[Marxism] Fifty years since the death of Ernest Hemingway

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 6 06:49:48 MDT 2011


Fifty years since the death of Ernest Hemingway
By David Walsh
6 July 2011

“All of life is interesting.” Ernest Hemingway, letter to a 
friend, 1923

“‘But everything I know hurts me. I don’t know why it should, either.’

‘You mean that you feel it.’

‘I feel it and it does something to me.’” Ernest Hemingway, 
Islands in the Stream (published 1970)

The following is based on a talk given in the Detroit area July 1.

HemingwayErnest Hemingway

July 2 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the death of American 
writer Ernest Hemingway, a few weeks before his 62nd birthday. The 
remarkable novelist and short story writer, one of the most 
important figures in 20th century American literature, took his 
own life at his home in Ketchum, Idaho. Mounting health problems 
and serious depression had taken their toll. He had been by all 
accounts a tormented man for years.

His death, first presented to the public as accidental, was 
shocking to many in the US and around the world. Critic Edmund 
Wilson wrote a few days later in a letter, “it is as if a whole 
corner of my generation had suddenly and horribly collapsed.” Even 
to those not intimately familiar with his writing, or who 
disapproved of or disliked it, Hemingway was a fixture in American 
cultural life.

He was born and grew up in Oak Park, Illinois (for a time the home 
and workplace of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright), a 
respectable suburb of Chicago. His father was a doctor, and his 
mother, a cultured woman, had aspired to be a vocalist. They were 
sober-minded Christians. Both Hemingway’s grandfathers were 
veterans of the Civil War. Many of Hemingway’s earlier stories are 
set in northern Michigan, where the family had a cottage on an 
inland lake and where he spent most summers until he was 20.

Hemingway remains best known for his three most important novels, 
The Sun Also Rises (1926), A Farewell to Arms (1929) and For Whom 
the Bell Tolls (1940), as well as numerous short stories and 
nonfiction works on a host of subjects, including bullfighting in 
Spain and big-game hunting in Africa. In his fiction and 
nonfiction he wrote about the two world wars and the Spanish Civil 
War.

Although certain stories by Hemingway, along with the novella, The 
Old Man and the Sea (1951), may remain required reading for high 
school and college students across the US, he has largely dropped 
out of favor. A certain school of criticism in recent decades has 
deemed him homophobic and misogynistic, if not racist and 
anti-Semitic. His hunting and shooting of innumerable wild 
animals, as well as his affinity for watching bulls and horses get 
killed in the ring, has also dimmed his reputation for some. No 
one jumps out of his historical and social skin, and there are 
problematic portions of Hemingway’s outlook and personality, but 
his sensibility at its best is compassionate and his view of the 
world one to be reckoned with.

To remain aloof from his writing would be a terrible mistake, in 
my view. He wrote many beautiful works, some of them staggeringly 
beautiful. Hemingway wrote that “A writer’s job is to tell the 
truth,” and meant what he said. Of course, he didn’t always tell 
the truth, either because he didn’t understand complex events or 
behavior or because he fooled himself about them, but one feels 
the physicality of his mental effort directed toward that end in 
every work.

full: http://wsws.org/articles/2011/jul2011/hemi-j06.shtml




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