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Ernest Hemingway

January 15, 2012

seven-eighths of it underwater – “..Surely. If a writer stops observing he is finished. But he does not have to observe consciously nor think how it will be useful. Perhaps that would be true at the beginning. But later everything he sees goes into the great reserve of things he knows or has seen. If it is any use to know it, I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg. It is the part that doesn’t show. If a writer omits something because he does not know it then there is a hole in the story. The Old Man and the Sea could have been over a thousand pages long and had every character in the village in it and all the processes of how they made their living, were born, educated, bore children, et cetera. That is done excellently and well by other writers. In writing you are limited by what has already been done satisfactorily. So I have tried to learn to do something else. First I have tried to eliminate everything unnecessary to conveying experience to the reader so that after he or she has read something it will become a part of his or her experience and seem actually to have happened. This is very hard to do and I’ve worked at it very hard. Anyway, to skip how it is done, I had unbelievable luck this time and could convey the experience completely and have it be one that no one had ever conveyed. The luck was that I had a good man and a good boy and lately writers have forgotten there still are such things. Then the ocean is worth writing about just as man is. So I was lucky there. I’ve seen the marlin mate and know about that. So I leave that out. I’ve seen a school (or pod) of more than fifty sperm whales in that same stretch of water and once harpooned one nearly sixty feet in length and lost him. So I left that out. All the stories I know from the fishing village I leave out. But the knowledge is what makes the underwater part of the iceberg…” (Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21)

physical and mental suffering – “…Caught in an existential cul-de-sac, Hemingway’s characters find meaning through adherence to what Warren called the Hemingway Code: “His heroes are not defeated except upon their own terms. They are not squealers, welchers, compromisers, or cowards, and when they confront defeat they realize that the stance they take, the stoic endurance, the stiff upper lip mean a kind of victory. Defeated upon their own terms, some of them have even courted their defeat; and certainly they have maintained, even in the practical defeat, an ideal of themselves.” Fifty years ago today, after enduring years of declining health, Ernest Hemingway met death upon his own terms. Looking back on it in 1999, Joyce Carol Oates wrote: “Hemingway’s death by suicide in 1961, in a beautiful and isolated Ketchum, Idaho, would seem to have brought him full circle: back to the America he had repudiated as a young man, and to the method of suicide his father had chosen, a gun. To know the circumstances of the last years of Hemingway’s life, however, his physical and mental suffering, is to wonder that the beleaguered man endured as long as he did. His legacy to literature, apart from the distinct works of art attached to his name, is a pristine and immediately recognizable prose style and a vision of mankind in which life and art are affirmed despite all odds…” (Remembering Ernest Hemingway, Fifty Years After His Death)

anti-fascist spy network – “…It’s the worst hell. The goddamndest hell. They’ve bugged everything. That’s why we’re using Duke’s car. Mine’s bugged. Everything’s bugged. Can’t use the phone. Mail intercepted.’ Kotchner says Hemingway became more agitated on the trip, demanding they stop and watch two men working in a bank as he was convinced they were rifling through his accounts by order of the FBI. The worried author also recalls how Hemingway, during the same visit, identified two strangers as FBI agents who were following him. After the two incidents Hemingway was admitted into hospital, where he was given electric shock therapy and unsuccessfully attempted to commit suicide on several occasions. It was this behaviour that led to any dismissing his claims that he was an FBI target as fanciful and delusional and his claims were still unproven when he died in 1961. But in the 1980s, the author’s complaints were found to be justified, when the agents released their file on him following a Freedom of Information request. The FBI were intensely interested in him and had made notes about his attempts to launch an anti-fascist spy network and reported to then FBI President J Edgar Hoover that the author was physically and mentally ill…” (Did FBI surveillance push Ernest Hemingway to the brink of suicide?)

Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American author and journalist. His distinctive writing style, characterized by economy and understatement, influenced 20th-century fiction, as did his life of adventure and his public image. He produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Hemingway’s fiction was successful because the characters he presented exhibited authenticity that resonated with his audience. Many of his works are classics of American literature. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works during his lifetime; a further three novels, four collections of short stories, and three non-fiction works were published posthumously. Hemingway was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois. After leaving high school he worked for a few months as a reporter for The Kansas City Star, before leaving for the Italian front to become an ambulance driver during World War I, which became the basis for his novel A Farewell to Arms. In 1918, he was seriously wounded and returned home within the year. In 1922 Hemingway married Hadley Richardson, the first of his four wives, and the couple moved to Paris, where he worked as a foreign correspondent. During his time there he met and was influenced by modernist writers and artists of the 1920s expatriate community known as the “Lost Generation”. His first novel, The Sun Also Rises, was published in 1926. After divorcing Hadley Richardson in 1927 Hemingway married Pauline Pfeiffer; they divorced following Hemingway’s return from covering the Spanish Civil War, after which he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls. Martha Gellhorn became his third wife in 1940; they split when he met Mary Welsh in London during World War II. During the war he was present at D-Day and the liberation of Paris. Shortly after the publication of The Old Man and the Sea in 1952 Hemingway went on safari to Africa, where he was almost killed in a plane crash that left him in pain or ill-health for much of the rest of his life. Hemingway had permanent residences in Key West, Florida, and Cuba during the 1930s and ’40s, but in 1959 he moved from Cuba to Ketchum, Idaho, where he committed suicide in the summer of 1961 (Wikepedia).

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