Hemingway in 1950
|Born||July 21, 1899|
Oak Park, Illinois, United States
|Died||July 2, 1961 (aged 61)|
Ketchum, Idaho, United States
|Notable awards||Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1953)|
Nobel Prize in Literature (1954)
Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 - July 2, 1961) was an American writer. He is generally thought to be a member of the Lost Generation. Some people say that, of the many characters he created in his books, the author himself was his best creation.
Hemingway's early life[change | change source]
Very early days[change | change source]
Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899. He grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, near the midwestern city of Chicago. He was the second child in a family of six. His father was a doctor. His mother was a painter and a pianist.
Start as a news reporter[change | change source]
Ernest found a job with the Kansas City Star newspaper in Kansas City, Missouri. He reported news that happened at the hospital, police headquarters, and the railroad station. One reporter said: "Hemingway liked to be where the action was."
His life outside of America[change | change source]
Hemingway worked for the newspaper for nine months. He then joined the Red Cross to help on the battle fields of Europe. His job was to drive an ambulance and to take wounded soldiers off the battlefield.
The Red Cross sent him to Italy. There, he soon saw the first wounded. This was when a weapons factory in Milan exploded. Later, he was sent to the battle front. He went close to the fighting to see how he could act in the face of danger. Soon, he was seriously wounded.
Soon after healing, the war ended. Hemingway returned to the United States. After less than a year he had changed forever: he needed to write about what he had seen. Hemingway wrote many short stories about people who experienced World War I.
Gone to Chicago[change | change source]
Some time later, Hemingway left home for Chicago to prove to himself, and to his family, that he could earn a living from his writing.
But he ran out of money and began to write for a newspaper again. The Canadian newspaper, the Toronto Star, loved his reports in Chicago. They hired him and paid him well.
In Chicago, Hemingway also met Sherwood Anderson. Anderson was one of the first American writers to write about common people. Hemingway saw that Anderson's stories showed life as it really was. This was similar to what he wanted to do.
In Paris[change | change source]
Hemingway decided to move to Paris. Before he did, in America, he married a woman he had recently met. Her name was Hadley Richardson.
Paris was cold and grey when Hemingway and his new wife arrived in 1921. They lived in one of the poorer parts of the city. Their rooms were small and they did not have water from pipes. But the Toronto Star employed him as its European reporter, so they had enough money for the two of them to live. That job gave Hemingway time to write his stories.
Hemingway enjoyed exploring Paris, learning French customs, and meeting friends. Some of these new friends were artists and writers who had come to the city in the 1920s. Among them were poet, Ezra Pound, and writers Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Seeing that Hemingway was a good writer, they helped him publish his stories in the United States. He was thankful for their support at the time, but later denied that he had received their help.
Hemingway travelled all over Europe. He wrote about politics, peace conferences, and border disputes, as well as sports, skiing, and fishing. Later he would write about bullfighting in Spain. The Toronto Star was pleased with his work, and wanted more of his reports, but Hemingway was busy with his own writing.
He said this: "Sometimes, I would start a new story and could not get it going. Then I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think. I would say to myself: 'All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.' So finally, I would write a true sentence and go on from there. It was a wonderful feeling when I had worked well."
His first success in 1925[change | change source]
Hemingway's first book of short stories was called In Our Time. One of its stories, "Big Two Hearted River," told of the effects of war on a young man who was taking a long fishing trip in Michigan. Hemingway had learned from his father, when he was a boy, about living in the wild.
The story is about two kinds of rivers. One is calm and clear, and is where the young man fishes. The other is a dark, threatening swamp. The story shows its main character trying to forget his past, as well as the war. He does not talk much about the war. The reader learns about the young man, not because Hemingway tells his readers what the man thinks, but because he shows that man learning about himself. Many people believe it is one of the best modern American stories of all time. Because of this, "Big Two Hearted River" is often published in collections of best writing.
After the book was published in 1925, Hadley and Hemingway returned to the United States for the birth of their son, after which they quickly returned to Paris.
A book: The Sun Also Rises[change | change source]
Hemingway was working on a long story. He wanted to publish a novel so he would be recognized as a serious writer. And he wanted the money a novel would earn.
The novel was called The Sun Also Rises. It is about young Americans in Europe after World War One. The war had destroyed their dreams and had given them nothing to replace those dreams. The writer Gertrude Stein later called these people members of "The Lost Generation."
The book was an immediate success. At the age of 25 Ernest Hemingway was famous. Many people, however, did not like Hemingway's art because they did not like what he wrote about.
Hemingway's sentences were short, the way he had been taught to write at the Kansas City Star newspaper. He wrote about what he knew and felt. He used few descriptive words. His statements were clear and easily understood.
He had learned from earlier writers, like Ring Lardner and Sherwood Anderson, but Hemingway brought something new to his writing. He was able to paint in words what he saw and felt. In later books, sometimes he missed. Sometimes he even looked foolish. But when he was right he was almost perfect.
Marriage with Pauline Pfeiffer[change | change source]
With the success of his novel, Hemingway became even more popular in Paris. Many people came to see him. One was an American woman, Pauline Pfeiffer. She became Hadley's friend. Then Pauline fell in love with Hemingway.
Hemingway and Pauline saw each other secretly. One time, they went away together on a short trip. Years later, Hemingway wrote about returning home after that trip:
"When I saw Hadley again, I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her. She was smiling and the sun was on her lovely face. "
But the marriage was over. Ernest Hemingway and Hadley separated. She kept their son. He agreed to give her money he earned from his books.
In later years, he looked back at his marriage to Hadley as the happiest time of his life.
At twenty-five, Hemingway was living in Paris. He was a famous writer. But the end of his first marriage made him want to leave the place where he had first become famous.
Much later he said, "the city was never to be the same again. When I returned to it, I found it had changed as I had changed. Paris was never the same as when I was poor and very happy."
Hemingway and his new wife returned to the United States in 1928. They settled in Key West, an island with a fishing port near the southern coast of Florida.
His well-known books[change | change source]
Before leaving Paris, Hemingway sent a collection of his stories to New York to be published. The book of stories, called Men Without Women, was published soon after Hemingway arrived in Key West.
The Killers[change | change source]
One of the stories was called "The Killers." In it, Hemingway used a discussion between two men to create a feeling of tension and coming violence. This was a new method of telling a story:
Nick opened the thingy and went into the room. Ole Andreson was lying on the bed with all his clothes on. He had been a heavyweight prizefighter and he was too long for the bed. He lay with his head on two pillows. He did not look at Nick.
"What was it?" He asked.
"I was up at Henry's," Nick said, "and two fellows came in and tied me up and the cook, and they said they were going to kill you."
It sounded silly when he said it. Ole Andreson said nothing, "they put us out in the kitchen," Nick went on. "They were going to shoot you when you came in to supper."
Ole Andreson looked at the wall and did not say anything. "George thought I ought to come and tell you about it."
"There is not anything I can do about it," Ole Andreson said.
Any new book by Hemingway was an important event for readers. But stories like "The Killers" shocked many people. Some thought there was too much violence in his stories. Others said he only wrote about gunmen, soldiers, fighters, and drinkers.
This made Hemingway angry. He felt that writers should not be judged by those who could not write a story.
Hemingway was happy in Key West. In the morning he wrote, in the afternoon he fished, and at night he went to a public house and drank. One old fisherman said: "Hemingway was a man who talked slowly and very carefully. He asked a lot of questions. And he always wanted to get his information exactly right."
A Farewell to Arms[change | change source]
Hemingway and his wife Pauline had a child in Key West.[change | change source]
Soon afterwards, he heard that his father had killed himself. Hemingway was shocked. He said, "My father taught me so much. He was the only one I really cared about."
When Hemingway returned to work there was a sadness about his writing that was not there before.
His new book told about an American soldier who served with the Italian army during World War One. He meets an English nurse, and they fall in love. They flee from the army, but she dies during childbirth. Some of the events are taken from Hemingway's service in Italy. The book is called A Farewell to Arms.
Part of the book talks about the defeat of the Italian army at a place called Caporetto:
"At noon we were stuck in a muddy road about as nearly as we could figure, ten kilometres from Udine. The rain had stopped during the forenoon and three times we had heard planes coming, seen them pass overhead, watched them go far to the left and heard them bombing on the main highroad. . . .
"Later we were on a road that led to a river. There was a long line of abandoned trucks and carts on a road leading up to a bridge. No one was in sight. The river was high and the bridge had been blown up in the center; the stone arch was fallen into the river and the brown water was going over it. We went up the bank looking for a place to cross. . . . we did not see any troops; only abandoned trucks and stores. Along the river bank was nothing and no one but the wet brush and muddy ground. "
Death in the Afternoon[change | change source]
A Farewell to Arms was very successful. It earned Hemingway a great deal of money. It permitted him to travel.
One place he visited was Spain, a country he loved. He said, "I want to paint with words all the sights and sounds and smells of Spain. And if I can write any of it down truly, then it will represent all of Spain."
He wrote a book called Death in the Afternoon. It describes the Spanish custom of bull fighting. Hemingway believed that bull fighting was an art, just as much as writing was an art. And he believed it was a true test of a man's bravery, something that always concerned him.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro[change | change source]
Hemingway also travelled to Africa. He had been asked to write a series of reports about African hunting. He said, "Hunting in Africa is the kind of hunting I like. No riding in cars, just simple walking and feeling the grass under my feet."
The trip to Africa resulted in a book called The Green Hills of Africa and many smaller stories.
One story is one of Hemingway's best. The story, called The Snows of Kilimanjaro, tells of Hemingway's fears about himself. It is about a writer who betrays his art for money and is unable to remain true to himself.
For Whom the Bell Tolls[change | change source]
In 1936, the Civil War in Spain gave him a chance to return to Spain and test his bravery again. He agreed to write about the war for an American news organization.
It was a dangerous job. One day, Hemingway and two other reporters were driving a car near a battlefield. The car carried two white flags to show they were not fighting. But rebel gunners thought the car was carrying enemy officers. Hemingway was almost killed. Later he said that "bullets are all the same. If they do not hit you, there is no story. If they do hit you, then you do not have to write it. "
The trip to Spain resulted in two works: a play called The Fifth Column, and a novel called For Whom the Bell Tolls. The novel tells the story of an American who has chosen to fight against the fascists. He realizes that there are lies and injustice on his side. But he sees no hope except the victory of his side. During the fighting, he escapes his fear of death and of being alone. He decides that "he can live as full a life in seventy hours as in seventy years."
Later days and his married life[change | change source]
The book was a great success. Hemingway enjoyed being famous. His second marriage was ending. He divorced Pauline and married reporter Martha Gellhorn. He had met her while they were working in Spain. They decided to live in Cuba, near the city of Havana. Their house looked out over the Caribbean Sea.
But this marriage did not last long. Hemingway was changing. He began to feel that whatever he said was right. Martha went on long trips to be away from him. He drank heavily to forget his loneliness.
When America entered World War Two, Hemingway went to Britain as a reporter. Later he took part in the invasion of Europe and the freeing of Paris.
During the war, Hemingway met another reporter, Mary Walsh. In 1945, when his marriage to Martha was legally over, he married Mary.
After the war, Hemingway began work on his last important book, The Old Man and the Sea. It is the story of a Cuban fisherman who refuses to be defeated by nature.
Hemingway said, "I was trying to show the experience of the fisherman so exactly and directly that it became part of the reader's experience."
Ernest Hemingway was 60 years old, but he said he felt like he was 86. Even worse, he felt that he no longer was able to write. He seemed to be living the story about the writer who had sold his writing skill in order to make money.
In 1961, Ernest Hemingway shot himself dead. Among the papers he left was one that described what he liked best:
"To stay in places and to leave. . . to trust, to distrust. . . to no longer believe and believe again. . . to watch the changes in the seasons. . . to be out in boats. . . to watch the snow come, to watch it go. . . to hear the rain. . . And to know where I can find what I want."
Ernest Hemingway owned many cats, especially cats with extra toes. Today these cats are sometimes called Hemingway cats in his honor. His house in Key West, Florida is now a home for his cats and their kittens.
References[change | change source]
- Ernest Hemingway, 1899-1961 part1 on VOA program "American Stories"
- Ernest Hemingway, 1899-1961 part2 on VOA program "American Stories"
Other websites[change | change source]
Media related to Ernest Hemingway at Wikimedia Commons