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Tag: literature

Hemingway Revisited

So when I last appeared we discussed Hemingway’s life in Cuba. It was an interesting time, and one that I find perceptually engaging when you look at his life. But there is so much more than that, finding a good point in time is hard. For that reason I have chosen to go into a little more depth about the man’s life over all.

That is why today, we will once again be guest to Ernest Hemingway’s life. Last year PBS ran a documentary about Hemingway that actually encouraged today’s biography. The documentary was a three part work on his life, split into the different stages. Hemingway, covered a lot of material in the six hour runtime which could be described as his life, his work, and his loves. The series was co-produced and directed by Ken Burns who you might have heard about in the last couple of decades. If you know his style then you will have a pretty good idea of how it was structured and how it looked.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, which is a suburb of Chicago. He was the second of six children (four girls and two boys). His father, Clarence Edmond Hemingway, was a physician and enjoyed hunting and fishing. His mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, had studied music and made begin musical studies at an early age, hopeing to get him interested in music. Ernest’s father owned a small house with land on Lake Bear. There Ernest learned to fish (at the age of three he was already able to handle a fishing rod) and to hunt (at twelve he carried his father’s rifle). He attended Oak Park and River Forest High School, where he learned to play the cello and was part of the orchestra. In his studies he excelled in language, but felt apathy for the other subjects. He showed his literary skills in the school newspaper, using the alias Ring Lardner, Jr. When he finished his studies, in 1917, he did not want to go to university, as his father wanted, nor did he want to perfect his cello studies, as his mother wanted. He moved to Kansas and in October 1917 began working as a reporter at the Kansas City Star, earning $15 a week.

The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917, and Ernest did not want to miss the opportunity to follow the American Expedition Corps, as did John Dos Passos, William Faulkner or F. Scott Fitzgerald. But because of a defect in his left eye, he was excluded as a fighter. He managed to get a position as a Red Cross ambulance driver and landed in Bordeaux at the end of May 1918, to go to Italy. On 8 July 1918 he was seriously wounded by Austrian artillery. With injured legs and a broken knee, he still helped Italian soldiers escape to safety. He walked 40 meters until he fainted. The heroism he showed during the attack helped to earn him recognition from the Italian government with the Silver Medal for Valor. During his recovery in the Milan hospital he fell in love with a young nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, who would later leave him for a Neapolitan officer.

He returned to the United States in January 1919, resuming his work as a journalist at the Toronto Star and as an editor for the monthly Cooperative Commonwealth. He married Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, 8 years his senior, on September 3, 1920. The couple moved to Paris in 1922. It was then, shortly after arriving in Paris, his first and only son, John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway, was born, whom he called “Bumby”. In Paris he met the avant-garde literary environments and related to the members of the so-called Lost Generation: Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald among others. The Hemingway family lived in an austere apartment, but when Ernest wrote to his family he told them that they lived in the best area of the Latin Quarter. His literary beginnings were not easy. His first works: Three short stories and ten poems (1923) and “In This World” (1925) went unnoticed. Ernest earned his living as a correspondent and traveled throughout Europe.

The year 1925 marked the discovery of Hemingway for American publishers, and the year he wrote his first novel, Fiesta. The new style he showed in this book, a portrait of the bohemian Paris of the twenties and much of it autobiographical inspiration, left behind a more experimental and obscure literary work, resulting in more of a sudden surprise success. Also in “Death in the Afternoon”, he recounts his experiences in Spain, a country that he was already beginning to worship, and in which there are still testimonies of his presence today. In 1929, he published “A Farewell to Arms”, a novel with autobiographical content, since it is based on his passage through the war and his experiences on the battle front. It was followed by two more optimistic works, which dealt with two topics that he was passionate about: bullfighting, in “Death in the Afternoon”, and Africa, in “The Green Hills of Africa” (published 1935).

In 1928 he returned to the United States with his second wife, but soon left for Cuba. From that moment on there was a curious and definitive transformation in his style. His work moves away from individualism, as can be seen in “To Have and Not Have” (published 1937), which describes the failure of an individual rebellion, and it is here that he engages in the humanitarian struggle and the union of people.

He was more committed to his writing in this new stage, which focused on the Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. Through this commitment that he testified to in the script of the documentary film “The Spanish Earth”, in the play ” The Fifth Column” and of course in “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, a masterpiece of universal literature. World War II then broke out. In 1944 he traveled to Europe as a war correspondent, participated in aerial reconnaissance missions over Germany and was part of the landing in Normandy, being one of the first journalists to enter Paris. It was not until 1950 that he wrote again. “Across the River and into the Trees,” it is his first publication after those turbulent years of war. “The Old Man and the Sea” was released in 1952. This was a short story commissioned by Life magazine, “The Old Man and the Sea,” was the work which would win him the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. The story tells of an old Cuban fisherman who has had a rough spot in his life and goes fishing determined to end it. A year later he won the Nobel Prize for Literature for all his work.

From that moment forward he tried to write a novel about the Second World War, something that came very difficult for him, and it was a task that he would never finish. Hemingway was left with a longing for the feeling that caused him to be a young dreamer, brave and risky, who not only wrote about events that would one day become part of history, since he was also part of it. On July 2, 1961, perhaps he decided he couldn’t write anymore – a lifetime of alcohol abuse and long-term use of Reserpine and Ritalin left him in a mentally unstable condition, one that was was further complicated by hereditary hemochromatosis, which is a genetic disorder characterized by excessive intestinal absorption of dietary iron – and shot himself with a shotgun he had purchased from Abercrombie & Fitch. Given the absence of a suicide note and from the angle of the gun shot wound, it is difficult to determine if his death was actually self-inflicted or if it was an accident.

The life and times of Ernest Hemingway were often turbulent, often exciting, and often infused with a brand of melancholic normalcy that only he could create. His style is one that has inspired generations since his passing and has earned him a place among the great writers of the last century.

Hemingway’s Life: Reborn In Cuba

When you know me better you will realize how much I love the works of Hemingway. Today though it amazes me how little is known about the man.

For many American's in my generation it went without say that Hemingway was part of your life. At least academically. His impact on our culture and society as a whole is substantial which is why it pains me to learn that my niece; She will graduate next Spring, has never picked up one of his works. Nor was she forced to read one in school.

She didn't even know he visited Cuba, nor the impact it had on his work. He has spent more than two decades there and it was between the walls of the Finca Vigia, or Ferme Vigie. A property that has become a heritage restoration workshop outside of Havana. It is a joint project of the Cuban institutions and an American NGO, which emerged despite the resurgence of tensions with Washington initiated by Donald Trump. that Ernest Hemingway wrote one of his greatest works, "The Old Man and the Sea".

Ernest Hemingway lived on the premises from 1939 to 1960. He left thousands of documents such as manuscripts of his books, but also correspondence, photographs, or annotated works. A page of his life that he toured almost a year after the revolution. A year before his final his days.

Though he is one of the major figures of literature in the United States I fear that we will someday be oblivious to the importance he had.

Bread and Wine

Something a little bit older landed on my bookshelf the other day; "Bread and Wine" by Ignazio Silone, published in 1936 by the Gutenberg Book Guild or "Vino e pane" published a year later in Italy. The book was republished in 1955 under the title "Wine and Bread," and apparently, in terms of content, it has been modified over the years but remains in print.

From Wikipedia):

Bread and Wine is an anti-fascist and anti-Stalinist novel written by Ignazio Silone. It was finished while the author was in exile from Benito Mussolini's Italy. It was first published in 1936 in a German language edition in Switzerland as Brot und Wein, and in an English translation in London later the same year. An Italian version, Pane e vino, did not appear until 1937.

After the war, Silone completely revised the text, publishing a significantly different version in Italy (in 1955), reversing the title: Vino e pane (‘Wine and Bread’). This updated version is also available in English translation.

I had learned about the author in a documentation that I watched some time ago and decided to try some of his work up. "Bread and Wine" is my first foray into that exploration.

Born in the small village of Abruzzo and died in Geneva in 1978, Ignazio Silone, whose name was Secondini Tranquilli wrote about Italy's poverty in the 1930s and the socialists' struggle against the Fascists, but actually also contains general wisdom for life. He then fled abroad, revised his books, etc.

The book follows the exploits of Pietro Spina, a young revolutionary who is being sought by authorities. To avoid capture disguises himself as an old priest known as Don Paolo Spada.

The story tells a lot about Silone's life, who lost his parents and his siblings early in on and was forced to make due without much schooling; his transition to a revolutionary and journalists were, for a time, under the scrutiny of police spies.

The book is beautifully written and for a work to survive it must be lest it slip into the space in history that is reserved for the forgotten.

Since "Wine and Bread" is still available, you can find some reviews that both provide sound information about the work giving you a good idea of what you are in store for and others. Some of them note downsides, such as "The book is adventure novel and political thriller in one" or "Wine and bread – both appear in the book while the figures consumes them regularly, the title does not suggest the actual content. It is also increasingly political and exciting towards the end."

While I find it good that they read the book it feels like they have missed the point. Neither of the opinions are capable of painting the work in a light that would be relevant to the themes and messages the book covers.

I will avoid going into much detail about the book; Instead it is more important to understand the time in which it was written, the struggles people faced, as well as the understanding that it is truly not a work of fiction but a document of the time.

For instance, the lives of the landless peasants are described very forcefully. Mussolini is all present and is feasible for one to see that people actually had no choice but to join the fascists, because they were mislead through the news, exploited and used to further Mussolini's agenda to receive minimal sustenance and support. For a job as a civil servant, teacher, community doctor one had to sell his soul and the poor students got money for their food rations, but only if they agree.

The book explores the populist rhetoric undermined the fabric of society and fake news was employed in much the same manner as today.

It is a time that we cannot return to.

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