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Remembering Papa

One Hundred years after his birth, Ernest Hemingway's proud and painful legacy endures.
Neil A. Grauer
From the Print Edition:
Ernest Hemingway, Jul/Aug 99

(continued from page 4)

For the record, Hemingway did not go ashore with the troops on D-Day, although his reporting of the invasion suggested that he had. He really did not "liberate" the Ritz Hotel in Paris when Allied troops drove the Germans from the city. Other soldiers got to the hotel first. Hemingway also never scored a put-down on F. Scott Fitzgerald by saying the only thing that distinguished the rich is that they have more money. In fact, after once grandly saying that he was "getting to know the rich," Hemingway himself had been the butt of that wisecrack, delivered by Irish writer Mary Colum in the presence of Hemingway's editor, Maxwell Perkins. And Hemingway never kept a six-toed cat at his home in Key West--contrary to the claims of tour guides that the six-toed felines there now are descended from Hemingway's original. An annoyed Patrick Hemingway told a reporter in 1997 that his father had cats at his home in Cuba, not in Florida.

Yet the exaggerations and myths aside, Hemingway's genuinely dramatic, moving experiences during the First World War later inspired some of his greatest works. He witnessed much of the war's ghastliness; and while recuperating from his wounds he met and later was rejected by his first great love, Agnes von Kurowsky, a 26-year-old nurse at the military hospital in Milan where he was being treated.

Shortly after Hemingway's return to the United States in January 1919, von Kurowsky wrote him to break off their relationship. Calling him "Kid," she noted the seven-year difference in their ages and said she had fallen in love with an older man. Hurt but proud, Hemingway would use his emotional wounds--then and later--as the basis for stories such as "In Another Country" and novels such as A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls that captured the imagination of readers for generations. The opening paragraph of "In Another Country," wrote Lynn, is the "matchless...creation of a poet working at the pinnacle of his power":

In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more. It was cold in the fall in Milan and the dark came very early. Then the electric lights came on, and it was pleasant along the streets looking in the windows. There was much game hanging outside the shops, and the snow powdered in the fur of the foxes and the wind blew their tails. The deer hung stiff and heavy and empty, and small birds blew in the wind and the wind turned their feathers. It was a cold fall and the wind came down from the mountains.

"This is to tell you about a young man named Ernest Hemmingway [sic], who lives in Paris (an American)...and has a brilliant future.... He's the real thing." --F. Scott Fitzgerald, letter to editor Maxwell Perkins, 1924

"...everybody you use in your stuff goes and gets a gun." --Guy Hickok, Hemingway friend, 1927

Throughout his life, Hemingway's fiction was largely autobiographical, with individuals and incidents thinly disguised and easily linked to real places and people--often far from flatteringly.

In 1920, Hemingway moved to Chicago, went to work for a publication called The Cooperative Commonwealth, and began submitting stories to major magazines--The Saturday Evening Post, Redbook--which rejected all of them. At a party he met Hadley Richardson, the lively, adventurous daughter of a self-centered mother and charming but incompetent father who killed himself when she was 12. Hemingway was immediately attracted to her and they were married on September 3, 1921.

After arranging to become the first foreign correspondent of the Toronto Star, Hemingway embarked with Hadley for Paris that December. They financed themselves with money he had saved and the trust-fund income she received.

It was a grand time for expatriates in Paris. Terrible inflation made the French franc cheap and life exceedingly pleasant for those with foreign currency. Hemingway and Hadley lived in spartan quarters, but they ate well, had an active social life and traveled widely.

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Comments   1 comment(s)

Dale Siemon May 6, 2011 11:32am ET

...well written, nicely done...

thanks to the author and editors

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