The Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (Jonathan Cape, 1964 British edition)
The Moveable Feast
by Ernest Hemingway
(Jonathan Cape, 1964 British edition)

You could argue that today’s writers produce so-so literature because they lead sheltered lives and lack true inspiration. Most have never been to war and rarely endured real danger. Today’s big-name writers jet around the world signing books and attending literary awards, but they haven’t survived multiple plane crashes or hooked marlins in the Caribbean, or been trailed by the FBI, or got drunk with James Joyce or F Scott Fitzgerald.

If you think of a writer who lived a full life then Ernest Hemingway is the first name on the list and frankly the second suggestion will be some way behind.

Hemingway’s military experiences alone are extensive and provided ample material for his books. The 18-year-old Hemingway drove an ambulance in Italy in World War I and was hit by mortar fire, not that his wounds prevented him from carrying a soldier to safety. He earned the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery for those actions.

In 1937 and 1938, he worked as a news reporter in the Spanish Civil War. His experiences in the first truly mechanized war resulted in For Whom the Bell Tolls, published in 1940.

During World War II, he worked as a war correspondent, shadowing troops on the frontline in typical Hemingway fashion. He was present at the Normandy Landings and followed the Allied troops as they fought their way to Paris and then into Germany.

Hemingway’s love life was hardly dull either - he married four times. Hadley Richardson became his first wife in 1922 and lasted until January 1927. His debut novel, The Sun Also Rises, was published in 1926 (and had been through 10 printings by 1929).

He married Pauline Pfeiffer in May 1927 and they had two sons. They divorced in November 1940. The writer married novelist Martha Gelhorn three weeks after divorcing Pfeiffer and they endured four years of tumultuous marriage until 1945.

Hemingway married American journalist Mary Welsh in 1946 and they remained together until Hemingway’s death in 1961.

And yet we are just scratching the surface of Hemingway’s life by considering his wartime adventures and romantic entanglements.

Richardson and Hemingway lived in Paris where he worked as a foreign correspondent. The 1920s were a remarkable time to be in the French capital. He was part of Gertrude Stein’s’ Lost Generation’ – the men scarred by the horrors of War World I who looked at life in a different way. The Sun Also Rises popularized this phrase although Stein coined it.

Hemingway hunted in Wyoming, watched the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, sailed off the Caribbean, travelled the savannahs of Africa, and lived in Cuba and Key West. Legends and myths grew to surround the man.

In 1954, he was injured in successive plane crashes spread over two days while touring Africa. Nowadays people write a book if they appear on a reality TV show for 30 minutes – let alone defy the Grim Reaper on successive days.

How on earth did Hemingway find time to write? He seemed to constantly travelling, enjoying the most manly of pastimes from big game hunting to sport fishing, falling in love, reporting on wars or enjoying the sights and sounds of the world’s four corners.

The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952 and he became even more famous during the 1950s. It seems he knew everyone. F Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro were among his acquaintances.

Hemingway’s final years were ruined by mental fragility and illness. He committed suicide with his favorite shotgun in Idaho.

It’s easy to forget that the merits of his terse writing style, where he attempted to convey messages with eight words rather than 18, have been debated for decades. But it’s very difficult to ignore his legacy and go through life without reading his material.

Naturally, Hemingway’s books are extremely collectible – AbeBooks has sold 62 Hemingway books priced $1,000 or more.

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Most Expensive Hemingway Books Sold on AbeBooks

    1. The Old Man and the Sea, published in 1952, this first edition was inscribed by the author "with very best wishes, Ernest Hemingway, Keywest/1958" - $18,500

    2. A Farewell to Arms, one of 510 numbered copies signed by Hemingway - $17, 750

    3. A Farewell to Arms, first edition with a laid in Hemingway signature - $11,000

    4. Men Without Women, 1927 signed and inscribed first edition - $8,000

    5. The Old Man and the Sea, signed first edition with a dust jacket - $6,000

    6. = The Old Man and the Sea, signed first edtion with a dust jacket - $5,500

    6. = A Farewell to Arms, first edition with a slightly chipped dust jacket - $5,500

    7. Men Without Women, signed reprint given to Lisa Molony by Heminway - $5,000

    8. A Farewell to Arms, a signed and inscribed reprint from Havana - $4,800

    9. For Whom the Bell Tolls, a signed first edition - $4,750

    10. A Farewell to Arms, a first edition with an exceptional dust jacket - $4,500


Ten Facts about Ernest Hemingway

    1. Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois – a suburb of Chicago that has also been home to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

    2. Hemingway met J.D. Salinger during World War II. Salinger was fighting with the 12th Infantry Regiment.

    3. Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast, about his life in Paris in the 1920s, was not published until 1964.

    4. Hemingway’s son, Patrick, worked as a big-game hunter and ran a safari business in Tanzania.

    5. Hemingway only wrote one play called The Fifth Column and it is set during the Spanish Civil War.

    6. Hemingway was awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery under-fire in World War II.

    7. Hemingway left trunks of material in the Paris Ritz in 1928 and did not recover them until 1957.

    8. The FBI maintained an open file on Hemingway from World War II onwards.

    9. Hemingway's sister, brother, and also his fater committed suicide as well.

    10. Ernest and Mary Hemingway are buried in Ketchum's town cemetary in Idaho.


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