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
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By 1927, Hemingway had become infatuated with Pauline Pfeiffer, a well-to-do, would-be writer who had met him and Hadley at a party in Paris. Pauline set out with determination to win Hemingway away from his wife, and Hadley finally agreed to give him a divorce. In retrospect, he always regretted the breakup with Hadley. "I wish I had died before I ever loved anyone but her," he wrote three decades later in A Moveable Feast, his posthumously published memoir of his Paris years.
Hemingway married Pauline in May 1927. By virtue of the largesse of her Uncle Gus Pfeiffer, they settled into a spacious Paris apartment and continued Hemingway's habit of extensive travel. Finding Paris less congenial--in part because many of his friends were angered by his transparent depictions of them in The Sun Also Rises--he spent less and less time in France. Thanks to his wife's ever-generous family, they moved to Key West in 1930 and by the following year lived in a house on Whitehead Street that Uncle Gus paid $8,000 to acquire for them. Hemingway produced some memorable work there, but he brutally denigrated Key West, then a rustic enclave of 10,000, as a "Jew administered phony of a town."
His next book, Death in the Afternoon (1932), was a nonfiction encomium to the art of Spanish bullfighting. An African safari in late 1933 and early 1934 provided the basis for another nonfiction work, The Green Hills of Africa (1935), as well as "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"--both of which dealt ominously with the adverse effects of money and women on a man. Hemingway published To Have and Have Not, his only novel set almost entirely in the United States, in 1937. Poorly constructed and critically scorned, it describes the impact of the Great Depression on Key West and a local resident, a "conch" named Harry Morgan, who resorts to crime to survive and is broken by it.
Although Hemingway and Pauline had two sons, Patrick, born in 1928, and Gregory, born in 1931, their relationship was tempestuous. By the time the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, he was drawn by its drama--and by the opportunity it gave him to get away from his wife.
He happened upon an ideal companion for his trip to Spain when he walked into Sloppy Joe's in Key West in December 1936 and met Martha Gellhorn, then 28 and an up-and-coming journalist and author. In a repeat of history, Martha set out to capture Hemingway just as Pauline had snared him from Hadley. He proved a willing quarry.
Hemingway made the first of his three wartime trips to Spain in 1937. Martha followed and moved in with him at the Hotel Florida in Madrid. They went to fronts where the fighting was intense and their bravery was undisputed. His coverage of the conflict is considered among the finest war reporting ever done. Martha paid close attention and learned how to become a war correspondent. During the Second World War, she would outshine him--much to his dismay. In a list of the best works of twentieth-century journalism recently compiled by New York University, her book of war reporting, The Face of War, ranks right after Hemingway's reports on the Spanish Civil War.
During his trips to Spain in 1937 and 1938, Hemingway also gathered material for what became For Whom the Bell Tolls, one of the most acclaimed novels of the century. Its tale of an American's enlistment on the side of the Fascist-fighting Loyalist forces, and his love affair with a Spanish woman, was immensely popular with both critics and the public.
Hemingway's marriage to Pauline lasted until 1940, the year For Whom the Bell Tolls, much of it written in Havana, was published to rave reviews and stupendous sales, second only to Gone with the Wind. Martha had joined Hemingway in Havana and found him living in an appallingly unkempt hotel room. ("Ernest was extremely dirty, one of the most unfastidious men I've ever known," she said years later.) She searched for a home and found Finca Vigía, which she persuaded him to buy for $18,500. Once Hemingway's divorce from Pauline became final, he married Martha and they settled in on the finca (farm).
Hemingway later said that Cuba held many attractions for him--the cool morning breezes, which enabled him "to work as well there...[as] anywhere in the world"; the nearby Gulf Stream, where he found the finest fishing he'd ever experienced while plying the waters on his 38-foot powerboat, Pilar; pigeon-shooting matches and cockfights; the 18 varieties of mango that grew on his farm; the rum that went into the famous double frozen Daiquiris--the "Papa Doble"--made and named for him at El Floridita.
What he evidently did not find of interest in Havana were cigars. Although he had learned to smoke Russian cigarettes during the First World War, and once described himself in a humorous 1935 story about Key West as "sitting on the verandah enjoying a cheroot," he told a writer in 1950 that he didn't smoke because it diminished his sense of smell. In The Sun Also Rises, Count Mippipopolous makes a great ceremony out of clipping his cigar with a gold cutter and proclaiming "I like a cigar to really draw," but apparently that was a procedure and preference Hemingway rarely practiced.
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Dale Siemon — May 6, 2011 11:32am ET
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