I gotta say, this guy is a piece of work all on his own. To be brief, the guy was a raging alcoholic, adventurer, ladies man who wrote some classic works of literature and then committed suicide.
I could elaborate with all that pretty wording about how his straightforward prose and understated style had a hefty influence on future generations. But to be honest, I rarely use words like prose and understated style, they just aren’t me. To even understand what that statement about prose and style mean, you would just have to read his work and trust me, there is plenty of it. Mostly written between 1920 and 1950, he produced seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works not including the suitcase full of unpublished stories his wife lost at the airport.
That’s pretty much the jist of it. Ernest Miller Hemingway lived quite the life filled with lots of war and four marriages, a few affairs and friendships with some other amazing people. This experience shows in his work and is part of what makes them classics. He wrote mostly about tough people like soldiers, hunters and bullfighters who are full of courage and honesty. These people are portrayed against the often cruel and brutal modern society. These people, as many people do in rough situations, lose hope and faith.
But that’s not what you’re here to read about. You want more. You want the juicy sordid details of his crazy life. Honestly, it took a while to find any good bits although I knew they were there. Most sites are just a summarized biography and leave out the best parts.
We’ll skip over his early life by saying his parents were well off, his dad was a doctor, his mom a musician. He grew up in a suburb of Chicago. After graduating high school, at the age of seventeen he started his career as a writer at The Kansas City Star, in, you guessed it, Kansas City. But that Hemingway, he wasn’t happy with just being a joe schmoe reporter, he had to run off and enlist. The United States had entered WWI and Hemingway joined as a volunteer ambulance driver in Italy. He was shipped to New York and then to Paris just as the city was being bombed by the Germans. Finally he made it to Italian front.
**Now take notes of all of these things I’m telling you about him, they all come into play in his writing**
It was in Italy he met John Dos Passos (another important novelist of the Lost Generation). Right after he arrived in Milan, Hemingway was dispatched to a munitions factory explosion where he helped gather first the complete bodies of the dead and then the pieces of bodies of the rest of the dead. A short time later, in July (he only arrived in Italy in June), Hemingway was injured from mortar fire on his way back from a delivery to soldiers on the front line. He received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery because despite his injury, he carried an Italian soldier to safety. Hemingway had sustained substantial injuries to both legs and had to have an immediate operation then spent five days at the field hospital before being transferred. He was in the hospital for six months where he met a couple of other important writers, “Chink” Doman-Smith and Henry Serrano Villard.
**His experiences in Italy, in the war, were described in one of his non-fiction books Death in the Afternoon. His experience at the newspaper before that taught him his writing method that would stick with him for life – use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English.**
**Now, another super important thing happened to Hemingway while he was recuperating. He fell in love for the first time. Agnes Von Kurowsky was a Red Cross nurse he began a relationship with and wanted to marry. He was shipped back home to the US in January but they had agreed to marry despite her having for the time being to stay in Italy. It was not to be however, because in March, she wrote to him and told him she was engaged to another man. Hemingway was devastated, scarred for life you might say. He never really trusted a woman again, as evidenced in his numerous marriages.**
|Middle Age Hemingway|
Hemingway, back from the war and injured, found he was at odds with everyone around him. He had left as a boy but come back a man who had seen far too much. He felt isolated in this way from those around him. He spent a week alone in the back woods of Michigan. This time formed the inspiration for his short story Big Two-Hearted River. The main character of the story is a guy who seeks solitude after returning home from a war.
Afterwards, Hemingway took a job in Toronto working for the Toronto Star Weekly then moved back to Michigan and also worked for the journal the Cooperative Commonwealth. At this time he met yet another important novelist, Sherwood Anderson. He would soon fall in love again, this time with the sister of his roommate. Hadley Richardson became his first wife. Just as Agnes had been, Hadley was a few years older than Hemingway and had a nurturing personality. Unlike Agnes, Hadley was giddy and fun, childlike.
It was Sherwood who convinced the new couple to go to Paris instead of Italy.
Sherwood talked to his friends in Paris about Hemingway and set it all up. So they moved to Paris and joined that elusive group of the Lost Generation. These were the people you wanted to know, they were the ‘in’ crowd of the literary and artistic world. Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound (all majorly famous writers and just as controversial) and artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, and Juan Gris were all members of this elite social group. Stein acted as a mentor for Hemingway but it was Ezra Pound who he would tour Italy with and live near. Pound introduced him to James Joyce and with Joyce he found a drinking buddy on which to go on drinking sprees.
During his time in Paris, Hemingway was still filing stories with the Toronto Star. Being in Europe during a time of great upheaval, Hemingway witnessed firsthand the burning of Smyma in the Greco-Turkish War. It was also during this time Hadley lost the suitcase full of his writings at the airport on her way to meet him in Geneva. Soon after, they returned to Toronto where their son John Hadley Nicanor was born. This time in 1923 in Toronto, Hemingway was bored. He missed his more adventurous life in Paris and Spain where he had discovered bullfighting.
Hemingway moved the family back to Paris in 1924. At this time he worked with Ford Madox Ford. He spent time with Passos and Stein. An important thing happened at this time too. Up until then Hemingway had been writing newspaper pieces and short stories. Hemingway then met F. Scott Fitzgerald who soon published The Great Gatsby. This book made Hemingway decide to write a novel.
Things went well for the family, they visited Spain a lot, had some laughs. Then went on a trip with Hemingway’s childhood friend Bill Smith, Lady Duff Twysden, the Lady’s lover Pat Guthrie, and Harold Loeb. Just after this trip, Hemingway started work on The Sun Also Rises near the end of 1925. A few months later in December, they were in Austria where Pauline Pfeiffer joined them and tried to get Hemingway to sign with the publishers Scribner. Hadley was against it but Hemingway went with Pauline to New York anyway to meet the publishers. Of course, he started an affair with Pfeiffer and briefly stopped over in Paris with her before returning to Austria.
The Sun Also Rises is one of Hemingway’s most notable works. It was a big deal and was highly praised. Needless to say, a while later, Hadley found out about the affair and asked Hemingway for a separation. By November the next year she asked for a divorce. In the divorce, Hemingway gave Hadley the proceeds from The Sun Also Rises.
Hemingway a short time later converted to Catholicism so he could marry Pfeiffer. They went to Le Grau-du-Rol for their honeymoon where Hemingway contracted anthrax. Yeah, anthrax.
Nevertheless, he went on writing short stories anyway and by the end of the year, 1927, Pauline was pregnant and they moved back to the US. They moved to Key West. Then back in Paris, Hemingway had yet another bizarre incident.
In their Paris bathroom, Hemingway suffered a severe injury to his head when he pulled a skylight down on his head. He said he thought he was pulling the toilet chain. Afterwards, for the rest of his life, he had really noticeable scar on his forehead.
They moved back to Kansas City where Pauline had their son Patrick in June 1928. It was a difficult delivery and Hemingway used that as inspiration for an incident in A Farewell To Arms. After that they traveled all over the US. Then in the fall of 1929, Hemingway was in New York about to board a train to Florida with his first son when he got a message that his father had committed suicide.
**This is important people. Hemingway’s father committed suicide in 1928. Hemingway had actually sent his father a letter telling him not to worry about finances but the letter arrived minutes after the suicide. Hadley’s father had also committed suicide in 1903 when she was a child. Hemingway said he now understood how Hadley must have felt. He also commented on his father’s suicide that, “I’ll probably go the same way.” **
Hemingway went back to Key West where he continued to work on A Farewell To Arms. He is said to have rewritten the ending over seventeen times. When it was published, it was to rave reviews. People loved it.
In the 1930s, Hemingway alternated between Key West and Wyoming. In Wyoming he hunted deer, elk and grizzly bears. In November 1930, Hemingway was taking a friend to the train station when in a car accident, he broke his arm. The bone was bound together by Kangaroo tendon and Hemingway was hospitalized for seven weeks. It took a year before the nerves in his hand healed.
Hemingway was still a big lush – he was a major alcoholic. Pauline gave birth to another son, Gregory Hancock Hemingway in November 1931. Her uncle bought them a house in Key West across the street from a lighthouse. He said he did this because even in one of Hemingway’s drunken stupors, the house would be easy to find. Hemingway frequented a bar called Sloppy Joe’s with friends Waldo Pierce, Passos, and Max Perkins. He also traveled extensively.
In 1933, Hemingway and Pauline went on safari to East Africa. For 10 weeks the couple visited all kinds of places. They hunted in the Serengeti. It was during his African safari that Hemingway contracted amoebic dysentery. Yuck. It caused him to have a prolapsed intestine and he was evacuated by plane.
In 1934, Hemingway bought a boat and sailed the Caribbean. In 1935 he published his works about Africa but they were only so-so. In 1937 he published To Have and Have Not, his only novel of the 1930s.
In 1937, Hemingway began reporting on the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. While he was in Spain, writer Martha Gelhorn joined him. They had met in Key West previously at Christmas. For those who didn’t get it, this means he began an affair with Martha.
In 1939, Hemingway sailed to Cuba and his separation from Pauline began. This was in the spring of 39. Martha soon joined Hemingway in Cuba. Pauline and the kids left Hemingway that summer for good.
In November 1940, Hemingway married Martha once his divorce to Pauline was finalized. The ink wasn’t even dry on the paper before he began a new marriage. They moved to Idaho and split time between Idaho and Cuba.
Crazy Cat Man
**Hemingway at this time developed a thing for cats and had dozens of them**
In January 1941, Hemingway went to China where Martha was sent on assignment. He hated it. They went back to Cuba just before the US declared war. Hemingway convinced the Cuban government to help refit his boat so he could ambush German submarines off the coast.
In WWII (through December 1944), Hemingway was in Europe. He was at D-Day at the landing on the beaches of Normandy. Hooking up with the 22nd infantry Regiment, Hemingway followed them as they made their way to Paris. Hemingway then became the leader of a small village militia just outside of Paris.
**For this action of leading a militia, Hemingway was brought up on formal charges for defying rules set forth in the Geneva Convention. He was acquitted by claiming not to have actually been the leader**
Hemingway was present for the famous liberation of Paris. He was also present at the Battle of Hurtgen Forest and then at the Battle of the Bulge. He was unfortunately extremely ill at the last battle and sent to a hospital where he recovered from pneumonia. He earned a Bronze Star for his WWII escapades.
True to form, Hemingway then met another woman and fell in love. This time it was Time magazine correspondent Mary Welsh. They hooked up in London. Meanwhile, his wife at the time, Martha was crossing the Atlantic in a ship filled with explosives. Hemingway had refused to get her a press pass so she could get on a plane to London. When Martha arrived in London, Hemingway was in the hospital with a concussion, another deep wound on his forehead, and a smashed knee from a car accident. His last time with Martha was in March 1945 when she told him she was finished and he was preparing to return to Cuba.
He at the time had already asked Mary Welsh to marry him, on their third meeting no less.
In 1946, Hemingway married Mary. Five months later she suffered an ectopic pregnancy. In successive skiing accidents Mary broke first her right then her left ankles. In 1947, Patrick was in a car accident and gained a head wound. He then became very ill. Hemingway began to sink into depression. In 1939, Yeats and Ford Madox Ford died, in 1940 F. Scott Fitzgerald died, in 1941 James Joyce and Sherwood Anderson died, in 1946 Stein died and in 1947 Max Perkins died.
At this point, Hemingway was on a massive downward spiral. He had bad headaches, high blood pressure, weight issues, and diabetes. He did, however, continue to write. A champ that guy, a real champ, keeping up with his writing. Unfortunately, his work ultimately stalled.
In 1948, Hemingway and Mary went to Europe. In Venice, Hemingway fell in love with the 19 year old Adriana Ivancich. Then he went back to Cuba as he and Mary were clearly having problems.
In 1952, Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize in May for The Old Man and the Sea. Then he went to Africa.
In 1954, while in Africa, Hemingway was almost fatally injured. On a sightseeing trip with Mary, the plane crashed into an abandoned utility pole and crash landed. He suffered a head wound and Mary broke some ribs. On a flight to get medical care elsewhere, the plane exploded at take off. Suffering severe burns, Hemingway also had such a severe head wound he was leaking cerebral fluid.
Later that same year, Hemingway went on a fishing trip with Patrick. A bushfire started and Hemingway again suffered severe burns. Mary would later reveal to friends Hemingway had suffered two cracked discs, kidney and liver rupture, fractured skull and dislocated shoulder during their plane crashes. After the accidents, Hemingway’s drinking problem escalated further.
In October 1954, Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
**Hemingway was unable to fly to Stockholm to accept the prize in person and sent a speech to be read instead that said, “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life… For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.” **
For most of 1955 – 1956 Hemingway was bedridden. He managed in October 1956 to fly to Europe but was extremely ill and treated for high blood pressure, liver disease, and arteriosclerosis. He refused to stop drinking despite these illnesses.
In July 1960, Hemingway and Mary left Cuba. Hemingway then traveled alone to Spain. He was seriously ill and believed himself to be on the verge of a breakdown but told Mary he was alright. He was lonely and bedridden for days at a time. He returned to New York to Mary in October. He then claimed he was being watched and refused to leave the apartment. Mary immediately took him to Idaho to see a doctor.
In late 1960, Hemingway went to the Mayo Clinic for treatment of his bizarre behaviors. He was paranoid, thought he was being watched, and was unusually worried about money. At the clinic, he received electroshock therapy, as many as fifteen times.
In January 1961, Hemingway was released but was no longer himself. Deeply scarred and depressed, in April 1961, Mary came home to find him in their kitchen holding a shotgun. He was then sent back to the Mayo Clinic and received more electroshock therapy.
In June 1961, on June 30, Hemingway returned home to Idaho.
On July 2, 1961 Hemingway put a shotgun in his mouth and blew his brains out. The press was told the death was accidental but Dr. Scott Earle, who arrived at the house fifteen minutes after Mary found Hemingway’s body, found that Hemingway had died of a self inflicted wound to the head. Mary would later reveal that Hemingway had indeed committed suicide.
**Hemingway’s father committed suicide. Hemingway committed suicide. Hemingway’s sister Ursula committed suicide. His brother Leicester also committed suicide.**