Hemingway: A Life in Pictures

Hemingway: A Life in Pictures

by Boris Vejdovsky, Mariel Hemingway


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781554079469
Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date: 11/15/2011
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 418,912
Product dimensions: 9.90(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Mariel Hemingway is an author and actress best known for her role in Woody Allen's 1979 film Manhattan. She grew up in Ketchum, Idaho, where her paternal grandfather spent a great deal of time as a sportsman and writer and where he is buried.

Boris Vejdovsky is an associate professor at the University of Lausanne, where he teaches courses in American literature and culture. He has been a member of the Hemingway Society since 2004 and organized a July 2010 international conference about the figure of "Papa Hemingway," which gathered 250 writers and enthusiasts.

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By Boris Vejdovsky Mariel Hemingway

Firefly Books

Copyright © 2011 Michel Lafon Publishing
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-55407-946-9

Chapter One

Hemingway Indian Camp: An American Childhood

The family home, situated at 439 North Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois, looks like any other middle-class American house. However, the birth there on July 21, 1899, of Ernest, the second child of Dr. Clarence Hemingway and his wife, Grace, would give the residence a reputation and aura that would distinguish it from all the others in the neighborhood, and even the country. In his 62 years of existence, Ernest Hemingway would transform the places of his life into unique landscapes, mythical realms in which fiction and lived experience combined, sometimes indistinguishably.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born and grew up some 12 miles (20 km) from Chicago, the Windy City. With its religious and cultural conservatism, however, Oak Park was very far removed from its cosmopolitan, worldly and turbulent neighbor. Ernest was brought up with deep values, similar to those in the famous childhood of Henry Adams, loyalty to which, it was drummed into him, would bring him success in any domain. Oak Park was a place of abstinence; there was no alcohol there. There was also no racial or religious mixing, with no blacks and few Jews. The town, nicknamed "Saint's Rest," certainly numbered many churches but only one was Catholic.

The cultural and architectural landscape of Ernest's immediate surroundings contained nothing out of the ordinary. However, the Hemingways lived a few blocks from the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, figurehead of the so-called Prairie School, a forerunner of Bauhaus. Adherents of the Prairie style produced organic buildings with low horizontal lines and basic geometrical shapes. Ernest often visited one of these houses, belonging to his uncle George, a character who would later appear in the story "Indian Camp." The Hemingways' house exemplified the European taste adopted by inhabitants on the outskirts of Chicago; after the great Chicago fire of 1871, this trend was favored over the more typically American-style wooden houses.

On the death of Hemingway's maternal grandfather in 1905, and with a growing family (Marcelline, 1898; Ernest, 1899; Ursula, 1902; Madelaine, 1904) to accommodate, Grace Hemingway decided to use her inheritance, sell the house and build a bigger home a short distance away. This would also allow Clarence to establish a medical practice on the premises and Grace to flatter her artist's ego, as testified by the magnificent music room that she later added. Although it would be far fetched to claim that the architecture of the period had a lasting influence on Ernest, it can be said that Hemingway's plain, almost geometrically sparse style has something in common with the purified architecture characteristic of the Prairie School. As Ernest wrote in Death in the Afternoon: "Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over."

It is not entirely certain whether Ernest did indeed say that Oak Park was composed of "wide lawns and narrow minds," but this remark, however apocryphal, is an apt description of the town and its influence on him. It is also a reflection of the personality that Ernest would construct for himself and that would be constructed for him. Although some of his biographers — and Ernest himself — would try to portray him as a rebel, contemporary testimonies point to a Hemingway who was more Benjamin Franklin than Tom Sawyer: he was a good pupil and regularly attended church, where he sang — albeit without much enthusiasm — in the choir. Writing would certainly take Ernest from the strict Protestantism of his childhood, but there is nothing to suggest that his piety was lacking at that time. His school career was similarly well disciplined and assiduous. A voracious reader (just like his sister Marcelline), he adopted Oak Park's Anglophilia in books ranging from Shakespeare to Dickens. He read little American literature, although it is no surprise to find The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the president-hunter Theodore Roosevelt's African Game Trails among his favorite books. Ernest's exemplary record culminated in his being chosen by his teachers to give his graduation day commencement speech on June 13, 1917. He refused, however, to go on to university, choosing instead to orient himself toward writing, at first through journalism.

The two opposing forces in young Ernest's life, embodied by his mother, Grace, and his father, Clarence, represented sensibilities that would never leave him and that would continually throw off the compass of his writing life. His mother had inclinations toward art and music. A singer, she had had her heart set on the stage before marrying Clarence, and she inculcated her children with a taste for fine arts and music. Ernest's sisters were particular victims of Grace's frustration, Marcelline and Ernest even being taken out of school for a year to devote themselves to singing and the cello. Ernest, for many years the Hemingways' sole male child, did not escape the influence of a mother who was both progressive and dominating. He was taken on annual pilgrimages to the Art Institute of Chicago, where he discovered several famous paintings by artists whose works he would later go to see, like old friends, in museums all over the world, in particular the Prado in Madrid and the Louvre in Paris. He was especially enamored of the stuffed African animals in the Museum of Natural History, linking them to essays and newspaper articles recounting the 1909 safari of Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, whom he much admired. Grace also took her children to Nantucket, on the Atlantic coast. In 1910 it was Ernest's turn, and this journey would be the inspiration for one of his first stories — and perhaps for his later desire to discover the world. In this story, Ernest punished Grace by having his hero declare that his mother was dead; in works ranging from this childhood account to "Soldier's Home" and "The Mother of a Queen," he would go on evoking and exorcising the memories of his mother.

Ernest's relationship with his mother was therefore a complex and violent one that some see as the source of his turbulent, tortured relationships with the women in his life. His old friend Charles T. Lanham, who would later accompany him on the military campaign in Europe during the Second World War — from the June 1944 landings to the Ardennes Offensive — would say that he referred to her only as "that bitch." However, it was to her that in 1912 he dedicated the first poem of his that has been preserved. The woman who would always be "the dark queen of Hemingway's inner world" felt, for her part, devoted love for him. Affectionate letters and cakes — from someone who barely set foot in the kitchen — were offered in an attempt to win over and keep close, at least emotionally, this son who sought to escape her clutches. Even when he did not speak about her in such degrading terms, Ernest would give her anti-Semitic nicknames such as "Mrs. Hemingstein" or, shorter and with a nod to destiny, "Mrs. Stein."

Ernest was 18 months younger than his sister Marcelline, yet despite the difference in age and sex, for several years Grace Hemingway insisted on raising Ernest and Marcelline as twins, going as far as dressing them both as girls and getting them to adopt similar behavior and routines. At the same time, Grace, who had named her son Ernest Miller in homage to her father and her brother, liked to highlight her child's masculinity, as demonstrated by the family photo albums in which she writes "my precious boy, a 'real' boy." Ernest, who proudly declared to all and sundry that he feared nothing, nonetheless confided one day to his mother that he was afraid that Santa Claus wouldn't know what to bring him because he wore the same clothes as his sister: how would he realize he was a boy? Ernest's lack of self-confidence and shyness perhaps date from this period, as well, perhaps, as the insomnia that would haunt him all his life. Although he would later attribute his anxieties to posttraumatic shock after the war, Scott Fitzgerald observed in the 1920s that they were certainly linked to his childhood. But what is most revealing is the fact that Ernest, who wrote about every period of his life and often very frankly, always remained inhibited about the relationship with his mother, as if he remained, in that regard, vulnerable.

Ernest's father was the man of the family. An obstetrician and passionate about fishing and hunting, he had an intimate knowledge of the woods and swamps of northern Michigan as well as of its American Indian populations. He was an austere man with rigid notions of morality: naturally, he did not tolerate cigarettes or alcohol but also condemned cards and, like a good Puritan, dancing. When Grace took her "twins" to dancing classes and, the height of immorality, organized an afternoon dance in their honor at their new residence on North Kenilworth Avenue, Clarence felt that he had abdicated his role as head of the family in favor of his wife. Ernest would portray this couple, whose relationship seems full of repressed tension, in "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" and other stories, notably "Fathers and Sons," in which the father lists a series of "abominable crimes," all sexual in nature. In the words of his character Nick, his father "was as sound [on hunting and fishing] as he was unsound on sex." Clarence took his son along on his expeditions through the wooded, largely uncivilized regions of northern Michigan and impressed Ernest with his aptitude for weapons and his eagle-eyed vision — Ernest's sight was already weakening.

In 1900, the family acquired a summer home on the banks of Walloon Lake as a haven from the inland summer heat. The residence was called Windemere, a name chosen by Ernest's mother in reference to the English lake and Oscar Wilde's famous literary character (although the first R of the lake and of Lady Windermere would rapidly disappear). The region, still densely populated by Ojibway, would be another training ground for the young Ernest, who fished and hunted there with his father but also alone or in the company of the loyal friends who would later people the stories featuring Nick Adams. His first letters to his father from Paris, some 20 years later, would still bear the traces of this early apprenticeship; in them he gave detailed descriptions of newly discovered species in the Luxembourg gardens or the Jardin d'acclimatation. The world of nature into which his father had initiated him would never be far for Ernest, even when he lived in cities like Paris, New York or Madrid. His excursions into the great outdoors would inform so many forays into the world of writing, providing metaphors for the discovery of life, sexuality and death, as in "Big Two-Hearted River." Ernest developed his keen sense of observation and began to write notes and poems inspired by his reflections. In the final years of his American childhood, his first writings would also be published in his high school newspaper and yearbook.

This passionate interest in nature would give him a taste for independence and for self-transcendence as well as a certain physical toughness. These values were profoundly anchored in the American Protestant ethic that had been made fashionable again by the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, hero and guiding figurehead of the nation. Ernest's rough individualism, bred by hunter-gatherer activities on the shores of Lake Michigan, was now augmented by a national, even nationalistic, pride embodied by the figure of Roosevelt. The latter was at the origin not only of the popularization of the image of the "cowboy" — who had undergone a transformation from basic cowherd to icon — but also the creation of an American spirit composed of Protestant values, confrontation with nature and a sense of national identity. It was with this sentiment of belonging to both Christianity and America that Ernest, dressed in the khaki that was Roosevelt's distinguishing characteristic and that would become his own, went in 1909 to cheer on the president when his hero of the moment passed through Oak Park.

It was also in 1909, on the occasion of his 10th birthday, that his father gave him his first rifle, with which he posed proudly. Weapons would feature all through Ernest's life: veritable talismans that affirmed masculinity and that constituted one of the linking themes that were passed down through the generations of Hemingways.

For many years, Ernest enjoyed a privileged relationship with his father, who represented a focus of stability for him; it was "a relief to them both to escape into a man's world, without women." Like most other adolescents, however, as he grew older he would move away from the hero worship of his childhood. All the more markedly in Ernest's case because of his refusal to accept what he saw as Clarence's subjugation to Grace. The fatal blow to his admiration for his father came in 1912, when Clarence took rest cures for his nerves. Stories like "My Old Man" or late novels like Islands in the Stream retrace this apocalyptic time in which the simultaneous cruelty and weakness of fathers is revealed.

In 1911, the Hemingways' fifth child was born — another sister, Carol — and then finally, in 1915, Ernest's only brother, Leicester Clarence. Ernest's American childhood was coming to an end; he was 16 and soon to leave high school. In the meantime, like all educated boys of his age, he studied algebra, Latin, English and science. An accomplished sportsman, he belonged to the varsity sports team at school and wore their pullover with pride. Football and swimming — in which he excelled — formed part of his physical education. Ernest liked scrapping, and, cheered on by his sisters, he would exchange blows in front of the family house and then, when the fights got too brutal, in more discreet venues. For Ernest did not just like to box: he liked to win. "The sweet smile on his face masked the savagery in his heart," and many playmates became adversaries to be beaten. If it is not certain that he took boxing lessons in Chicago, as he would later claim, he did see some important fights there. Boxing and fisticuffs would remain markedly important to him, and life as combat was a metaphor central to his work.

As he was emerging from adolescence, real combat approached Ernest's life. On April 6, 1917, when men had already been massacring each other in the bloody trenches of Europe for three years, the United States entered the war. On June 13, Ernest finished his school career. He was reading an autobiographical war novel by the English writer Hugh Walpole (another of whose books, Fortitude, he would mention in "The End of Something"). This novel, The Dark Forest, constitutes one of Ernest's strange, disturbing connections between biography and fiction. Walpole writes in a Victorian style from which Ernest would distance himself, but the basic outline of the novel could have been one of his own: a young man rejected by the army because of his poor eyesight volunteers for the Red Cross then falls madly in love with a young nurse in a defining experience of love and death1. One recognizes, at one and the same time, both the intrigue of Ernest's life and that of his second great novel, A Farewell to Arms. For the moment, however, Ernest saw arms only in his imagination. His father refused to let him join up and insisted he go with his sister Marcelline to study at Oberlin, in the family tradition. Ernest refused. Wearying of the argument, his father eventually got him a place, through his brother, on the Kansas City Star, where Ernest would be a freelance cub reporter.

The young man, thirsty for action, very soon tired of reporting on humdrum municipal affairs. He eventually managed to get himself sent into Kansas City's police stations and hospital to investigate small local matters and accidents. This suited him better. Under the iron rule of his editor, he began to develop the style that would become his own and that bore the mark of his journalistic beginnings: short, hard-hitting, concise sentences from which adjectives were banned. As Aaron Hotchner would later report, Ernest began to distrust "big words." The capital of Missouri, Kansas City, was the nerve center of jazz in the 1920s, and a feverishness, not to say a certain violence, reigned over the city. If Ernest did not change radically during his time there, he nonetheless experienced a taste of freedom and independence and also, for the first time, an environment in which the moral and sexual codes and customs of Oak Park were challenged.

Hemingway: A Life in Pictures by Boris Vejdovsky with Mariel Hemingway, $29.95 paperback, Firefly Books 2011.


Excerpted from HEMINGWAY by Boris Vejdovsky Mariel Hemingway Copyright © 2011 by Michel Lafon Publishing. Excerpted by permission of Firefly Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


EDITOR'S PREFACE....................9
INDIAN CAMP An American Childhood....................13
IN ANOTHER COUNTRY Hemingway's European Education....................37
A MOVEABLE FEAST Paris, Song of Innocence and Experience....................63
THE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD Writing and Death....................83
THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO Africa, the Last Frontier....................103
ISLANDS IN THE STREAM A Writer Sets Sail....................121
HILLS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANTS The Lost Eden of Men Without Women....................147
THE LAST GOOD COUNTRY Ernest, Hemingway and After....................167
AUTHOR'S NOTES....................195
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY....................196
QUOTATION REFERENCES....................197
PHOTO CREDITS....................205

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