Christian Science Monitor
Hemingway: The Final Yearsby Michael Reynolds
Michael Reynolds discovered the truth about Hemingway's activities during the war years, which included running a counterintelligence operation in Havana. The postwar period was the most productive of Hemingway's writing life, when he authored the Pulitzer
Hemingway's triumphs as a writer during the 1940s and 1950s accompanied a life of risk and danger.
Michael Reynolds discovered the truth about Hemingway's activities during the war years, which included running a counterintelligence operation in Havana. The postwar period was the most productive of Hemingway's writing life, when he authored the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Old Man and the Sea and received the Nobel Prize. Even as Hemingway graced the cover of Life magazine, his physical and mental health deteriorated while his public image as hunter and sportsman continued to demand the strenuous life. In 1961 he committed suicide, leaving behind the stuff of which American myths are made.
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Read an Excerpt
Ringing the Changes
July to Early Winter 1940
With thigh bone snapped by his falling horse and pain now beading his face in sweat, Robert Jordan lay as quietly as possible, calling on all his reserves for one last effort. It was not a question of would he survive or not. As soon as the bone splintered, his death was certain. The only question was whether he could hold off the pain long enough to do one last thing well. His small flask of absinthe was lost in the fall, and no matter how he tried, he could not think past the pain. He could not think about the girl, nor his father dead by his own hand, nor even his Civil War grandfather. At that last moment when he felt himself slipping into unconsciousness, the Nationalist cavalry officer came into view below him. Positioning his extra clips close at hand, Jordan sighted quite calmly down the barrel of his submachine gun at the moving target. "He was waiting until the officer reached the sunlit place where the first trees of the pine forest joined the green slope of the meadow. He could feel his heart against the pine needle floor of the forest." Having come full circle, he was back where he started three days earlier, before he had received the incredible gift of the girl, Maria, before El Sordo's death on that other lonely hilltop, before Pablo stole the dynamite plunger but came back with the extra horses, before the bridge was blown.
On paper, only three days had passed between the typescript's opening page and its last one, but it had cost seventeen months of Ernest Hemingway's life and the end of his second marriage to create those three days. In March 1939, when he started the story of the dynamiter and the band of Loyalist partisans, the Spanish Civil War was all but over. The elected government's effort to defeat Franco's fascist revolution was doomed when America, England, and France refused to support a leftist government being helped by the Russians. No matter that Hitler's Nazi Condor Legion was bombing Guernica; no matter that Mussolini's Italian troops were in the Spanish trenches; no matter that sound journalists warned, time and again: if the world did not fight fascism in Spain, it would have to fight it across Europe later. Now in steamy late July 1940, as Hemingway read through his typescript one last time in his New York hotel room, the European war was edging ever closer to American participation, despite President Roosevelt's campaign promises to the contrary. The Nazi blitzkrieg, having rolled over Poland, Norway, Belgium, Holland, and most of France, was now poised to invade England itself. Meanwhile, as if the mounting war with fascism were not the issue, the ever vigilant congressional investigating committee of Martin Dies continued to worry the nation about the communist threat to American values. Stories spread that Reds operating the radios on U.S. ships, and other communists, were slipping into the United States through Cuba.
Five years earlier, as a lover of military history and a hater of war, Hemingway laid it out as bluntly as possible, telling his Esquire readers that a European war was brewing in which America should play no part. "Never again," he wrote, "should this country be put into a European war through mistaken idealism, through propaganda, through the desire to back our creditors." That was the disillusioned Hemingway speaking, the young man sucked in by propaganda during World War I. Spain changed his point of view. After ten years of following Spanish politics more closely than what was happening in the United States, Hemingway believed in the Spanish earth, its working class, and its rituals, without ever embracing the politics of socialism or its radical left, the Communist Party. Seventeen years after idealism died in the muddy trenches of the Somme, Passchendaele, and Verdun, it resurrected in the Spanish conflict only to die a different death when fascism triumphed while democracies refused to help.
Now, with German troops marching down the Champs-Elysées, German U-boats once again shutting down the British island, and the Luftwaffe bombing London, Hemingway's warning to America seemed far away and long ago. If the war came to him, he would fight to save his homeland and his people, but never to save the politicians who started the war. Soon, he knew, there would be no choice, but on this day, his mind was completely absorbed in the story of Robert Jordan's last few hours on earth. As he told his editor, Max Perkins, after living with Jordan for seventeen months, he hated like hell to kill him off. With Jordan's death, of course, Hemingway killed off, once more, a piece of himself. That's how he felt about his writing: each book a little death, another story he could never again write. All that was left him to do were tedious revisions of the galley and page proofs, arguments with his editor over certain words, and then the reviews that his clipping agent collected for him, reviews he always read and never liked.
Alone in the Hotel Barclay, it was easier for Hemingway to lose himself in his book than to think about his personal life, which had become incredibly complicated. His first wife, Hadley, and their son, Jack, were in Chicago, where she was remarried to Paul Mowrer, her income supplemented by Ernest's parting gift of all royalties from The Sun Also Rises. His second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, and their two sons, Patrick and Gregory, were in the Key West house waiting for her divorce from Ernest on grounds of desertion to become final. For the last year and a half, he had been living in Cuba with Martha Gellhorn while still married to Pauline, whose strong Catholic conscience resisted the idea of divorce. Mixing more debris into already muddy waters, Ernest enlisted Pauline's uncle, wealthy Augustus Pfeiffer, to ask Pauline for a reasonable divorce settlement, for she had more than enough money of her own. Fooling no one but keeping up a facade, Hemingway posted and received his mail at the Hotel Ambos Mundos but lived with Martha first in the Hotel Biltmore Sevilla and later in a run-down, rented farmhouse, La Finca Vigia, on the outskirts of Havana. While Ernest labored over his typescript, Martha was working on a Collier's magazine exposé on German fifth columnists in Havana.
Having worked all morning on his typescript, Hemingway gathered a roomful of friends, for he hated to be alone when he was not writing. Outside in the streets the temperature hung at 88 degrees with humidity to match; inside the Barclay, it was not much better. When Robert Van Gelder from the New York Times arrived, he found the room crowded with a lawyer, a Spanish Civil War veteran, and others unidentified, circled around a bucket of ice, soda water, and a fifth of Scotch. Van Gelder, taking it all in, caught the scene in a thumbnail sketch:
Hemingway looked elephant-big, enormously healthy. His
talk is unevenly paced, a quick spate and then a slow search for a
word. His chair keeps hitching across the floor toward the other
chairs, and then as he reaches a point, a conclusion, he shoves the
chair back to the edge of the group again.
Gustavo Durán, an old friend and admired combatant in the Spanish war, was sitting on one of the beds, listening to the conversation as it easily shifted from English to Spanish to French. Four months earlier, Hemingway told Durán in a letter that he was finally writing the really good book that he once thought he might write in his old age, which he imagined would not be quite old because Hemingways usually shot themselves or someone did it for them. When talk turned to the lost war in Spain, Durán said, "The world now is very confusing. It is amazing how sure we once were, Ernest, that our ideas were right." Hemingway replied, "The fight in Spain will have to be fought again." Durán said nothing.
Those conspicuous by their absence at the Barclay were faces once mainstays in the entourage Hemingway customarily gathered about himself. Poet and old friend Archibald MacLeish, who once flew through winter storms to be with Hemingway when he was hospitalized in Montana, was no longer part of the inner circle. After accepting President Roosevelt's nomination to be Librarian of Congress, MacLeish said publicly that the postwar writers, like Hemingway, in their disillusionment with the "war to end all wars" had "educated a generation to believe that all declarations, all beliefs are fraudulent, that all statements of conviction are sales-talk, that nothing men can put into words is worth fighting for ... those writers must face the fact that the books they wrote in the years just after the war have done more to disarm democracy in the face of fascism than any other single influence." Two weeks later, in response to Life magazine's request for authors' rebuttals, Hemingway accused MacLeish of having a bad conscience while Ernest had fought fascism every way he knew how and had no remorse, "neither literary nor political.... If the Germans have learned how to fight a war and the Allies have not learned, MacLeish can hardly put the blame on our books."
Even more conspicuously absent were Gerald and Sara Murphy, owners of the Mark Cross department store and two of Hemingway's earliest and most ardent supporters. When Ernest was distraught with the agony of leaving his first wife, Hadley, for Pauline Pfeiffer, it was Gerald and Sara who gave him comfort. Gerald told him, "We love you, we believe in you in all your parts, we believe in what you're doing, in the way you're doing it. Anything we've got is yours." During his separation from Hadley, Ernest lived in Gerald's cold-water Paris studio. When Gerald feared Ernest was living without funds, he put $400 in his Morgan Guaranty bank account without being asked. The day after Van Gelder observed Hemingway and friends, a letter from Sara at the Murphy summer place in East Hampton arrived at the Barclay: "Dear ErnestI hear you are in N.Y.& it would give us such pleasure if you would come down here to spend a few days ... it's very peaceful, & cool seabathing." For five months, Ernest was unable to answer the Murphys' letter, unable to face them when he was separated from Pauline and living with a much younger Martha. Always looking for others to blame for his problems and quandaries, Ernest usually found a woman to be the responsible party: his mother deprived him of his college education, threw him out of the house, and drove his father to suicide; Pauline separated him from Hadley as if he were a sack of potatoes; Jinny Pfeiffer, by telling Pauline of his affair with Martha, had ruined his second marriage.
During the days following the Van Gelder interview, the heat wave that was killing hundreds across the Midwest continued to stultify New York. There in the Barclay hotel room with the window open, Ernest was sweating heavily, his wire-rimmed glasses cutting into the bridge of his nose, his eyes blurring from the marathon reading. The electric fan on the coffee table waved its head, moving warm air from one part of the room to another. As sections were finished, they were rushed to the printer, who was hurrying them into galleys for an October publication. Hard-pressed to stay ahead of the typesetters, Hemingway stuck to his task. Wednesday, July 31, Hemingway's editor, Maxwell Perkins, told him that they had only enough copy for one more day's work. That morning the New York Times reported that 3.6 million aliens in the United States were being registered and fingerprinted by the FBI, and the book page noted:
Ernest Hemingway up from Cuba where he has been rounding
out his new novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls," has been in
New York the last few days. The new novel which Scribner's will
bring out in October, is a love story with the Spanish Civil War
for a setting. Mr. Hemingway will return to Cuba in a few days.
On top of his dresser was the signed contract, dated July 15, calling for Hemingway's royalties to be 15 percent on the first 25,000 copies sold; thereafter they rose to 20 percent, higher rates than most authors received, but Ernest Hemingway in 1940 was not most authors. He may not have published a best-selling novel during the entire 1930s, but through his nonfiction, his Esquire articles, his Spanish Civil War journalism, and his personal exploits hunting in East Africa and marlin fishing in the Gulf Stream, he had become the most widely read male author in America. On Thursday, Max asked for another two hundred pages if it were at all possible. Anything was possible, of course, if Ernest worked hard enough, long enough.
No matter what else happened in his lifesick children, angry wives, broken arms, bad weather, petulant friendsthe one thing which he never scanted was his writing. If he was a less than attentive father, an uneven friend, a faithful or unfaithful husband, the one standard of self-measure that remained constant was the quality of his writing. So long as his writing ethos remained inviolate, he was true to himself: whatever outrageous fortune might assail him, that certainty was his shield. Seldom leaving the hotel room, he finished the typescript revisions for the printer, who set the galleys in record time; this book would go from typescript to the public readers in only three months. As soon as the galleys were packed, Hemingway was on the train to Miami, where he boarded a Pan-American clipper for the quick flight to Havana. Martha and her mother, Edna, met him at the boarding dock.
Her coiled blond hair now grayed at sixty, her blue eyes still brilliant, Edna Gellhorn was standing on the dock beside her daughter, the two of them startlingly alike, both beautiful and both equally independent. Edna may have deferred more to the dominant males of her era than Martha ever did, but the older woman was also more adept at getting her way. To Hemingway, who was vulnerable to older motherly women, Edna was more like the mother he wished his had been. Ernest "loved my mother," Martha said later. "Both of my husbands loved my mother, always ... they loved her more than me ... and they were absolutely right." The feeling was guardedly mutual. Edna appreciated Ernest and was tolerant of his casual lifestyle. Although she caught Ernest on an emotional high, his book finished and galleys arriving, Edna nevertheless saw something beneath his surface that made her feel sorry for him, something that eluded Martha at the time. Whatever she saw led her to advise her daughter not to marry the famous author; advice Martha did not easily ignore.
As a younger woman in St. Louis, Edna Gellhorn marched with suffragists seeking the vote, and three months before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, she organized the St. Louis League of Women Voters. With her, quite frequently, was her small daughter, Martha. During the 1916 Democratic Convention in St. Louis, Edna was on the planning committee that lined the streets leading to the Coliseum convention center with seven thousand women; at a strategic corner, a tableau was arranged of women draped in white, gray, and black representing states with full suffrage, partial suffrage, or no suffrage for women. "At the top was ... Miss Liberty. Down in the front ... were two little girls ... who represented future voters." One of those little girls was Martha Gellhorn.
Having grown up at the side of her politically progressive mother, Martha was herself an activist but not a joiner. "A self-willed, opinionated loner ... never a team player," was how she later characterized herself. Rather than organize the voters, Martha's goal was to prick their consciences through her journalism and her novels. It was Martha's personal friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt that allowed her to arrange for a White House showing of The Spanish Earth, the Joris Ivens film supporting Loyalist Spain, with Hemingway reading his own narrative. In November 1938, Martha was in Prague when the Czech government capitulated to Hitler's claim on the Sudetenland. Among the journalists on the last free flight out of Prague, Martha carried with her testimony of the Nazi terrorist tactics. In December 1939, she left Hemingway at the Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho to take a Collier's assignment in Finland, arriving there as the first Russian bombs were falling on Helsinki. Ernest may have commanded more money for his journalism, which he often viewed as a means of support while gathering experience for his fiction, but Martha was the more dedicated journalist. Almost to a fault, she was passionate about the downtrodden, the war-torn, and the victimized. That May of 1940, she wrote a friend, "It is extremely pretentious to take the world's troubles as your own, but I must say they concern me more gravely than anything else." In Ernest Hemingway she thought she had found a man of the same ilk. She could not have been more wrong.
No sooner had Hemingway returned to Cuba than galleys arrived from Scribner's, keeping him happily busy while Martha planned their trip to Sun Valley for the fall season. At the same time Hemingway received his proofs, Scribner's sent a set for consideration to The Book-of-the-Month Club (BOMC) along with Perkins's addendum: "Two short chapters, amounting to 1,500 words in all, will bring the book to a conclusion." These chapters, which Hemingway had outlined, were meant to tie up loose ends. Max assured the BOMC that "These chapters are written, but not yet to the complete satisfaction of the author. He wished to wait until after reading the proof up to this point before perfecting the end." Perkins also marked up another set of galleys which he sent to Hemingway on August 14, suggesting a number of changes, some typographical, some substantive, none so onerous as revisions Hemingway was forced to make a decade earlier. This time Ernest, in anticipation of censorship, avoided the problem up front by either not translating Spanish obscenities or by creative use of English. In The Sun Also Rises (1926), Mike Campbell wanted to say, "Tell him the bulls have no bails," but in the reactionary climate of 1926 America, Perkins told Hemingway "bails" was not a word Charles Scribner would print. Instead, the bulls were said to have no horns. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, when Robert Jordan is asked by a needling Pablo what a Scot wears under his skirt, Jordan tells him, "Los cojones" (206). When Jordan says that the girl, Maria, was put in his care, one of the partisan replies, "And thy care is to joder with her all night?" (290). Max Perkins, who himself was never known to say "fuck" in anyone's company, either did not understand or did not object to the word in Spanish. Nor did he protest when Hemingway used abstractions in such a way that only the purest of mind could not translate them:
"Thy duty," said Augustin mockingly. "I besmirch the milk of thy duty." Then turning to the woman, "Where the un-nameable is this vileness that I am to guard?"
"In the cave," Pilar said. "In two sacks. And I am tired of thy obscenity."
"I obscenity in the milk of thy tiredness," Augustin said.
"Then go and befoul thyself," Pilar said to him without heat. (92)
On August 26, while Perkins was writing to say how pleased Scribner's was that the Book-of-the-Month Club had taken For Whom the Bell Tolls as its November selection, Ernest was packaging the first 123 pages of galleys for air-mail shipment to New York, keeping the last 18 for more work. All the requested corrections and revisions, he said, were made or answered, grammar improved, and references to masturbation toned down. But he remained uncertain about the book's conclusion. He had additional scenes after Jordan sighted down the submachine-gun barrel, but they seemed like talking about the boxing match after it was over, or like his several failed endings to A Farewell to Arms where he tried to tell what happened to the survivors after the war. That tendency to tidy up loose bits, he said, was always a problem for him; but the book "really stops where Jordan is feeling his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest." Two days later, Max's telegram confirmed that they should leave off the epilogue.
While submerged in final corrections, Ernest's emotional center took a heavy hit when Martha began questioning the wisdom of their marrying. At four in the morning Ernest wrote her a note, saying her news busted his heart and left him with a first-class headache. He knew that for the last eighteen months he had been "no gift to live with," as she put it, but she must remember how he helped her with her bookThe Heart of Another. But if she was not going to marry him, she should tell him before he took the Pilar alone to Key West giving himself too much time to think: another veiled threat of suicide. He closed his in-house note telling her that Mr. Scrooby (his penis) now referred to himself as "us." In these and other private letters, Hemingway's ardor and frustration reached levels similar to his courtship of his first two wives. Martha was his "Mookie," his "Chickie"; he was her "Bongie," or her "Bug." Words did not always move another writer like Martha so easily, but she did reaffirm her intention to marry Ernest.
The problem was not that Martha loved him too little but he loved her too much. To Rodrigo Diaz, his pigeon-shooting companion and sometime doctor, Ernest was always at risk in his relationship with Martha. Easily hurt, he was tremendously vulnerable beneath the tough exterior with which he faced the world. Diaz thought Hemingway was born either too soon or too late, a man who would have been more comfortable in another era. A practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Franz Stetmayer, was an interested observer of Ernest's behavior with Martha. His conclusion was that she was the less committed of the two and that Ernest was terribly afraid of losing her. Separately, the two left Cubashe to St. Louis to see her mother; Ernest to Key Westto rendezvous at Sun Valley.
As soon as galleys were in the mail, Ernest motored his fishing boat, Pilar, ninety miles across the Gulf of Mexico to Key West for winter safety and repairs. The Hemingway house on Whitehead Street was empty. Pauline was in New York; their sons, Patrick and Gregory, were already in Sun Valley, Idaho, with their stepbrother Jack (Bumby), awaiting Ernest's arrival. With little delay, Ernest picked up a new Buick convertible from the Key West dealer and spent a day selecting half the books out of his Key West library for eventual shipment to Cuba. Leaving Key West with old friend and factotum Toby Bruce at the wheel of the Buick, the two men made good time driving the almost three thousand miles to Union Pacific's resort at Sun Valley, arriving as the fall hunting season opened. At the same time, Martha took the train to St. Louis to tell her mother that she and Ernest would marry as soon as his divorce was final, although she also told Clara Spiegel, a Ketchum friend, that she felt somewhat trapped by the idea of marriage.
The Sun Valley Lodge, which the wealthy railroad financier and now diplomat Averell Harriman opened in 1936, was one of the first multi-use western resorts catering to the moderately wealthy, the famous, and those on the rise. When guests stepped off the Union Pacific train at Shoshone, they were met by the Lodge station wagon to be driven up the valley past smooth brown hills, through the old mining town of Halley, past Club Rio and the Alpine where sheepherders, miners, and Sun Valley dudes could gamble and drink. Turning right at Jack Lane's Mercantile store, they did not stop because Jack was not fond of outsiders. "Hell, he wouldn't even get up to wait on 'em," Bud Purdy recalled. A mile east of Lane's was the well-modulated western world of Sun Valley. There eastern dudes found hunting and fishing guides at the ready, a skating rink with instructors and visiting stars like Sonja Henie, a ski basin with chairlifts, live music in the evenings, a comfortable bar, airy rooms, sleigh rides in winter, a rodeo in summer, cookouts in the fall, a movie theater, a first-class dining room, Basque cooks, an in-house photographer, and a public relations staff. In Silver Creek, trophy trout lurked in the eel grass; in the fall fields, pheasant were abundant, and on the irrigation canals ducks were plentiful. Antelope and elk hunts were available in season. In the main dining room on almost any fall evening, one might see a Hollywood movie star, a famous musician, or even a best-selling author like Ernest Hemingway. In an effective publicity effort, Sun Valley offered well-known personalities like Hemingway free use of the facilities providing they allowed their names and pictures to be used to promote the resort.
That fall of 1940, when Paris was occupied by German troops and London was burning, Ernest and others arrived at Sun Valley for what many thought would be the last Christmas before America was involved in another war. On the dance floors of the country, fools rushed in to find their love on Blueberry Hill, while Glenn Miller's swing band took the young through Tuxedo Junction on moonlit serenades. Two former vaudevilliansBob Hope and Bing Crosbytook their movie fans on the humorous road to Singapore, which by February 1942 would be occupied by invading Japanese. On the front page of American newspapers, there were plenty of signs: the U.S. Navy was building two hundred new ships; the first peacetime draft in the nation's history became law; the defense budget received a second $5.25 billion supplement. Before the year was out, Ernest would be suggesting that seventeen-year-old Jack ought to delay college to spend a year fishing and working, because war was coming: "A man might as well catch a steelhead [trout] in this life if there's only one life."
Whatever the future held, Ernest was more concerned with his novel, the last eighteen galleys of which he air-mailed to Max Perkins on September 10, along with its dedication: "This book is for Martha Gellhorn." Scribner's and The Book-of-the-Month Club were advertising the book heavily in trade publications and on newspaper book pages. When the novel was published to rave reviews on October 21, Ernest and his publisher knew they had a best-seller. The New York Times called it "the best book Ernest Hemingway has written, the fullest, the deepest, the truest." The Nation said the novel "sets a new standard for Hemingway in characterization, dialogue, suspense, and compassion." The New Yorker found it touching "a deeper level than any sounded in the author's other books." Saturday Review of Literature thought it to be "one of the finest and richest novels of the last decade." Even Edmund Wilson, once his early champion but afterward disappointed with the 1930s Hemingway, was able to say, "Hemingway the artist is with us again; and it is like having an old friend back."
Ten days later, BOMC increased its initial order to an astounding 200,000 copies, and the book was already in its third Scribner's printing for a total of 360,000 copies. In the following six months, 491,000 copies of the novel were sold. Full of himself, expansive, joking, surrounded by all his sons and his wife-to-be, Ernest was riding an emotional high further fueled by Paramount Pictures paying $110,000 for the film rights to his book. In such a mood, he was already fabricating stories of the novel's inception. To Gustavo Durán, he claimed that the novel rested on his experience commanding a company with Kemal in the Greco-Turkish War, and on his participation in various Cuban revolutionary movements, as well as being a descendant of Major Colquhoun Grant, who fought with Wellington in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. None of which was true in the sense of having taken place; all of which was true in the sense that each claim was what Hemingway wished had happened.
As a Toronto Daily Star reporter, Ernest was not present when Kemal and his Turks ravaged Smyrna, but he once wrote about it as if he were a witness. Nor had he yet been directly involved with any of the numerous Cuban revolutionary movements, although he watched them develop with great interest, writing about them in discarded portions of To Have and Have Not (1937). From his youthful admiration for Teddy Roosevelt, Hemingway developed his need for both the active and the contemplative life, neither satisfying without the other. But reality was never quite able to match his expectations. When the trench mortar shell ruined his right knee and killed men standing next to him in World War I, Hemingway was decorated by the Italian government as a war hero. Ashamed afterward to have been only a Red Cross ambulance man and not an active combatant, Ernest made up fantastic stories of being an Italian officer with the Arditi troops. In Spain during the 1920s, he followed the bullfights with religious fervor, but knowing bullfighters and watching from the barrera was not enough; he had to create the impression that he himself had been in the bull ring. Intrigued with revolutions, spies, and clandestine operations through reading, watching, and talking with Charles Sweeny, a professional soldier of fortune, Ernest always wanted to be a revolutionist. During the Spanish Civil War, he reported accurately from the very edge of battle, but with his deep reading in military history and tactics, he yearned to be a field commander, preferably one operating beyond the reach of higher authority.
When not writing, he was happiest outdoors with some novice whom he could instruct, for in any situation, Hemingway was the teacher of others. As friends would testify, Hemingway placed novices in the best position for the first shot, or in the chair for the first marlin strike. Hemingway was always organizing small groups of friends to participate in some outdoor activity. That fall, after hearing farmer Frees's complaints about the abundance of rabbits, Ernest organized the great rabbit hunt. Gathering together some fifteen shootersGreg and Patrick, movie stars Gary Cooper and Merle Oberon, rancher Bud Purdy, Sun Valley employees Don Anderson and Taylor Williams, among othershe positioned them in a semicircle, herding the rabbits through brush toward an irrigation canal. As Bud Purdy remembered it, "we lined up there and pushed all those rabbits back toward the canal and when they couldn't cross the canal, they'd come back. I'll bet we shot five hundred rabbits that day.... Cooper and I kinda got out of the way after a little bit. I was scared of too many people shooting.... Hemingway was a great guy to organize, you know, where you'd be sneaking up on a duck, he'd always tell us where to stand and what to do, you know. He was the general."
No one who met Hemingway ever forgot him. He was the strange attractor around whose light all manner of men and women circled: movie stars, millionaires, cooks, crooks, bartenders, writers, soldiers. Forty-one years old and at his physical peak, he was not the most handsome man in the room, but he was the most magnetic, a sometimes shy man who listened intently, enjoyed good stories, and spoke carefully. Bud Purdy's wife, Ruth, remembered him as a man who "had a kind voice, was always nice to people, and made you feel important." He studied terrain the way some men study the stock market; his reading in history, military tactics, and biography was considerable. In early October, while awaiting publication of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway ordered from New York a typical spectrum of bedside books: The Ox-Bow Incident; a Margery Allingham murder mystery; Van Wyck Brooks's new literary history, New England, Indian Summer; Edmund Wilson's To the Finland Station; Audubon's America; Raymond Chandler's Farewell My Lovely; and How to Play and Win at Poker.
With ducks thick in neighboring creeks and canals, and out on Tom Gooding's ranch pheasants fat with grain, Hemingway could not have been happier. Hunting frequently with Gary Cooper, who was more a Montana cowboy than a Hollywood movie star, Ernest posed for countless pictures, holding the day's bag. Cooper, he found, was a better rifle shot; Ernest was best wing-shooting with his over-and-under shotgun. Both men had come of age in an America so abundant with game that bag limits seemed onerous, and predators were to be eliminated. On his 1933-34 African safari, Hemingway had amused himself shooting hyenas; Cooper did the same with hawks on telephone poles and coyotes in the field. The two were both artists and outdoorsmen, fitting comfortably together in the field and at supper. Hemingway complained that Martha was so impressed with Cooper that she wanted Ernest to dress better, but nothing, he said, was going to make his face any better. Both men knew and admired each other's work: Cooper had portrayed Frederic Henry in the 1932 film version of A Farewell to Arms. Already there was talk between them that Cooper might become Robert Jordan for the movie version of For Whom the Bell Tolls.
In November, Life magazine sent Hemingway's friend from the Spanish Civil War, Robert Capa, to Sun Valley to photograph Ernest as part of a feature on the filming of the movie. In the photo-shoot, he was to include Martha, news of whose pending marriage to Ernest was in the wind, Walter Winchell having said so to "Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea" on his syndicated radio show. The volatile Hungarian photographer, whose specialty was war coverage, covered the pheasant shoot as if it were a battleground. When Hemingway's divorce from Pauline became final on November 4, and Edna Gellhorn arrived at Sun Valley for a prewedding party, Capa was standing on a bar stool, blasting away at Hemingway and company, spent flashbulbs popping off the camera like empty shells.
On November 21, in the Union Pacific dining room in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Ernest and Martha were married by a justice of the peace. The next day from Key West, Pauline wrote, thanking him for pheasants he sent to her when Patrick and Gregory returned home, thanking him also for the mounted warthog head from their safari, and wishing him happiness with "Mart," whom she no longer called "Miss Einhorn." Two days later the newlyweds stopped briefly in Kansas City's Hotel Muehlbach to visit Luis Quintanilla, artist in residence at the University of Kansas City. Hemingway had supported Quintanilla's artwork in New York and his counterespionage work in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. In the hotel room a local reporter caught up with Ernest as he mused about what he might write next: "one a story of the Gulf Stream. That would be factual like Death in the Afternoon. And I would like to write a book for my boys." Martha, who was on her way to New York to accept an assignment from Collier's for feature stories on the Japanese war with China, closed off the interview, saying, "Right now I'm the war correspondent in the family."
On December 21, 1940, while Hemingway was on his way back to Cuba for Christmas, Scott Fitzgerald died in Sheila Graham's Hollywood living room, a simple failure of the heart. On his bookshelf was a copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls, signed: "To Scott with affection and esteem, Ernest." In response Fitzgerald had praised the book, telling Ernest it was "better than anybody else writing could do.... I envy you like hell and there is no irony in this." In his notebook, he thought otherwise: "It is so to speak Ernest's 'Tale of Two Cities' though the comparison isn't apt. I mean it is a thoroughly superficial book which has all the profundity of Rebecca." Within three months, three of the men most influential to Hemingway's early career were dead: Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Sherwood Anderson. Modernism, whatever that word meant, had become a historical period, and what would follow was not yet written.
Meet the Author
Michael Reynolds was a professor of English at North Carolina State University and a finalist for the National Book Award for Young Hemingway. His other works include Hemingway: The Paris Years and Hemingway: The Homecoming.
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