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"Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds" - A Comfortable Childhood
The man who would become one of the greatest American novelists, journalists and travelles of the 20th century, was born into a comfortable suburban family.
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He was the second child born to Clarence Edmonds "Doc Ed" Hemingway - a country doctor, and Grace Hall Hemingway.
Hemingway's father attended the birth of Ernest and blew a horn on his front porch to announce to the neighbours that his wife had given birth to their first boy. The Hemingways lived in a six-bedroom Victorian house built by Ernest's widowed maternal grandfather, Ernest Miller Hall, an English immigrant and Civil War veteran who lived with the family.
Hemingway's mother once aspired to a career as an opera singer, and she earned money by giving voice and music lessons.
She was said to be domineering and narrowly religious, in keeping with the strict Protestant ethic of Oak Park, which Hemingway later said had "wide lawns and narrow minds".
While his mother hoped that her son would develop an interest in music, Hemingway adopted his father's outdoorsman hobbies of hunting, fishing and camping in the woods and lakes of Northern Michigan.
The family owned a summer home called Windemere on Walloon Lake, near Petoskey, Michigan, and often spent summers holidaying there.
These early experiences in close contact with nature instilled in Hemingway a lifelong passion for outdoor adventure and for living in remote or isolated areas.
Hemingway attended Oak Park and River Forest High School from September 1913 until his graduation in June 1917. He excelled both academically and athletically - he boxed, played American football, and displayed particular talent in English classes.
His first writing experience was writing for "Trapeze" and "Tabula" (the school's newspaper and yearbook, respectively) in his junior year, and went on to serve as editor in his senior year.
He sometimes wrote under the pen name of Ring Lardner, Jr., a nod to his literary hero Ring Lardner.
After high school, Hemingway did not want to go to college. Instead, at the age of 18, he began his writing career as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star. Although he worked at the newspaper for only six months (October 17, 1917-April 30, 1918), throughout his lifetime he used the guidance of the Star's style guide as a foundation for his writing style: "Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative," he later recalled.
"A Farewell to Arms" - Hemingway's time in the Ambulance Corps
Hemingway left his reporting job after just a few months and, against his father's wishes, tried to join the United States Army to see action in the Great War, which was developing into a blood bath across Europe.
He failed the medical examination due to poor vision, and instead joined the Red Cross Ambulance Corps.
On his route to the Italian front, he stopped in Paris, which was under constant bombardment from German artillery. Instead of staying in the relative safety of the Hotel Florida, Hemingway tried to get as close to combat as possible.
Soon after arriving on the Italian Front Hemingway witnessed the brutalities of war. On his first day on duty an ammunition factory near Milan blew up. Hemingway had to pick up the human remains - primarily women.
Hemingway wrote about this experience in his short story "A Natural History of the Dead". This first encounter with death left him shaken.
The soldiers he met later did not lighten the horror of the war. One of them, Eric Dorman-Smith, entertained Hemingway with a line from Part Two of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Act III, Sc II: "By my troth, I care not; a man can die but once; we owe God a death ... and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the next." (Hemingway, for his part, would quote this line in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, one of his famous short stories set in Africa.)
To another soldier, Hemingway once said, "You are troppo vecchio (too old) for this war, pop." The 50-year-old soldier replied, "I can die as well as any man." (this conversation is recorded in Anthony Burgess' Ernest Hemingway, Literary Lives (1978), published by Thames and Hudson).
On July 8, 1918, Hemingway was wounded while delivering supplies to soldiers, which ended his career as an ambulance driver.
Although the events of his wounding have been subjected to doubters, it is now conclusively known that he was hit by an Austrian trench mortar shell that left fragments in his legs, and was also hit by a burst of machine-gun fire.
His knee was badly wounded, and, amongst the more remarkable features of this incident, he helped staunch the bleeding by stuffing cigarette butts and rolling papers into his multiple wounds.
He was later awarded the Silber Medal of Military Valor (medaglia d'argento) from the Italian government for dragging a wounded Italian soldier to safety in spite of his own injuries. He was credited as the first American wounded in Italy during WWI by newspapers at the time but there is debate surrounding the veracity of this claim.
Hemingway received treatment in a Milan hospital run by the American Red Cross. With very little in the way of entertainment, he often drank heavily and read newspapers to pass the time.
Here he met Agnes von Kurowsky, of Washington, D.C., one of 18 nurses attending groups of four patients each, who was more than six years his senior.
Hemingway fell in love with her, but their relationship did not survive his return to the United States; instead of following Hemingway to America, as originally planned, she became romantically involved with an Italian officer.
This left an indelible mark on his psyche and provided inspiration for, and was fictionalised in, one of his early novels, A Farewell to Arms (1929). Hemingway's first story based on this relationship, "A Very Short Story," appeared in 1925.
Voice of the Lost Generation - Hemingway's first steps into literature
After the war, Hemingway returned briefly to Oak Park, before moving to Canada in 1920 - to an apartment on 1599 Bathurst Street, now known as The Hemingway, in the Humewood-Cedarvale neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario.
During his stay, he found a job with the Toronto Star newspaper. He worked as a freelancer at first, before becoming a staff writer, and foreign correspondent. Hemingway befriended fellow Star reporter Morley Callaghan.
Callaghan had begun writing short stories at this time; he showed them to Hemingway, who praised them as fine work. They would later be reunited in Paris.
For a short time from late 1920 through most of 1921, Hemingway lived on the near north side of Chicago, while still filing stories for The Toronto Star. He also worked as associate editor of the Co-operative Commonwealth, a monthly journal.
On September 3, 1921, Hemingway married his first wife, Hadley Richardson. After the honeymoon they moved to a cramped top floor apartment on the 1300 block of Clark Street. In September, they moved to a cramped fourth floor apartment (3rd floor by Chicago building standard) at 1239 North Dearborn in a then run-down section of Chicago's near north side. The building still stands with a plaque on the front of it calling it "The Hemingway Apartment".
Hadley found it dark and depressing, but in December 1921, the Hemingways left Chicago and Oak Park, never to live there again, and moved abroad.
On the advice of Sherwood Anderson, they settled in Paris, France, where Hemingway covered the Greco-Turkish War for the Toronto Star. Among the more famous events of this important but now obscure war, Hemingway witnessed the catastrophic burning of Smyrna, an event that he introduced in several pieces of short fiction.
Anderson gave him a letter of introduction to Gertrude Stein. She became his mentor and introduced him to the "Parisian Modern Movement" then ongoing in the Montparnasse Quarter; this was the beginning of the American expatriate circle that became known as the "Lost Generation", a term popularised by Hemingway in the epigraph to his novel, The Sun Also Rises, and his memoir, A Moveable Feast.
The epithet, "Lost Generation" was reportedly appropriated by Miss Stein from her French garage mechanic when he made the offhand comment that hers was "une génération perdue". ("'That's what you are. That's what you all are,' Miss Stein said. 'All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.'" - from Hemingway's posthumous memoir, A Moveable Feast).
His other influential mentor was Ezra Pound, the founder of Imagism. Hemingway later said of this eclectic group, "Ezra was right half the time, and when he was wrong, he was so wrong you were never in any doubt about it. Gertrude was always right."
The group often frequented Sylvia Beach's bookshop, Shakespeare & Co., at 12 Rue de l'Odéon. After the 1922 publication and American banning of James Joyce's Ulysses, Hemingway used Toronto-based friends to smuggle copies of the novel into the United States (Hemingway writes of meeting and talking with Joyce in Paris in A Moveable Feast).
After much success as a foreign correspondent, Hemingway returned to Toronto, Canada in 1923 writing under the pseudonym of Peter Jackson.
During his second stint living in Toronto, Hemingway's first son was born. He was named John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway, but would later be known as Jack. Hemingway asked Gertrude Stein to be Jack's godmother.
Around the same time, Hemingway had a bitter falling out with his editor, Harry Hindmarsh, who believed Hemingway had been spoiled by his time overseas.
Hindmarsh gave Hemingway mundane assignments, and Hemingway grew bitter and wrote an angry resignation in December 1923. However, his resignation was either ignored or rescinded, and Hemingway continued to write sporadically for The Toronto Star through 1924. Most of Hemingway's work for the Star was later published in the 1985 collection Dateline: Toronto.
Hemingway's American literary debut came with the publication of the short story cycle In Our Time (1925). This work was important for Hemingway, reaffirming to him that his minimalist style could be accepted by the literary community. Big Two-Hearted River is the collection's best-known story.
In April 1925, two weeks after the publication of The Great Gatsby, Hemingway met F. Scott Fitzgerald at the Dingo Bar. Fitzgerald and Hemingway were at first close friends, often drinking and talking together. They sometimes exchanged manuscripts, and Fitzgerald did much to try to advance Hemingway's career and the publication of his first collections of stories.
Hemingway and Fitzgerald's wife Zelda took an instant dislike to each other with Zelda calling Hemingway a "phony".
Hemingway's relationships in France provided inspiration for his first full-length novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926) (published in the UK under the title "Fiesta"). The novel was semi-autobiographical, following a group of expatriate Americans around Paris and Spain. The climactic scenes of the novel are set in Pamplona, during the fiesta that the novel made famous throughout Europe and the U.S. The novel was a success and met with critical acclaim.
Hemingway divorced Hadley Richardson in 1927 and married Pauline Pfeiffer, a devout Roman Catholic from Arkansas.
Pfeiffer was an occasional fashion reporter, publishing in magazines such as Vanity Fair and Vogue. Hemingway converted to Catholicism himself at this time.
That year saw the publication of Men Without Women, a collection of short stories, containing The Killers, one of Hemingway's best-known and most-anthologised stories.
In 1928, Hemingway and Pfeiffer moved to Key West, Florida, to begin their new life together. However, their new life was soon interrupted by yet another tragic event in Hemingway's life.
In 1928, Hemingway's father, Clarence, troubled with diabetes and financial instabilities, committed suicide using an old Civil War pistol.
This greatly hurt Hemingway and is perhaps played out through Robert Jordan's father's suicide in the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.
He immediately traveled to Oak Park to arrange the funeral and stirred up controversy by vocalising what he thought to be the Catholic view, that suicides go to hell.
At about the same time, Harry Crosby, founder of the Black Sun Press and a friend of Hemingway from his days in Paris, also committed suicide.
In that same year, Hemingway's second son, Patrick, was born in Kansas City (his third son, Gregory, would be born to the couple a few years later). It was a Caesarean birth after difficult labour, details of which were incorporated into the concluding scene of A Farewell to Arms.
Hemingway lived and wrote most of A Farewell to Arms plus several short stories at Pauline's parents' house in Piggott, Arkansas.
Published in 1929, A Farewell to Arms recounts the romance between Frederic Henry, an American soldier, and Catherine Barkley, a British nurse.
The novel is heavily autobiographical: the plot was directly inspired by his relationship with Agnes von Kurowsky in Milan; Catherine's suffering was inspired by the intense labour pains of Pauline in the birth of Patrick; the real-life Kitty Cannell inspired the fictional Helen Ferguson; the priest was based on Don Giuseppe Bianchi, the priest of the 69th and 70th regiments of the Brigata Ancona.
The success of A Farewell to Arms made Hemingway financially independent.
The Key West Years
Following the advice of John Dos Passos, Hemingway returned to Key West, Florida, in 1931, where he established his first American home, which has since been converted to a museum.
From this 1851 solid limestone house — a wedding present from Pauline's uncle — Hemingway fished in the waters around the Dry Tortugas with his longtime friend Walso Pierce, went to the famous bar Sloppy Joe's, and occasionally traveled to Spain, gathering material for Death in the Afternoon and Winner Take Nothing. Over the next nine years, until the end of this marriage in 1940, and then in a second period throughout the 1950s, Hemingway would do an estimated 70 per cent of his lifetime's writing in the writer's den in the upper floor of the converted garage, in back of this house.
Death in the Afternoon, a book about bullfighting, was published in 1932. Hemingway had become an aficionado of the sport after seeing the Pamplona fiesta of 1925, fictionalised in The Sun Also Rises.
In Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway extensively discussed the metaphysics of bullfighting: the ritualised, almost religious practice. Hemingway considered becoming a bullfighter himself and showed middling aptitude in several novieros before deciding that writing was his true and only suitable professional occupation.
In his writings on Spain, he was influenced by the Spanish master Pio Baroja. When Hemingway won the Nobel Prize, he traveled to see Baroja, then on his death bed, specifically to tell him he thought Baroja deserved the prize more than he. Baroja agreed and something of the usual Hemingway tiff with another writer ensued despite his original good intentions.
A safari in the fall of 1933 led him to Mombasa, Nairobi and Machakos in Kenya, moving on to Tanganyika, where he hunted in the Serengeti, around Lake Manyara and west and southeast of the present-day Tarangire National Park.
Hemingway fell ill on this trip, suffering a prolapsed intestine. Due to this illness he was evacuated to Nairobi by plane, an experience which is reflected in his story The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
The year 1935 saw the publication of Green Hills of Africa, an account of his safari. The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber were the fictionalised results of his African experiences.
On this trip Hemingway's guide was Philip Hope Percival, who had once guided Theodore Roosevelt on his 1909 safari. Percival would also guide Hemingway on his disastrous 1954 safari.
Hemingway lived on Bimini in the Bahamas from 1935 to 1937, staying at the Compleat Angler Hotel. He worked on To Have And Have Not and wrote a few articles, but mostly he fished aboard his boat Pilar, trolling the deep blue offshore waters for marlin, tuna and swordfish. Hemingway was attracted to Bimini by tales of the incredible fishing available in the Gulf Stream, the current of warm water that rushes north past the Bahamas.
The Spanish Civil War
In 1936, Hemingway travelled to Spain in order to report on the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. While there, he broke his friendship with John Dos Passos because, despite warnings, Dos Passos continued to report on the atrocities of not only the fascist Nationalists whom Hemingway disliked, but also those of the elected and radicalised left-leaning Republicans whom he favored; characteristically, Hemingway spread a story that Dos Passos had fled Spain out of cowardice.
In this context Hemingway's colleague and associate Herbert Matthews, who would become more well known for his favorable reports on Fidel Castro, showed a similar predilection for the Republican side as Hemingway.
Hemingway, who was a convert to Catholicism during his marriage to his wife Pauline, began to question his religion at this time, eventually leaving the church (though friends indicate that he had "funny ties" to Catholicism for the rest of his life).
The war also strained Hemingway's marriage. Pauline Pfieffer was a devout Catholic and, as such, sided with the fascist, pro-Catholic regime of Franco, whereas Hemingway mostly supported the Republican government, for all his criticisms of it.
During this time, Hemingway wrote a little known essay, The Denunciation, which would not be published until 1969 within a collection of stories, the Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War. The story seems autobiographical, suggesting that Hemingway might have been an informant for the Republic as well as a weapons instructor during the war.
Some health problems characterised this period of Hemingway's life: an anthrax infection, a cut eyeball, a gash in his forehead, grippe, toothache, haemorrhoids, kidney trouble from fishing, torn groin muscle, finger gashed to the bone in an accident with a punching ball, lacerations (to arms, legs, and face) from a ride on a runaway horse through a deep Wyoming forest, and a broken arm from a car accident.
In 1938 - along with his only full-length play, titled The Fifth Column - 49 stories were published in the collection The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories.
Hemingway's intention was, as he openly stated in his foreword, to write more. Many of the stories that make up this collection can be found in other abridged collections, including In Our Time, Men Without Women, Winner Take Nothing, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
Some of the collection's important stories include Old Man at the Bridge, On The Quai at Smyrna, Hills Like White Elephants, One Reader Writes, The Killers and (perhaps most famously) A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. While these stories are rather short, the book also includes much longer stories, among them The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.
In the spring of 1939, Francisco Franco and the Nationalists defeated the Republicans, ending the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway lost an adopted homeland to Franco's fascists, and would later lose his beloved Key West, Florida, home due to his 1940 divorce.
A few weeks after the divorce, he married his companion of four years in Spain, Martha Gellhorn, his third wife.
His novel For Whom the Bell Tolls was published in 1940. It was written in 1939 in Cuba and Key West, and was finished in July 1940.
The long work, which is set during the Spanish Civil War, was based on real events and tells of an American named Robert Jordan fighting with Spanish soldiers on the Republican side. It was largely based on Hemingway's experience of living in Spain and reporting on the war. It is one of his most notable literary accomplishments.
The Second World War
The United States entered World War II on December 8, 1941, and for the first time in his life, Hemingway sought to take part in naval warfare.
Aboard the Pilar, now a Q-Ship, Hemingway's crew was charged with sinking German submarines threatening shipping off the coasts of Cuba and the United States.
After the FBI took over Caribbean counter-espionage, he went to Europe as a war correspondent for Collier's magazine. There Hemingway observed the D-Day landings from an LCVP (landing craft), although he was not allowed to go ashore.
He later became angry that his wife, Martha Gellhorn - by then, more a rival war correspondent than a wife - had managed to get ashore in the early hours of June 7 dressed as a nurse, after she had crossed the Atlantic to England in a ship loaded with explosives.
Hemingway acted as an unofficial liaison officer at Château de Rambouillet, and afterwards formed his own partisan group which, as he later wrote, took part in the liberation of Paris. Although this claim has been challenged by many historians, he was nevertheless unquestionably on the scene.
After the war, Hemingway started work on The Garden of Eden, which was never finished and would be published posthumously in a much-abridged form in 1986.
At one stage, he planned a major trilogy which was to comprise "The Sea When Young", "The Sea When Absent" and "The Sea in Being" (the latter eventually published in 1952 as The Old Man and the Sea).
He spent time in a small Italian town called Acciaroli (located approximately 136 km south of Naples). There was also a "Sea-Chase" story; three of these pieces were edited and stuck together as the posthumously published novel Islands in the Stream (1970).
Newly divorced from Gellhorn after four contentious years, Hemingway married war correspondent Mary Welsh Hemingway, whom he had met overseas in 1944. He returned to Cuba, and in 1945 at the Soviet Embassy became public witness to the Rolando Masferrer schism within the Cuban communist party (García Montes, and Alonso Ávila, 1970 p. 362).
Hemingway's first novel after For Whom the Bell Tolls was Across the River and into the Trees (1950), set in post-World War II Venice. He derived the title from the last words of American Civil War Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.
Enamored of a young Italian girl (Adriana Ivancich) at the time, Hemingway wrote Across the River and into the Trees as a romance between a war-weary Colonel Cantwell (based on his friend, then Colonel Charles Lanham) and the young Renata (clearly based on Adriana; "Renata" has an assonance with "rinata", meaning "reborn" in Italian).
The novel received largely bad reviews, many of which accused Hemingway of tastelessness, stylistic ineptitude, and sentimentality; however this criticism was not shared by all critics.
Later Years - The Old Man and the Sea
One section of the sea trilogy was published as The Old Man and the Sea in 1952. That novella's great success, both commercial and critical, satisfied and fulfilled Hemingway. It earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1953.
The next year he was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature. Upon receiving the latter he noted that he would have been "happy; happier...if the prize had been given to that beautiful writer Isak Dinesen". These awards helped to restore his international reputation.
On a safari, he was seriously injured in two successive plane crashes; he sprained his right shoulder, arm, and left leg, had a grave concussion, temporarily lost vision in his left eye and the hearing in his left ear, suffered paralysis of the spine, a crushed vertebra, ruptured liver, spleen and kidney, and first degree burns on his face, arms, and leg. Some American newspapers mistakenly published his obituary, thinking he had been killed.
Hemingway was then badly injured one month later in a bushfire accident, which left him with second degree burns on his legs, front torso, lips, left hand and right forearm. The pain left him in prolonged anguish, and he was unable to travel to Stockholm to accept his Nobel Prize.
A glimmer of hope came with the discovery of some of his old manuscripts from 1928 in the Ritz cellars, which were transformed into A Moveable Feast. Although some of his energy seemed to be restored, severe drinking problems kept him down. His blood pressure and cholesterol were perilously high, he suffered from aortal inflammation, and his depression was aggravated by his dipsomania.
However, in October 1956, Hemingway found the strength to travel to Madrid and act as a pallbearer at Pío Baroja's burial. Baroja was one of Hemingway's literary influences.
Following the revolution in Cuba and the ousting of General Fulgencio Batista in 1959, expropriations of foreign owned property led many Americans to return to the United States. Hemingway chose to stay a little longer. It is commonly said that he maintained good relations with Fidel Castro and declared his support for the revolution, and he is quoted as wishing Castro "all luck" with running the country.[
However, the Hemingway account "The Shot"[ is used by Cabrera Infante] and others as evidence of conflict between Hemingway and Fidel Castro dating back to 1948 and the killing of "Manolo" Castro, a friend of Hemingway.
Hemingway came under surveillance by the FBI both during World War II and afterwards (most probably because of his long association with marxist Spanish Civil War veterans who were again active in Cuba) for his residence and activities in Cuba.
In 1960, he left the island and Finca Vigía, his estate outside Havana, that he owned for more than twenty years.
The official Cuban government account is that it was left to the Cuban government, which has made it into a museum devoted to the author.
In February 1960, Ernest Hemingway was unable to get his bullfighting narrative The Dangerous Summer to the publishers. He therefore had his wife Mary summon his friend, Life Magazine bureau head Will Lang Jr., to leave Paris and come to Spain.
Hemingway persuaded Lang to let him print the manuscript, along with a picture layout, before it came out in hardcover.
Although not a word of it was on paper, the proposal was agreed upon. The first part of the story appeared in Life Magazine on September 5, 1960, with the remaining installments being printed in successive issues.
Hemingway was upset by the photographs in his The Dangerous Summer article. He was receiving treatment in Ketchum, Idaho for high blood pressure and liver problems, this may in fact have helped to precipitate his suicide, since he reportedly suffered significant memory loss as a result of the shock treatments. He also lost weight, his 6ft (183 cm) frame appearing gaunt at 170 pounds (77kg, 12st 2lb).
Hemingway attempted suicide in the spring of 1961, and received ECT treatment again. On the morning of July 2, 1961, some three weeks short of his 62nd birthday, he died at his home in Ketchum, Idaho, the result of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. Judged not mentally responsible for his final act, he was buried in a Roman Catholic service.
Hemingway is believed to have purchased the Boss & Co. shotgun he used to commit suicide through Abercrombie & Fitch, which was then an elite excursion goods retailer and firearm supplier.
In a particularly gruesome suicide, he rested the gun butt of the double-barreled shotgun on the floor of a hallway in his home, leaned over it to put the twin muzzles to his forehead just above the eyes, and pulled both triggers. The coroner, at request of the family, did not do an autopsy.
Other members of Hemingway's immediate family also committed suicide, including his father, Clarence Hemingway, his siblings Ursula and Leicester, and his granddaughter Margaux Hemingway.
Some believe that certain members of Hemingway's paternal line had a hereditary disease known as haemochromatosis (bronze diabetes), in which an excess of iron concentration in the blood causes damage to the pancreas and also causes depression or instability in the cerebrum.
Hemingway's father is known to have developed haemochromatosis in the years prior to his suicide at age fifty-nine. Throughout his life, Hemingway had been a heavy drinker, succumbing to alcoholism in his later years.
Hemingway possibly suffered from manic depression, and was subsequently treated with electroshock therapy at the Mayo Clinic. He later blamed his memory loss, which he cited as a reason for not wanting to live, upon the ECT sessions.
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