Sunday, September 27, 2009

Today in Literary History: Hemingway

Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway book cover
On this day in 1929 Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms was published. Biographically speaking, two farewells associated with the book may be those extended to F. Scott Fitzgerald -- after reading his nine pages of suggested manuscript revisions. Hemingway wrote "Kiss my ass" in the margin -- and to Agnes von Kurowsky, Hemingway's first love.

Hemingway called A Farewell to Arms, "my Romeo and Juliet novel," and based it on his own experiences as an eighteen-year-old Red Cross volunteer on the north Italian front, where he was injured by shrapnel and machine gun fire, and then attended by American nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky. Her diary entries for the period of their eight-month relationship are cool, though many of her letters are not. In her final, Dear John letter -- actually it begins, "Ernie, dear boy" -- von Kurowsky cites her older age and Hemingway behaving like a spoiled child as reasons for the break-up, before dropping the bombshell: "Then -- & believe me when I say this is sudden for me, too -- I expect to be married soon. And I hope & pray that after you have thought things out, you'll be able to forgive me & start a wonderful career & show what a man you really are."

Interesting Hemingway Links:

Picturing Hemingway: A Writer in His Time
Online gallery and biography presented by the National Portrait Gallery. Includes photographs and background on his marriages, works, and friends.

Hemingway at Shakespeare & Company

Literary Traveler is a website featuring original stories about important locales in literary history. This article discusses the relationship between Sylvia Beach, Shakespeare & Company and the great writers of the era, including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein.

What's your favorite Hemingway work?

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