Ernest Hemingway led a very interesting life – he was a World War I ambulance driver and a journalist during the Spanish Civil War, he lived in Paris, Havana, Toronto and a number of other American cities, and he won both the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize. He did a number of amazing things which he is canonized for; however, he was also never one to keep his nose clean for too long.
For instance, while working as a correspondent during World War II, he managed to be accused of contravening the Geneva Convention when he took up arms with a small group of resistance fighters in the village of Rambouillet. As WWII historian Paul Fussell once put it: “Hemingway got into considerable trouble playing infantry captain to a group of Resistance people that he gathered, because a correspondent is not supposed to lead troops, even if he does it well.” Hemingway eventually beat the charges by claiming that he did not actually lead the group but merely offered advice when asked.
A similar type of situation has come to light just recently. The Guardian reports that within the pages of a new Yale University Press book entitled Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, Hemingway is included on a list of known KGB agents in America. The list was dredged up by the book’s co-author Alexander Vassiliev who, as a former KGB officer, was given access to Stalin-era intelligence files in the 1990s.
Now, before we label Hemingway as a traitor, it should be noted that while he “repeatedly expressed his desire and willingness to help [the USSR]” he also “[failed to] give us any political information” and “[was never] verified in practical work.”
So perhaps Hemingway was playing the part of James Wormold for the Soviets (Their Man in Havana, as it were), or perhaps he was just really bad at being a spy. I suppose we will never know.