Ernest Hemingway standing between two large hanging fish

Photograph by Wright Langley

Ernest Hemingway

(1899 - 1961)

After graduating from high school in 1917, Ernest Hemingway became a reporter for the Kansas City Star. Instructed to write direct, declarative sentences, he formed a literary style subsequently copied by two generations of American novelists and short-story writers. After publishing In Our Time in 1925, The Sun Also Rises in 1926, and A Farewell to Arms in 1929, Hemingway enjoyed his role as leading writer of the Lost Generation, buying a house in Key West and a thirty-eight-foot boat he named Pilar. His big-game hunting trips to Africa in the 1930s outfitted him with the mise en scène for Green Hills of Africa and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, and died by suicide in 1961 at the age of sixty-one.

All Writing

The things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist.

—Ernest Hemingway, 1929


Breaking the necks of pigeons in the Luxembourg Gardens while the gendarme went for a glass of wine was supposedly how Ernest Hemingway on occasion fed his family in Paris in the 1920s. He hid the bodies in his son Bumby’s stroller. Sometimes when he went without, the novelist studied the paintings by Paul Cézanne, which “looked more beautiful if you were belly empty, hollow hungry.”

To be a successful father… there’s one absolute rule: when you have a kid, don’t look at it for the first two years.

—Ernest Hemingway, 1954


Henry James said in 1915, “The war has used up words…they have, like millions of other things, been more overstrained and knocked about and voided of the happy semblance during the last six months than in all the long ages before, and we are now confronted with a depreciation of all our terms.” While writing A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway copied out part of this interview, wrote above it “on the debasement of words by war,” and gave his main character the line, “Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.”

Modern life is often a mechanical oppression, and liquor is the only mechanical relief.

—Ernest Hemingway, 1935


Among those who stayed at the Florida Hotel while reporting on the Spanish Civil War were John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway, Josephine Herbst, Robert Capa, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Martha Gellhorn. Gellhorn noted a day when an “influx of shits” came for lunch, one of whom was “a nice handsome dumb named Errol Flynn who looks like white fire on screen but is only very, very average off.”


“I went sailing up to Great Point, which is fourteen miles. It was fine and rough so we went out in the open ocean and shipped water grandly. I have bought a large swordfish sword for the agassiz of an old salt by the name of Judas,” Ernest Hemingway wrote to his brother Marcelline in one of his earliest known letters, shortly after his eleventh birthday, in 1910.


Shortly before Ezra Pound was indicted for treason for his anti-American broadcasts on Benito Mussolini’s Radio Rome, Ernest Hemingway wrote to poet Archibald MacLeish, “If Ezra has any sense he should shoot himself. Personally I think he should have shot himself somewhere along after the twelfth canto, although maybe earlier.”

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