Ernest Miller Hemingway became Hemingway when he came to the newsroom of the
Kansas City Star
, at age 18, and read the style book: “Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. (…) Eliminate every word that is superfluous. Make economy of writing. Be direct. Avoid the use of adjectives, especially those that seem extravagant, such as splendid, grandiose and magnificent ”. In this way, all that Hemingway saved in his work he wasted in his life, turning it into a kind of antithesis to his perfect prayers. Away from the typewriter, there was not so much truth in Hemingway, nor so much economy in his way of life, nor almost anything that was not splendid, grand and magnificent. But he had, as one of his biographers, Mary Dearborn, says, an extraordinary discipline. "Practice is love, work is love." That's why he never stopped writingneither with pains from war wounds nor with hangovers that were even worse than those wounds. He wrote down the written words every day (never many because you have to leave the writing knowing what is going to happen, in the middle of the inspiration, so that the next day it can be easily resumed). And angry with his former teacher Gertrude Stein, who called him and his classmates “a lost generation”, he wrote at the end of his life, when the depression that led him to suicide was haunting him: “I thought of Miss Stein and Sherwood Anderson and what selfishness and mental laziness mean in the face of discipline, and I said to myself: who treats whom from a lost generation?so that the next day it can be easily resumed). And angry with his former teacher Gertrude Stein, who called him and his classmates “a lost generation”, he wrote at the end of his life, when the depression that led him to suicide was haunting him: “I thought of Miss Stein and Sherwood Anderson and what selfishness and mental laziness mean in the face of discipline, and I said to myself: who treats whom from a lost generation?so that the next day it can be easily resumed). And angry with his former teacher Gertrude Stein, who called him and his classmates “a lost generation”, he wrote at the end of his life, when the depression that led him to suicide was haunting him: “I thought of Miss Stein and Sherwood Anderson and what selfishness and mental laziness mean in the face of discipline, and I said to myself: who treats whom from a lost generation?
Hemingway, double agent
This is how Hemingway crowned the king of daiquiris
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have shot a documentary series entitled
(six hours divided into three chapters:
The Writer, The Avatar, The Blank Page).
Its premiere in Europe takes place at the Malaga Doc Doc Festival.
Few cultural myths are more dissected than that of Ernest Hemingway, few authors more scrutinized, debated and discussed than he;
Hemingway's job as biographer is one of the most recurrent job opportunities for a scholar of literature, not counting his abundant family.
Is there anything new to know?
The answer of the documentary is that, at least, there was much to see.
Specifically, numerous personal effects, manuscripts as
as those of
, his first novel, in which he recreates his visit to the Sanfermines, or
For Whom the Bell Tolls
(about the Civil War), personal correspondence and 11,000 photographs that, after the death of the American writer, Hemingway's widow gave to the library JFK. With all this, Burns and Novick raise the umpteenth autopsy on the Nobel.
The first thing was writing. Surely the audiovisual format is not the ideal one to talk about it, but the writer Tobias Wolff says in the documentary a phrase that resonates throughout the film: Hemingway changed the furniture in the American literature room, thus influencing everyone who wrote after him. Influencing those who entered that room, where they had to sit in the place that Hemingway arranged; influencing who wanted to change the furniture, but had to move it from the place where he put it; you could even run, but you would run because of him. Joan Didion said it in EL PAÍS 15 years ago: “I once made a thorough examination of the principle of
Farewell to Arms
I counted the commas, the adjectives, the phrases, the clauses ... and I realized how complex his way of structuring the work was.
However, when you read Hemingway's prose, you have the feeling that you are in front of a crystalline stream that runs through a granite bed ”.
A promotional image of the documentary series 'Hemingway', with the writer's face drawn with some of the phrases he wrote.
Burns and Novick's documentary tells about the spectacular life of Ernest Hemingway, the misogynistic adventurer, the infatuated womanizer, the man who hunted the largest animals and fished in the deepest waters, the arrogant alcoholic who punished people who were there (humiliations to Anderson and Fitzgerald, those who helped him when he was nobody because, precisely, they knew him when he was nobody), someone whose capacity for self-destruction seemed to be due to not knowing where to direct so much energy. And she brings clues, many of them well known: the euphoria of her sexuality related to the little girl's skirts and dresses that her mother would wear her up to present with her sister as twins;the myth of the strong man due to a father whom he adored as a child and from whom he became disenchanted because of man's depressions, which led him to suicide by pointing the way to his son; the impressive veracity of his novels imagined in that 19-year-old boy who returns from the war and tells, in paid lectures, that his injuries were due to actions even more courageous than they were; the drinker in a radically abstemious family.
Few cultural myths are more dissected than that of Ernest Hemingway.
Is there anything new to know?
The answer of the documentary is that, at least, there was much to see
It is not at all surprising that at the end of the documentary, after five hours of showing the indestructible man as a beacon of the old masculinity of the 20th century, we know that in the last part of his life Hemingway forced his women to wear their hair short and asked in the bed changing roles and being called with a feminine name.
The truth is that the protagonist of Hemingway's first novel is a powerless man and that of the last (posthumous),
The Garden of Eden
, is a young writer who makes his way in Paris and agrees to change roles in bed with his wife, by whom he is penetrated. He began to write it in 1946, 15 years before he died, but he did not publish it. In the same way that despite being interested in gender fluidity to the point of practicing it in private, he had a terrible relationship with his son Gregory, a transvestite as a woman in his spare time, who went to flirt in
while marrying women and had children with them. "Deterioration in your penmanship and spelling is a very alarming symptom of your illness," her father wrote. Gregory replied: "Gin-soaked abusive monster" and "self-centered shit" as well as warning him: "You will die without anyone crying for you and basically without anyone loving you unless you change, Dad."
He was always interested in trying to understand what is at the moral heart of a sentence, a paragraph, how to make everything turn out right
It is natural that Hemingway's fantastic life takes the spotlight, but the latest documentary about America's most famous writer since Mark Twain reaches true heights when the writer's construction is sensed; when the camera focuses on Hemingway's handwritten novels, the letters with his advice to apprentices or contemporaries, the voices of experts (many of them distracted in wanting to connect their work to their life, in such a way that the second would upset the perception of the first even the monstrosity of absolving her, as if Hemingway's remains had to be repatriated to the moral canons of the 21st century). It is at that moment that it is remembered what was written in
Paris was a party:
“I would write a true sentence and then continue from there. So it was easy because there was always a true prayer that I knew, had seen or heard someone say ”. “What he got,” Lynn Novick tells
The New York Times
, “is that you could use these seemingly simple sentences, and they would be as pregnant as any long
that goes on and on. There was a lot below the surface. And it requires you to go looking for a meaning ”. "He was always interested in trying to understand what is at the moral heart of a sentence, a paragraph, how to make it all work out," says Hilton Als in
The New Yorker.
“In all my stories,” Hemingway writes to his father, “I am trying to convey the feeling of real life, not only to represent or criticize it, but to make it really alive. So that when you've read something of mine, you really experience it. "
The last paragraphs of his masterpiece,
Farewell to Arms,
are full of minimal annotations, barely perceptible changes; When asked why this thoroughness, he replied that he was trying to find the perfect word, the perfect rhythm, because all the phrases made sense to the extent that the others did, and that was a Chinese job. Also, in the JFK file, you can find a draft of
Farewell to Arms
that Hemingway sent to Fitzgerald and in which Fitzgerald made an argued suggestion about the ending, since he understood that it should end with one of his most well-known passages, as well as the Hemingway's answer, in one of those sentences that he would qualify as perfect: "Kiss my ass."
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