Larger than life and master of the “one true sentence,” Ernest Miller Hemingway lived a big life rife with war, real and dangerous adventure, long-legged women, tempestuous amorous pursuits and any sporting challenge. Never one not to squeeze the last ounce from an adventure or a mojito, his beverage of choice, Hemingway was a member of what Gertrude Stein called the Lost Generation that included such iconic artists as Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and James Joyce.
As a man of adventure, of and for the people, Hemingway was a natural fit for Cuba’s invigorating and artistically stimulating culture. The favor was returned and Ernest Hemingway will always symbolize the common ground between Cuba and the United Sates.
Perhaps Hemingway’s greatest skill was his ability to portray his and our personal strengths and weaknesses in poignant but endearing terms that brought the reader’s emotions to a peak before tragically disappointing us. Through his work, we can see that Ernest Hemingway was doomed to live a life with an unhappy ending, like so many of the Lost Generation.
Many readers believe The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s first novel, was his best but A Farewell to Arms was a bigger seller and The Old Man and the Sea, inspired by a Cuban fishing mate, earned him the 1953 Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize in 1954.
In an interview with George Plimpton of the Paris Review et al, Hemingway said; “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality.”
Born on July 21, 1899 outside Chicago, Hemingway learned to hunt and fish at his parent’s cabin retreat in Michigan. These two passions would survive his war injuries, failed marriages and hard lifestyle.
In 1918, Hemingway earned the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery while serving as an ambulance driver for the Italian army. He and his tending nurse fell in love and were engaged but Agnes von Kurowsky broke Hemingway’s heart when she married another. The injuries Hemingway suffered in Italy would plague him all his life and many believe the loss of Agnes haunted the author for years.
While covering the Spanish Civil War in 1937, he met his third wife, another war correspondent, Martha Gellhorn. She inspired him to complete For Whom the Bell Tolls that was based on personal observation during WWI. Hemingway also used war as the backdrop for his novel For Whom the Bell tolls.
Hemingway purchased a home in Old Habana with Martha in 1941 after covering D-Day on the Normandy shores. Hemingway and Martha always prided themselves on being in the thick of it. When the war ended, the two had marital difficulties.
Hemingway would winter in Havana for nearly twenty years. The house is now a museum that gives terrific insight into one of the world’s true literary geniuses, his lifestyle, loves and passion for the written word.
After he and Martha divorced, Ernest married Mary Welsh Hemingway with whom he lived for the rest of his life. He populated the home with 60 cats and four dogs, his favorite being Black. All four dogs are immortalized in their tombs on the property.
While residing in Old Habana, Hemingway kept his fishing boat, The Pilar, in Cojimer, a small port town on the eastern shore.
It is here that he befriended a fisherman who many believe was the model for Santiago, the protagonist in the Old Man and the Sea.
Hemingway’s Havana home and his boat are extremely popular tourist attractions. The home has been restored, maintained and immortalized in much the same condition it was when Hemingway left. From the towered balcony, he could see to the water. His desk, typewriter and telescope are just as they were when he left.
Beautifully bound books line the walls of the Hemingway getaway. His desk and typewriter are poised beckoning for the return of the master of one true sentence to sit and create more immortal memories.
The sense of adventure Hemingway grew to appreciate in the backwoods of Michigan proved a lifelong passion and pursuit. Be it big game hunting wall depicted by some of his wall trophies in Case de Hemingway or his love of deep sea fishing or his robust pursuit of a full life, Ernest Hemingway only understood full systems ahead.
After years of declining health and the tragic erosion of his mental capabilities, Hemingway took his own life on July 2, 1961. He left behind his wife of fifteen years, Mary, and three sons, Jack, Patrick and Gregory. If you are an Ernest Hemingway admirer, you will gain valuable insight into the dynamic author’s personality and creative mind by touring the pristine residence in Old Habana. Many tourists have taken to etching their name on bamboo shoots surrounding the property as testimony to the enduring quality of the works of Hemingway.