July 21, 1899 - July 2, 1961
Novelist Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899. He was the second of six children born to Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, a physician and Grace Hall Hemingway, a singer. He was a journalist/war correspondent, a fisherman, hunter, and a boxer. During the course of his lifetime he was married to four women, three of whom were writers. He had three sons.
Unable to join the army because of a congenital eye defect, Hemingway became an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in the first world war. His experiences during the war were transformative and would years later become grist for several short stories and the novel A Farewell to Arms.
After the war, Hemingway went home to Oak Park briefly and then moved to Chicago. Shortly after this he and his first wife, Hadley, moved to Paris where Hemingway lived among a group of what has been called 'expatriot' writers that are today key to literature as we know it. The group included James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name a few. It was during Hemingway's life in Paris that he wrote The Sun Also Rises.
The misconception that Hemingway founded a 'lost generation' is a myth that persists to this day. In truth, Hemingway never professed to believe in or belong to a 'lost generation.' He made this clear in A Moveable Feast when he wrote:
It was when we had come back from Canada and were living in the rue Notre-Dame- des-Champs and Miss Stein and I were still good friends that Miss Stein made the remark about the lost generation. She had some ignition trouble with the old Model T Ford she then drove and the young man who worked in the garage and had served in the last year of the war had not been adept, or perhaps had not broken the priority of other vehicles , in repairing Miss Stein's Ford. Anyway he had not been serieux and had been corrected severely by the patron of the garage after Miss Stein's protest. The patron had said to him, "You are all a generation perdue." "That's what you are. That's what you all are," Miss Stein said. "All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation." "Really?" I said. "You are," she insisted. "You have no respect for anything..."
In the 1930s Hemingway lived in Spain and in Cuba, which would later serve as background for the novels For Whom the Bell Tolls and To Have and Have Not respectively. When Fidel Castro took over in Cuba, Hemingway moved to Idaho. The Old Man and the Sea won a Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and in 1954 Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature.And later he wrote:
It is said that Hemingway's work as a journalist shaped his prose style which supposedly consists of 'short declarative sentences.' This is far from the truth, though he did, when recalling writing in Paris in A Moveable Feast, use the phrase 'declarative sentence:'
'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.' So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.
I was learning something from the painting of Cezanne that made writing simple true sentences far from enough to make the stories have the dimensions that I was trying to put in them. (A Moveable Feast).The prose is not comprised of short declarative sentences, nor is the sentiment behind the sentences simple:
Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight. (A Moveable Feast).
A writer can learn a lot by reading Hemingway. Some of his stories, such as "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber", " A Clean Well-Lighted Place", "Hills Like White Elephants", "The Snows of Kilimanjaro", and "Indian Camp" are among the finest stories ever written. His prose is lucid, rhythmic and musical, cutting, inspired, symbolic, spiritual, measured, nonanticeptic and clean. The famous phrase, 'grace under pressure' may likely have had, in Hemingway's life, more to do with the very challenging and difficult task of writing honest, deep prose than with bullfights or boxing.
Ernest Hemingway took his own life in 1961. The ramifications this has on the existing literature are none. Any other ramifications should be left to the writer's family to contend with.
Hemingway at CBA Malcolm Cowley once said that Ernest Hemingway was not good at 'team' sports, despite the fact that he was a great athlete. The Cosmic Baseball Association welcomes Papa to the team, and is anxious to see how he does in the outfield for the Eden Bohemians.
Text notes copyright © 1998 by Lynn Behrendt.
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