FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hemingway in Cuba

Recently I visited the “Hemingway: Between Two Wars” exhibition at the Morgan Library in New York. The show focuses on the years between World War I and World War II and explores the most creative phase of Hemingway’s career. It also includes multiple drafts of his earliest short stories and several manuscripts of his major novels, as well as correspondence with the group of expatriate writers in Paris. The show reminded me of an article by Gabriel García Márquez where he describes his encounter with Ernest Hemingway:

“I recognized him immediately, as he passed with his wife Mary Welsh on the Boulevard St. Michel in Paris one rainy spring day in 1957. He walked on the other side of the street, toward the Luxembourg Gardens, wearing a worn pair of cowboy pants, a plaid shirt and a ballplayer’s cap. The only thing that didn’t look as if it belonged to him was a pair of metal-rimmed glasses, tiny and round, which gave him a premature grandfatherly air. For a fraction of a second, as always seemed to be the case, I found myself divided between my two competing roles. I didn’t know whether to ask him for an interview or cross the avenue to express my unqualified admiration for him. But with either proposition, I faced the same great inconvenience. I spoke the same rudimentary English I speak to this day, and I wasn’t very sure about his bullfighter’s Spanish. And so I didn’t do either of the things that could have spoiled that moment, but instead cupped both hands over my mouth and, like Tarzan in the jungle, yelled from one sidewalk to the other: ‘Maeeestro!’ Ernest Hemingway understood that there could be no other master amid the multitude of students, and he turned, raised his hand and shouted to me in Castilian in a very childish voice, ‘Adiooós, amigo!’ It was the only time I saw him”.

García Márquez thus expressed his appreciation for one of the two authors who most influenced his work (the other was William Faulkner). But Hemingway also influenced countless generations of writers, including many from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Cuba, where Hemingway lived for several years, had a big influence on his life. His first trip to the island was in April of 1934, together with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. However, it was his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, who chose their home in Finca Vigía, located on a small hill of San Francisco de Paula, a few kilometers away from Havana. In Cuba, Hemingway wrote Across the River and Into the Trees, A Moveable Feast, Gulf Islands and Cuba’s iconic novel The Old Man and the sea.

With The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway said he found the literary tone he had sought all his life. That book won him the Pulitzer Prize and catapulted him to the Nobel Prize. In the words of the prize committee, he received it for his “mastery of the art of storytelling, which was recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and the influence it has exerted on contemporary style,” which consisted of simple sentences and simple syntax, almost telegraphic in its expression. Hemingway called his style the “iceberg theory” where the facts float on water and the support structure and symbolism operate out of sight.

In addition to Finca Vigía, Hemingway’s preferred places in Cuba were the room in the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where he sometimes secluded himself to write, his frequently visited bar Floridita and the restaurant Bodeguita del Medio. The latter was a favorite as well of Errol Flynn, Gabriela Mistral, Salvador Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, Pablo Neruda, and many other personalities.

The daiquiri “Papa Hemingway” that he invented is still, more than fifty years later, a specialty of the Floridita: two lines of rum, a hit of lemon and two servings of crushed ice, leaving the glass frost-lined.

In a famous interview with the writer George Plimpton for The Paris Review Hemingway said, “Once writing has become the main vice and the greatest pleasure, only death can end it”. Maybe he thought about that when, following what appeared to be a tragic family tradition (his father, his sister Ursula and his brother Leicester committed suicide before him) he ended his life in Ketchum, Idaho, with his favorite shotgun, the sad dawn of July 2, 1961.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

November 15, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Ukania: the Land Where the Queen’s Son Has His Shoelaces Ironed by His Valet
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Spraying Poisons, Chasing Ghosts
Anthony DiMaggio
In the Wake of the Blue Wave: the Midterms, Recounts, and the Future of Progressive Politics
Christopher Ketcham
Build in a Fire Plain, Get What You Deserve
Meena Miriam Yust
Today It’s Treasure Island, Tomorrow Your Neighborhood Store: Could Local Currencies Help?
Karl Grossman
Climate of Rage
Walter Clemens
How Two Demagogues Inspired Their Followers
Brandon Lee
Radical Idealism: Jesus and the Radical Tradition
Kim C. Domenico
An Anarchist Uprising Against the Liberal Ego
Elliot Sperber
Pythagoras in Queens
November 14, 2018
Charles Pierson
Unstoppable: The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and NAFTA
Sam Bahour
Israel’s Mockery of Security: 101 Actions Israel Could Take
Cesar Chelala
How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health
George Ochenski
What Tester’s Win Means
Louisa Willcox
Saving Romania’s Brown Bears, Sharing Lessons About Coxistence, Conservation
George Wuerthner
Alternatives to Wilderness?
Robert Fisk
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Three Daughters were Killed in Gaza, But He Still Clings to Hope for the Middle East
Dennis Morgan
For What?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Government is Our Teacher
Bill Martin
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
Rivera Sun
After the Vote: An Essay of the Man from the North
Jamie McConnell
Allowing Asbestos to Continue Killing
Thomas Knapp
Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?
Bill Glahn
Snow Day
November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail