“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
Today is Ernest Hemingway’s 119th birth anniversary. The American novelist, short story writer and journalist is a commanding presence in the literary world, and had a strong influence on 20th century literature. He produced most of his works between the 1920s and 1950s, and even won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction books. Three of his novels, four short story collections, and three non-fiction works were published posthumously.
His debut novel, The Sun Also Rises, was published in 1926. He based the 1940 novel For Whom The Bells Toll on his journalistic experiences during the Spanish Civil War. Soon after the publication of The Old Man And The Sea (1952), he went on safari to Africa, where he was nearly killed in two successive plane crashes that left him in ill health for a major part of the rest of his life. In 1961 he shot himself in the head in his house in Ketchum, Idaho.
Hemingway’s works are considered masterpieces of American literature. However, even the finest works of fiction pale in comparison to his endeavors in real life. Winner of both the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, Bronze Star recipient, war correspondent, sports fisherman, game hunter, bullfighting aficionado, boxer, War hero – the list of his many non-literary pursuits is endless.
Hemingway learned to handle a gun at a young age – his interest in hunting ranging from pheasant and duck shooting, to big game safaris in East Africa later on in life. He was an amateur boxer, and won several fishing tournaments – his love for sports reflected in many of his short stories. His lifelong zeal for the hunting life can be seen in his masterful works of fiction inspired by his own adventures. From his famous account of an African safari in The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber, to anecdotes about duck hunting in Across The River And Into The Trees – he considered hunting as a means to explore man’s relationship to nature.
“My writing is nothing, my boxing is everything.”
He used boxing analogies in interviews, had a boxing ring built in his backyard and sparred with guests, and even attempted to teach the poet Ezra Pound to box during his years in Paris.
“He is without question one of the most courageous men I have ever known. Fear was a stranger to him.”
~Colonel “Buck” Lanham, a close friend and later a Major General, when Hemingway was awarded the Bronze Star for Bravery as a war correspondent.
“I suppose the most remarkable thing about Ernest is that he has found time to do the things most men only dream about. He has had the courage, the initiative, the time, the enjoyment to travel, to digest it all, to write, to create it, in a sense. There is in him a sort of quiet rotation of seasons, with each of them passing overland and then going underground and re-emerging in a kind of rhythm, refreshed and full of renewed vigor.”
~Marlene Dietrich (actress and close friend who commented on Hemingway’s life to a biographer)
Hemingway’s life experiences contributed as resource material to many of his literary works, and much of his life is reflected in his fiction.
“In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dulled and know I had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well oiled in the closet, but unused.”
~Preface to The First Forty-Nine Stories
“We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.”
A. E. Hotchner Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir
American Author’s Series Ernest Hemingway: Wrestling with Life
Ernest Hemingway, Sean Hemingway, Patrick Hemingway Hemingway On Hunting
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