the three volumes of Proust's novel are 3134 pages. Proust's long sentences, inner monologue, and psychological analyses of events, time, and remembrance contrast with Hemingway's short sentences and absence of narrative commentary. Proust explores connections and draws conclusions, whereas Hemingway describes events, places, and people using an allusive vocabulary that does not theorise. His narrative forces the reader to connect the parts by analysing the poetic resonance of the floating signifiers. Indeed, Hemingway's iceberg technique of writing is at odds with Proust's long passages in which he explicitly analyses the meaning of hidden relationships.

For Proust, more is more, whereas for Hemingway less is more, and he asks the reader to solve the relationships between the parts and the whole. Proust crosses the bridges for the reader, whereas, in Venice, along the canals, Hemingway walks the reader to the bridges that he or she must cross alone without the narrator's help. Hemingway does not theorize, and his refusal may explain, in part, the incomprehension that greeted Across The River And Into The Trees when it was first published.

Hemingway's signature


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