Novelist, short story writer and journalist Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was one of America’s most accomplished and influential writers of the 20th century. His economical and understated style influenced scores of writers who followed, and many of his works are considered literary classics.
It has been said that Hemingway’s work focused on themes of love, war, wilderness and loss. His first novel, The Sun Also Rises, tells the story of a group of American and British expats who traveled from Paris to Pamplona, Spain, to watch the running of the bulls. Although some critics gave it a lukewarm review, the New York Times wrote in 1926, the year of the book’s publication, “No amount of analysis can convey the quality of The Sun Also Rises. It is a truly gripping story, told in a lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame.” The book has never been out of print.
The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway’s tale of an aging Cuban fisherman’s struggle with a giant marlin off the coast of Florida, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952. It was the last of Hemingway’s major works of fiction to be published in his lifetime.
Hemingway cultivated a life of adventure, immersing himself in the atmosphere of numerous exotic ports of call, including Africa and the Caribbean islands. During the 1920s, he took up residence in Paris, a place where his American dollars would go a long way and, more importantly, where he would encounter “interesting people” – artists like Picasso, Miro and Gris; and writers such as James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, who became his mentor. Hemingway later maintained permanent homes in Cuba (1930s) and Key West (1940s/’50s). In 1959, he acquired a property in Ketchum, Idaho. It was there that Hemingway died in 1961 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Although much has been written about his remarkable life and peerless body of work, here are five things you may not have known about the writer known affectionately as “Papa Hemingway.”
- He was a volunteer ambulance driver for the Allied Powers in Italy during World War I.
- In 1918 he received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery for assisting Italian soldiers to safety, even though he had just been seriously wounded by mortar fire while trying to get cigarettes and candy to troops on the front lines.
- Hemingway kept dozens of cats at his Cuban property, but it was a white, six-toed cat he received from a ship’s captain that began the many generations of similar six- and seven-toed cats at Hemingway House in Key West. Descendants of the original cats continue to live on the premises.
- Hemingway was almost killed in two successive airplane crashes while on safari in Africa in 1952.
- There’s a life-size bronze statue of Hemingway inside El Floridita bar in Havana, with a framed photo of the author with Fidel Castro on the wall behind it.
Whether you’re a veteran collector of Hemingway, or just getting started, be sure to bid in this curated Hemingway Book Auction.