Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American author. He was born in Oak Park, Illinois and he committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho.
During his lifetime, he was awarded with:
- Silver Medal of Military Valor (medaglia d’argento) in World War 1
- Pulitzer Prize in 1953 (for The Old Man and the Sea)
- Nobel Prize in literature in 1954 (also partly for The Old Man and the Sea)
Oak Park produced a tall, handsome man, strong, smart and ambitious. He had already learned the art of hunting and therefore was no stranger to killing. As an infant, he joined his father on hunting trips. At ten, he got his first shotgun. He also enjoyed a good fight, boxing was one of his passions. His father’s prestige as a physician helped him a lot in the small town, he learned about music and art and grew up in a protected, clean and safe neighborhood.
World War 1 showed him a different side of life, which did not, however, leave him entirely depressed and broken. His illusions were shattered, but the experiences gathered were invaluable, and, what’s more, everything turned out to be all right in the end, the good ones won, his wounds healed completely and Agnes was a mere “Schwärmerei” (Burgess (9.); page 24). He even got decorated, returned as a hero and earned much fame and admiration back home. His luck was completed when he married Hadley Richardson who bore his first son.
Being a Artist in the “City of Light”, as Paris still is called by some, he may have had a hard time from the financial point of view, but all in all the ‘twenties were days of friendship, the financial and artistic struggle kept Hemingway fit. He was mentored there by Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound.
Death and violence were the two great constants in Hemingway’s troubled, chaotic life. Fifty-one years later, he used a gun to kill himself. He was a tough, strong man with strong principles. Hemingway “believed that life was a tragedy and knew it could only have one end”, yet he was blessed with talent and drive. That may have made it harder for him to admit his failures and correct them.
In his novels, Ernest Hemingway used violence extensively, but yet subtly. Never is there a description of death for its own sake, it always contributes to a larger theme, in A Farewell to Arms it is mainly human commitment, and in For whom the Bell Tolls mainly comradeship. It contributes in an unusual way: Death and violence always act as the opposite, as the imminent threat and as the jet black background that makes the theme stand out sharply, and that’s why it is difficult to analyze it. No matter what exactly happens in those two books, violence and death are always involved, but just act as a sort of sublime intensification of the protagonist’s feelings and experiences.
Sadly, Hemingway couldn’t use this attitude in life. Maybe the pressure simply was too high. The general public never knew the real Ernest Hemingway, a man with a man’s problems. They only had an abstract ideal they knew from his books. Even his close friend James Joyce mixed him up with his characters. Joyce once said: “He’s a good writer, Hemingway. He writes as he is. He’s a big, powerful peasant, as strong as a buffalo. A sportsman. And ready to live the life he writes about. He would never have it if his body had not allowed him to live it. But giants of his sort are truly modest; there is much more behind Hemingway’s form than people know.”
According to Ford Madox Ford, truth is not facts but vision. On that principle are Hemingway’s characters based. But that is what caused Hemingway’s failure. He felt he had to be as stoic as his characters.
Like Robert Jordan’s father, he was trapped. On the one hand, he could never surpass his character’s deeds and on the other hand, the general public demanded him to do so. He tried and created one myth after the other. He claimed he had an affair with Mata Hari (“but one night I fucked her very well, although I found her to be very heavy throughout the hips and to have more desire for what was done to her than what she was giving to the man” (Burgess (9.), p. 105)), that he joined the Arditi after his wounding, etc. And most people were perfectly willing to believe it, the tale about the Arditi, Italian shock troops, even appeared in Malcolm Cowley’s preface to the 1944(Cowley (4.), p. xii) edition of The Viking Portable Library. He was captured in the structure of his lies, the discrepancy between him and the image he had set up grew larger every day. To be a liar and worthless in comparison to that shining idol must have reinforced his alcohol-related depressions and made him more liable to the hurts he received.
After all, there is a certain ambivalence of death and violence. It had done some good, and taught him priceless philosophies. But at the same time, they hurt him so much, the only thing he could do was to make fiction from them. He did that superbly well.
He starting writing for the Kansas City Star and adopted as his personal standand the main directives of newspaper’s stylebook: “Brevity, a reconciliation of vigour with smoothness, the positive approach”.
In 1918 he left the Star to travel overseas. Against his father’s wishes, he tried to join the United States Army but failed the medical examination. Later, he enlisted in the Ambulance Corps and left for Italy. On July 8, 1918, at the Italian front he was wounded by machine gun fire, ending his career as an ambulance driver. After being discharged from the Army, Hemingway returned home and in 1920 took a job in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at the Toronto Star newspaper as a freelancer, staff writer, and foreign correspondent. It was also at this time when he met up with Canada’s young literary prodigy, Morley Callaghan who also was a cub reporter at the same paper. Callaghan, who respected Hemingway’s work, showed his stories to him and Hemingway praised it as fine work. The two later joined up in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris, France with F. Scott Fitzgerald and the other expatriate writers of the day.
In 1921 he married Hadley Richardson and moved to Paris as a correspondent for the Toronto Star covering the Greco-Turkish War. In 1923, his last year at the Star, his first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems, was published in Paris by Robert McAlmon. In the same year, his first son, John, was born in Toronto. Busy supporting a family, he became bored with the Toronto Star, and on January 1, 1924, resigned.
Sherwood Anderson gave him a letter of recommendation to Gertrude Stein. She became his mentor and opened the door to the Parisian Modern Movement happening in Montparnasse Quarter. His other mentor was Ezra Pound, the founder of Imagism. In retrospective, Hemingway once said about them: “Ezra was right half the time, and when he was wrong, he was so wrong you were never in any doubt about it. Gertrude was always right.” (to John Peale Bishop; Cowley (4.), p. xiii). He even considered giving Mr. Pound the Nobel Prize gold medal. At the same time, he became a close friend of James Joyce whose “Ulysses” with its stream-of-consciousness techniques had a tremendous impact on the literary scene. These authors and many others met at Sylvia Beach’s bookshop, Shakespeare & Co., at 18 Rue de l’Odéon, Paris.
In Montparnasse, Hemingways favorite restaurant was La Closerie des Lilas. On the terrace of “La Closerie des Lilas”, over just six weeks, Hemingway wrote the entire novel The Sun Also Rises.
But the last impulse he required came in an unsuspected and painful way. His manuscripts, among them “A Farewell to Arms” were stolen at Gare de Lyon when his wife Hadley wanted to bring them along to Lausanne to meet him. This loss was a big gain after all, because by re-writing the novel he had also time to reconsider, thus improving it. The second version was a great deal less flowery, stripped of all decoration, reduced to the bare essentials, matter-of-factly, concentrated and compressed.
During this peaceful life among friends, he was able to develop his literary skills; in times of war, inspired by death, he would use them.
Famous at Twenty-Five: Thirty a Master
The Hemingway style rocked the literary scene when it first arrived. It seemed simple on the surface, but was a revolution in a time when Victorian writing with neo-Gothic decorations still governed the literary world.
And beneath the surface of this “simple” style lie allegorical structures of real complexity. Hemingway’s style was no natural gift. It was the reward for his immense hurts and efforts and it was, and still is, the epitome of the modern movement. In the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris, France, many authors lent the young Hemingway a helping hand, and helped shape his style.
After marrying, the Hemingways decided to live abroad for a while, and, following the advice of Sherwood Anderson, they picked Paris, where Ernest could develop his literary skills better than anywhere else. His first professional influence had been his time as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. The Kansas City Star Style Book, which was a guideline the newspaper had established, had lain the foundations for his later art. “Brevity, a reconciliation of vigour with smoothness, the positive approach” (Burgess (9.), p. 19) were its main directives and the young Ernest was willing to adopt them as his personal standard.
Sherwood Anderson wrote him a letter of recommendation to Gertrude Stein. She became his mentor and opened the door for him to the Parisian Modern Movement. His other mentor was Ezra Pound, the founder of Imagism. In retrospective, Hemingway once said about them: “Ezra was right half the time, and when he was wrong, he was so wrong you were never in any doubt about it. Gertrude was always right.” (to John Peale Bishop; Cowley (4.), p. xiii). He even considered giving Mr. Pound the Nobel Prize gold medal. At the same time, he became a close friend of James Joyce whose Ulysses with its stream-of-consciousness techniques had a tremendous impact on the literary scene. These authors and many others met at Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare & Co., bookshop at 18 Rue de l’Odéon, Paris.
But the last impulse he required came in an unsuspected and painful way. His manuscripts, among them A Farewell to Arms were stolen at Gare de Lyon when his wife wanted to bring them along to Lausanne to meet him. This loss was a big gain after all, because by re-writing the novel he had also time to reconsider, thus improving it. The second version was a great deal less flowery, stripped of all decoration, reduced to the bare essentials, matter-of-factly, concentrated and compressed.
During this peaceful life among friends, he was able to develop his literary skills, in times of war, inspired by death, he would use them.
From Boy to Man: Hemingway’s First World War
Hemingway once wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald: “We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get a damned hurt use it – don’t cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist” (Lynn (13.), p. 10). Hemingway’s first hurts were so grave it took him nearly ten years to write them down in a novel.
When he arrived in Europe, he was just another young hotshot out for adventure. En route to the Italian front, he stopped in Paris. The city was under constant bombardment from German siege guns. Instead of staying in the relative safety of the Hotel Florida, Ernest asked the cab driver to bring him to the place where the shells were falling. He wouldn’t stop looking for enemy fire until one shell was tearing apart the facade of a church at the Place de la Madelaine nearby. He later said: “I was an awful dope when I went to the last war. I can remember just thinking that we were the home team and the Austrians were the visiting team” (Barron’s Book Notes (8.), p. 2).
But gruesome reality caught up with him. On his first day of duty, an ammunition factory exploded in the countryside near Milan. He had to pick up bodies and pieces of bodies, mostly of women working there. This first and extremely cruel encounter with human death left him shaken. The soldiers he met later didn’t lighten this horror. Eric Dorman-Smith quoted Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part Two: “By my troth, I care not; a man can die but once; we owe god a death . . . and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the next” (Burgess (9.), p. 24). A 50-year-old soldier, to whom he said “You’re troppo vecchio for this war, pop.” replied “I can die as well as any man.” (Burgess (9.), p. 24).
Still, he wanted to come even closer to the action, and was wounded at midnight on the eighth of July while bicycling to a forward command post to deliver chocolate. The exact details remain mysterious but two things we know for sure: A trench mortar shell hit him leaving fragments in both legs, and he got the Silver Medal of Military Valor (medaglia d’argento) from the Italian government. He may have saved another soldier’s life by carrying him on his back.
Convalescing in the Ospedale Croce Rossa Americana, Via Alessandro Manzoni in Milan, he met Sister Hannah Agnes von Kurowsky, a nurse from Washington, DC. and one of eighteen nurses looking after just four patients. He fell for her, but they never were together. Soon after his departure, she fell in love with another man.
Hemingway’s metaphysical movement in this early period was a shift from juvenile life in Oak Park to the horrors of a full scale war. He waded deeper and deeper into violence until he stood face to face with death.
From Reality to Fiction: A Farewell to Arms
Hemingway published A Farewell to Arms at a time when many other World War 1 books were published: (including Frederic Manning Her Privates We, Erich Maria Remarque All Quiet on the Western Front, Richard Aldington Death of a Hero, and Robert Graves Goodbye to All That.)
By this time, Hemingway was no longer in love with Sister von Kurowsky and had divorced Hadley. He had fathered a boy named Patrick who was, like Henry’s son in the novel, delivered by Cesarean section. The intense labor pains of his second wife, Pauline, inspired Catherine’s labor in the novel. Ernest and Pauline were criss-crossing the USA by that time, as if Hemingway might be trying, like Frederic Henry, to escape his past.
Finally, Hemingway’s father committed suicide, shooting himself in the head with an old Civil War pistol.
Many of the novel’s characters are based on real life persons, like Helen Ferguson, who reminds the reader of Kitty Cannell, who “warned Hadley, whom she considered to be a put-upon and long-suffering angel, that her husband was unreliable”(Burgess (9.), p. 40) many times as Ferguson did on pages 98- 99 and 219-222, and the priest, who represents Don Giuseppe Bianchi, the priest of the 69th and 70th regiments of the Brigata Ancona. A mystery in its own right is the character Rinaldi who had already appeared in “In Our Time”.
One of the main themes of the novel is the unity of life and death, illustrated by a number of striking pictures like the soldiers carrying ammunition boxes, who “marched as though they were gone six months with child” (A Farewell (1.), p. 4), Frederic’s flight in a wagon full of guns and Catherine’s death in childbirth.
The book is not a war novel, but, as Anthony Burgess put it, “a complex statement about the nature of human commitment, presented against a background of war vividly caught.” (Burgess (9.), p. 55). Death and the cruelty of war are ever-present, dwelling below the surface, rarely erupting into the sight of the protagonist.
As a criticism of war, again and again, Frederic Henry thinks and talks of Napoleon. By confronting the obsolete, romantic way of warmaking with the real thing, Hemingway showed the contrast between the official patriotic propaganda and the harsh reality. With Henry’s famous monologue “I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice […]” (A Farewell (1.), p. 165), he sketches a wordly philosophy. Sacrifice equaled slaughter; the glory and honor they all came for was replaced by butchery.
This is the disillusionment of the Lost Generation, and it led Frederic to stop thinking. Hemingway displays this in a number of other images. When Frederic is offered a sword in an armorer’s shop, he says he went back to the front and thus had no need for it. Catherine describes her lover’s death (“He didn’t have a sabre cut. They blew him all to bits” (A Farewell (1.), p. 19)).
A Farewell to Arms is a male fantasy all the way through, a kind of ambulance driver’s wet dream. Lieutenant Henry always seems to know what to do and say. Women are attracted. Men respect him. Italians treat him as an Italian. Nurse Barkley falls for him so much she thinks of little else. Cooks and valets knock themselves out for him. Counts want to play billiards with him. Always in grave danger, he always escapes. The entire novel is built on this shallow kind of fantasy. And yet… even wet dreams come on different artistic levels. If the plot is third-rate, the novel is beautifully observed in certain particulars and beautifully written.
The Time in Between
Having published A Farewell to Arms, the years of struggle were ending. Ernest Hemingway was now an author of worldwide renown, happy with Pauline and financially independent. But his good fortune in business, art and marriage was overshadowed by serious attacks on his health (anthrax infection, cut eyeball, glass-gash in his forehead, grippe, toothache, hemorrhoids; kidney trouble from fishing in Spain, torn groin muscle, finger gashed to the bone in an accident with a punching ball, laceration of arms, legs and face from a ride on a runaway horse through a deep Wyoming forest, later: car accident in Wyoming in which his arm was badly broken).
Following the advice of John Dos Passos, he moved to Key West where he established his first American home. From the old stone house, a wedding present from Pauline’s uncle, he fished in the Tortugas waters, went to Sloppy Joe’s, Havana’s famous bar, and traveled to Spain every once in a while, gathering material for Death in the Afternoon and Winner Take Nothing.
A safari led him to Mombasa in fall 1932, Nairobi and Machakos in the Mua Hills. Many animals died on that safari. The Green Hills of Africa, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber were the literary results.
His way of life provoked criticism by the Left. Max Eastman and others demanded greater commitment to the affairs of the people. A young left-winger begged him to give up his lonely, tight-lipped stoicism and write about truth and justice. For a while, it seemed he would do so. His article Who Murdered the Vets? for New Masses, a leftist newspaper, and his book To Have and Have Not showed a certain ‘social awareness.’ Soon, he would take political sides more explicitly.
Hemingway Up Close and Personal
Hemingway’s suicide was not that surprising after all. During all his life he was obsessed with death and, in a way, also with violence. Nevertheless, when his father committed suicide, he strongly condemned this deed as a violation both of what Harvey Breit called Hemingway’s “categorical imperative” (Times 1961 (15.), p. 6) courage and his Catholic faith. Why, and when, did the change in mind take place? What were the reasons for his ever-growing inclination to killing and especially to killing himself?
Things Turn Sour
He divorced Hadley and married Pauline. Because of his Catholic faith, some conflicts of conscious arose, but were eventually overcome. In the one hundred days Hadley ordered him to stay away from Pauline, Men Without Women was created. Afterwards, he married for the second time, his conscience seemed to be cleaned perhaps due to his writing, but the next hurt was already under way. His father committed suicide because he couldn’t bear the burden of his incurable illnesses any longer. The cowardice in this action must have been a great shame for somebody like Hemingway who was a believer in the “grace under pressure” doctrine. The sensational suicide of Harry Crosby, the founder of the Black Sun Press, must have also affected Hem, as Crosby was a friend of his from his Paris days.
His books sold very well and were approved by critics, but with Hemingway’s success came his bad behavior. He told Scott Fitzgerald how to write, and Allen Tate that there was a fixed number of orgasms a man had. He also claimed Ford Madox Ford was sexually impotent – a hint of Hemingway’s own sexual neurosis. In return, Hemingway himself was criticized [and, some claim, stung by the criticism].
The journal Bookman attacked him as a dirty writer. McAlmon, the publisher of his first, non-commercial book said, according to Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway was “a fag and a wife-beater” (Burgess (9.), p. 57) and that Pauline was a lesbian. Even Gertrude Stein criticized him in her book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. In it, she claimed Hemingway had derived his style from her own and from Sherwood Anderson’s, and that this shameful origin was “yellow” (Burgess (9.), p. 64).
Max Eastman was even more confrontational in his attacks, suggesting that Ernest “come out from behind that false hair on the chest” (Times 1961 (15.), p. 6). Eastman would go on to write an essay entitled Bull in the Afternoon, a parody and a satire of Death in the Afternoon. a book dear to Hemingway.
It is worth noting that these attacks on his pride and talent were accompanied by the already mentioned injuries which kept him almost constantly in bad shape.
The Endless Dark Nothingness
As noted previously, Hemingway was very preoccupied with death. In his youth, it was the death of small animals, later of big game or enemies in combat. Death was always present and always threatening but was, as in the Tibetan yin-yang symbol, linked to life, which Hemingway, considered most intense in the prospect of death. At times, he lived on the edge and sometimes tried to get even closer to the brink of that edge. On the other, on the yin side, waited what the Castilians call the “nada” or the endless dark nothingness.
Hemingway stood on the yang side: “Life is too short for anything but the one thing that can outface death – human dignity” (Burgess (9.), p. 61). Fernando is the representative of this opinion in For Whom the Bell Tolls, dignity also appears in the form of gaiety as Robert Jordan mentioned in the first chapter (“It was like having immortality” (For Whom (5.), p. 18)), yet he fears and worships the nada greatly, as the stream-of-consciousness passage of Robert’s sexual intercourse with Maria proves (For Whom (5.), p. 171).
To paraphrase the passage, for Robert [and for Hemingway] it was a dark passage which led to nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere, heavy on the elbows in the earth to nowhere, dark, never any end to nowhere, hung on all the time always to unknowing nowhere, this time and again for always to nowhere, now not to be borne once again always and to nowhere, now beyond all bearing up, up, up and into nowhere, suddenly, scaldingly, holdingly all nowhere gone and time absolutely still and they were both there, time having stopped and he felt the earth move out and away from under them.The prayer in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (Short Stories (3.), p. 481), hinted at in A Farewell to Arms on page 13, where the still “numb” Frederic prefers nada, is very similar to this passage.
Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.
For Hemingway the human existence was a struggle between light and darkness, between life and death, and the epitome of this struggle were bullfights, Spain’s national sport. He became an aficionado after having seen the Pamplona fiesta of 1925 which was fictionalized in The Sun Also Rises. But the book that dealt exclusively with this topic was Death in the Afternoon in which Hemingway discussed the metaphysics of bullfighting, the ritualized, almost religious procedures of the blood-soaked spectacle.
Sadly enough, the country which stood for everything that mattered to Hemingway, his cosmic principles life and death, the struggle between them, and its manifestation in the form of bullfights, was destroyed by the Fascists. In spite of his efforts to support the Loyalists, Francisco Franco seized power in the spring of 1939, as Benito Mussolini had previously done in Italy . Hemingway had called Mussolini “the biggest bluff in Europe” (Burgess (9.),p. 33).
Hemingway had lost his adopted country of Spain to Franco’s fascists, and would later lose his beloved Key West home as a result of his 1940 divorce. And at this point of time, the heaviest loss of all had already commenced. The generation that he had been a part of had ceased to exist in the ‘forties. Many were dying off (Thomas Wolfe 9.15.1938, Ford Madox Ford 6.26.1939, F. Scott Fitzgerald 12.21.1940, James Joyce 1.13.1941, Sherwood Anderson 3.8.1941, Virginia Woolf 3.28.1941 (suicide), and Getrude Stein 7.27.1946). Also, some of Hemingway’s peers such as Ezra Pound, were leaning towards the Fascists.
Sure Shots: The Second World War
The United States entered World War II on December 7 1941 and for the first time in his life, Hemingway took an active part in a war. Aboard the Pilar, now a Q-Ship, he was ready to fight and sink Nazi submarines threatening the coasts of Cuba and the USA. It is worth noting that, according to Anthony Burgess, he never before shot nor would have shot another human being, and that he was a non-combatant in World War I, in the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) he was reporting on after having written For Whom the Bell Tolls and in the Spanish Civil War, where even the money he collected to support the Loyalists was used on non-belligerent purposes. Perhaps his failure in preventing the Fascists from taking Spain (he was very possessive about this country) had led him to take more drastic actions.
As the FBI took over the Caribbean counter-espionage, he was disbanded and went to Europe as war correspondent for Collier’s. At Ville-dieu-les-Poêles he threw three grenades into a cellar where SS men were hiding, a clear violation of the Geneva Convention and his first murder. Seemingly encouraged by that, he declared he would be an unofficial intelligence unit. Later, he acted as an unofficial liaison officer at Chateau Rambouillet, and afterwards, he even formed his own partisan group which took part in the liberation of Paris. He tried to step further onto the path of the warrior the personages of his fiction, in this case particularly Pablo, had taken before him.
By firing his machine pistol at the portrait of Mary Welsh’s husband after having placed it atop of the toilet bowl in his room in the Ritz, he proved he wouldn’t any longer flinch from killing a man who stood face to face with him. He became a killer like Pablo in the end.
The Downward Spiral
After the war, he started and abandoned a novel about the earth, the sea and the air, and went to Italy where he gathered material for Across the River and Into the Trees, a homage to Venice. He derived the title from the last words of General Stonewall Jackson; maybe he expected his own end soon. His now divorced third wife appeared as the third wife of the protagonist, Adriana Ivancich as his lover Renata, which means “Reborn” in Latin. Hemingway was longing for his lost youth. The novel was widely disapproved, the majority of reviewers accused him of bad taste, stylistic ineptitude and sentimentality, the last of which is most certainly true and fitted into the pattern that was beginning to emerge: Hemingway grew old.
He started and, depressed by its mediocrity, abandoned a long sea novel to be published posthumously as Islands in the Stream. One section of it was published as The Old Man and the Sea. Its enormous impact satisfied and fulfilled Hemingway, probably for the last time in his life. It earned him both the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954, and restored his international reputation as an author.
Then, his legendary bad luck struck once again. On a safari he was the victim of two successive plane crashes. The injuries he got away with were grave and numerous. He sprained his right shoulder, arm, and left leg, had a grave overall concussion, temporarily lost his vision in the left eye, his hearing in the left ear, had a paralysis of the sphincter, crushed his vertebra, suffered from a ruptured liver, spleen and kidney and was marked by first degree burns on his face, arms and leg. As if this was not enough, he was badly injured one month later in a bushfire accident which left him with second degree burns on his legs, front torso, lips, left hand and right forearm. The physical pain caused him to lose his mind. His strength was gone entirely, and so was his will to live. He couldn’t even travel to Stockholm personally.
A glimpse of hope came with the discovery of some of his old manuscripts from 1928 in the Ritz cellars, which were transformed into A Moveable Feast. Although some of his energy seemed to be restored, severe drinking problems kept him down. His blood pressure and cholesterol count were perilously high, he suffered from an aorta inflammation, and maybe the depression accompanying alcoholism had already started. He also lost his Finca Vigía in San Francisco de Paula and was forced to “exile” to Ketchum, Idaho after the situation in Cuba had started to escalate.
The very last years, 1960 and 1961, were marked by severe paranoia. He feared FBI agents would be after him if Cuba turned to the Russians, that the “Feds” (Burgess (9.), p. 110) would be checking his bank account, and that they wanted to arrest him for gross immorality and carrying alcohol. He got upset about perfectly normal photographs in his Dangerous Summer article. Hemingway was receiving treatment in Ketchum for high blood pressure and liver problems – and also shock therapy both for depression and his continued paranoia at FBI surveillance (The FBI, it turns out, were keeping tabs on Hemingway as a result of his period spent in Cuba). He attempted suicide in the spring of 1961, and received treatment again, but this was unable to prevent his suicide on July 2, 1961 – at 5:00am, he died as a result of a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head. He is interred in the Ketchum Cemetery in Ketchum, Idaho. In 1996, his granddaughter, actress Margaux Hemingway, would take her own life; she is interred in the same cemetery.