Ernest Miller Hemingway was a “rock star” before rock and roll! Handsome and charismatic, a gifted storyteller, he dominated any room he entered.
Whether you admire his talent or object to the way he lived his life, you will agree it was a colourful life…lived to the fullest.
My fascination with Hemingway began soon after reading the first pages of Paula McLain’s book, “The Paris Wife”. Although “The Paris Wife” is historical fiction, the jest of the story rings true.
I was hooked. I read everything I could about Hemingway as well as several of his novels and short stories. The storylines are heavy with war, violence and death topics, not what I would normally choose to read. The exception was “A Moveable Feast”, which seemed like a comedy compared to the other books he wrote. Nevertheless, it was the man, Ernest Hemingway, not his work, that captured my interest. In the end, I’m not sure how I felt about him…
PBS aired a three-part series this week about Hemingway’s life and times, starting with a difficult childhood, a domineering mother and a father who suffered depression. From a young age, he was enamoured with the military. His parents wanted him to attend college, but he was determined to sign up to fight in WW1. He could not fight on the front lines (he was nearsighted); however, he joined the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. Soon after arriving in Italy, he was injured. While in the hospital recovering from multiple wounds, he fell in love with his attending nurse, Agnes. After the war, he was heartbroken when she decided that their ages (she was older than him) were too great to consider marriage.
Not long after, Hemingway met his first wife, Hadley Richardson (The Paris Wife). They moved to Paris in 1921, where he worked as a news correspondent. He soon fell in with the literary and artistic community and honed his skills as the writer we are familiar with.
I’ve spent hours in Paris walking in Hemingway’s footsteps, exploring the neighbourhood’s he lived in, frequenting the cafes where he met up with his friends, and checking out any landmarks that Hemingway would have left a mark on.
Hemingway loved nature and animals, hunting and fishing, boxing, and the bullfights, all of which he wrote about often. His book, “The Old Man and the Sea”, won him the Nobel Prize.
To say Hemingway was intense would be a monumental understatement. Like his father, he suffered from poor mental health and this, along with the negative effects of alcoholism, contributed to him spiralling out of control and in the end, he took his own life at 61.
If you’re curious or interested in learning more about Ernest Hemingway, the PBS special is very informative…I’m sure it will be aired again in the future. It’s a welcome reprieve from the realities we are now facing in our daily lives.