Fifty years ago Ernest Hemingway, in failing health and deeply unhappy, took his life.
by Charlie Leck
“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know!” [Ernest Hemingway]
I’ve had chats with one of my daughters about Ernest Hemingway. She teaches creative writing, literature and English at the college level. She doesn’t ask anyone to read Hemingway. She doesn’t like his take on women. He was a chauvinist.
I have a collection of Hemingway’s works in leather. They are destined to become the property of this daughter. I am quite sure that I have read all of Hemingway’s published works. I liked the way he put sentences together. Most time, I liked the way he put stories together.
“In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it anymore.” [Hemingway]
Fifty years have passed since Hemingway’s tragic death at his own hand. He had a character flaw that, I think, came from his own writing. He admired strong and heroic men. To be a man, in his eyes, one had to be virile, of great physical strength and capable of being the hunter. When he was not that (any of that), he took his life. He was miserable when he died, but oh how he could write jarring and tantalizing sentences at the height of his productivity.
The first great book I ever read was Old Man and the Sea. I have read it at least a half-dozen times. Talk about victory and defeat! How powerful is Hemingway's creation of a central character in this work? Extraordinary!
“In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more. It was cold in the fall in Milan and the dark came very early. Then the electric lights came on, and it was pleasant along the streets looking in the windows. There was much game hanging outside the shops, and the snow powdered in the fur of the foxes and the wind blew their tails. The deer hung stiff and heavy and empty, and small birds blew in the wind and the wind turned their feathers. It was a cold fall and the wind came down from the mountains.” [In Another Country, by Ernest Hemingway [Scribner, 1927]
*I wrote about this sentence in another blog, in March of 2010: “The war was always there!”
Hemingway was not a good public speaker. His speech when he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature is a good example of that. Listen to it here (below) and forget the poor delivery of the words, but listen, instead, to the remarkable sentences (one after another). I found this video on Open Culture.
“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life… (The writer) grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and, often, his work deteriorates.”
Have a wonderful 4th of July. I have family coming home to spend the better part of two weeks with me. The house will ring with the sound of children’s laughter and there will be hugs, kisses and lots of love and joy. Ernest, I wish you had known such happiness; yet, in this quiet moment I whisper my gratitude up into the stars to you.
“After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.” [Ernest Hemingway: A Farewell to Arms]
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