Today's Birthdays: July 21
1899–1961, American novelist and short-story writer, born in Oak Park, Illinois; one of the great American writers of the 20th century.
The son of a country doctor, Hemingway worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star after graduating from high school in 1917. During World War I he served as an ambulance driver in France and in the Italian infantry and was wounded just before his 19th birthday. Later, while working in Paris as a correspondent for the Toronto Star, he became involved with the expatriate literary and artistic circle surrounding Gertrude Stein. During the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway served as a correspondent on the loyalist side. He fought in World War II and then settled in Cuba in 1945. In 1954, Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. After his expulsion from Cuba by the Castro regime, he moved to Idaho. He was increasingly plagued by ill health and mental problems, and in July, 1961 he committed suicide by shooting himself.
Hemingway's fiction usually focuses on people living essential, dangerous lives—soldiers, fishermen, athletes, bullfighters—who meet the pain and difficulty of their existence with stoic courage. His celebrated literary style, influenced by Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein, is direct, terse, and often monotonous, yet particularly suited to his elemental subject matter.
Hemingway's first books, Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923), In Our Time (short stories, 1924), and The Torrents of Spring (a novel, 1926), attracted attention primarily because of his literary style. With the publication of The Sun Also Rises (1926), he was recognized as the spokesman of the “lost generation” (so called by Gertrude Stein). The novel concerns a group of psychologically bruised, disillusioned expatriates living in postwar Paris, who take psychic refuge in such immediate physical activities as eating, drinking, traveling, brawling, and lovemaking.
His next important novel, A Farewell to Arms (1929), is about a tragic wartime love affair between an ambulance driver and an English nurse. Hemingway also published such volumes of short stories as Men Without Women (1927), Winner Take Nothing (1933), and The Fifth Column [a play]. His First Forty-nine Stories (1938) includes such famous short stories as “The Killers,” “The Undefeated,” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Hemingway's nonfiction works, Death in the Afternoon (1932), about bullfighting, and Green Hills of Africa (1935), about big-game hunting, glorify virility, bravery, and the virtue of a primal challenge to life.
From his experience in the Spanish Civil War came Hemingway's great novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), which, in detailing an incident in the war, argues for human brotherhood. His novella The Old Man and the Sea (1952) celebrates the indomitable courage of an aged Cuban fisherman. Among Hemingway's other works are the novels To Have and Have Not (1937) and Across the River and into the Trees (1950); he also edited an anthology of stories, Men at War (1942). Posthumous publications include A Moveable Feast (1964), a memoir of Paris in the 1920s; a novel, Islands in the Stream (1970); and The Nick Adams Stories (1972), a collection that includes previously unpublished pieces.
See his letters (ed. by Carlos Baker, 1989); biographies by Carlos Baker (1969, rev. ed. 1980), Jeffrey Meyers (1986), and Kenneth Lynn (1988); Philip Young, Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration (2d ed. 1966); Carlos Baker, Hemingway, the Writer as Artist (4th ed. 1972).
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