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Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway: A Moveable Feast & Paris

Anderson was correct that all the good writers were in Paris. Among the authors and artists who established themselves there in the years after World War I were Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Anderson himself. It was a cohort of young people whom Gertrude Stein nicknamed the Lost Generation—those who caught only the tail end of the excitement and drama of World War I and then faced the great letdown of the war's aftermath. Some expatriates in Paris at the time drank their days away in the cafes. Hemingway did plenty of drinking (for the rest of his life, he bore a scar on his forehead from a drunken collision with a Paris skylight) but was also a disciplined writer. He traveled around Europe writing pieces for the Toronto Star, using his immense powers of observation to record life for the newspaper. One of his editors, Charles Scribner Jr., called Hemingway "one of the most perceptive travelers in the history of literature."8 He visited Spain and took in his first bullfight, sparking a lifelong obsession with the sport. Eventually he quit journalism to focus full-time on fiction, conscientiously honing his style and craft in story after story. He was inspired by Stein's sparse prose style, and she was an unsparing critic of his early work. He published his first book, a collection entitled Three Stories and Ten Poems, in 1923. In 1926 he published his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, which centers on a group of expatriate Americans living in Europe who also enjoy bullfighting. The book earned him literary acclaim.

Hemingway's literary peers influenced his writing, but he had difficulty maintaining friendships (and marriages) and ended many relationships bitterly. Gertrude Stein and her companion Alice B. Toklas were godparents to Hemingway's first son, but Hemingway called Stein a "lazy writer"9 (a harsh condemnation from a man who valued discipline) in A Moveable Feast, his posthumously published memoir of his time in Paris. Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were close friends when they first met—Fitzgerald recommended Hemingway to his editor at Scribner's, Maxwell Perkins—but Hemingway later turned on his friend, battling with Fitzgerald's wife Zelda and eviscerating both Fitzgeralds in memoirs.

Hemingway could be a bully. His burly exterior concealed a delicate ego. He had a hard time taking criticism from anyone—in response to a detailed, ten-page letter of constructive criticism Fitzgerald wrote after Hemingway asked him to review a draft of A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway scribbled at the bottom, "Kiss my ass." Another reason his relationships faltered was his habit of drawing upon real-life experience for his books. Hemingway believed strongly that good writing came from personal experience, and characters in his books—not always portrayed in the most flattering light—were sometimes thinly veiled versions of real-life counterparts (The Sun Also Rises) or had no veil at all (A Moveable Feast).

In Paris the Hemingways befriended a woman named Pauline Pfeiffer, a fashion reporter who sometimes traveled with the couple. She and Ernest began an affair. Hadley divorced him in 1927, and a few months later he and Pauline married. In his memoir, Hemingway blamed Pauline for seducing him, saying that a the ploy of befriending a woman in order to steal her husband was "the oldest trick there is." It might have been an old trick, but it was one that Hemingway fell for more than once in his lifetime.

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