Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s “Hemingway” 

Nobody Called Him Ernie! 

Ernest Hemingway Writing at Campsite in Kenya, photo provided by Look Magazine. CC BY 2.0.

Why a Hemingway Doc Now?

War and peace, fascism, anti-fascism, communism and anti-communism loomed large in the life and work of Ernest Hemingway. An ambulance driver in World War I who was badly wounded, he covered WWII as a journalist and reported on the defeat of Hitler and his henchmen. Also, he went to Spain during the Civil War, identified with the anti-Franco forces and wrote a novel with an anti-fascist hero. From afar, he tracked the Russian, the Chinese and the Cuban revolutions, lived in Cuba on and off from 1939 to 1959 and planned to live there after Fidel, Che and the guerrillas overturned the Batista dictatorship. Instead, Papa went to Idaho, pulled the trigger and ended it all.

For most of his life, he was a political animal. His prose style was an act of rebellion against the lush, adjective-rich prose and poetry of the advertising and the PR industries in the 1920s. Curiously, or perhaps not, the honchos who mass produce culture, as well as the critics for many of the leading American magazines, would rather explore Hemingway’s gender and sexuality than his politics. Perhaps that’s because sex sells and because American citizens today are often intensely concerned about transgender bathrooms, and what pronouns—she, he, him, her or they— to use to identify themselves, their friends and family members.

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Jonah Raskin is the author of Beat Blues, San Francisco, 1955.

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