Fresh Hemingway for the U. S. A.

A cache of Ernest Hemingway material has arrived from Cuba and now rests at JFK Library. Well, actually a cache of replicas of Hemingway material has arrived from Cuba and now rests at JFK Library. You might think “well, geez—copies?” Indeed, Cuba retains the originals, but this is really a very big deal.

Briefly: Hemingway lived in Cuba for a time; he loved Cuba. He left the island in 1960, and he died shortly thereafter. In 1961, his widow, Mary Welsh Hemingway, returned to Cuba to retrieve any items her husband had left behind, and she managed to return much Hemingway material to the U.S.A.; unfortunately, she had some difficulty getting everything out of the country. The JFK Library holds the items Mary Hemingway brought into the United States. However, several Hemingway scholars—including Dr. Sandra Spanier–wondered if Mrs. Hemingway could have possibly retrieved everything her husband left behind. Dr. Spanier’s questions were spot on.

In 2002, Rep. James McGovern (Mass.) contacted the Cuban government to ask about Hemingway’s home, Finca Vigia (now the Hemingway Museum). As a result, Cuba invited a group of Americans, including Dr. Spanier, to visit Finca Vigia (read a story on her visit here; guess which cigar-wielding Cuban showed up unannounced?). Cuba granted the Americans access to a boatload of material. Letters, tyepscripts, proofs—things that had never been seen by American Hemingway scholars. Thanks to an agreement worked out by Rep. McGovern and Cuban officials, the U. S. A. now has copies of:

more than 3,000 [. . .] documents from Hemingway’s time in Cuba, [which include] corrected proofs of “The Old Man and the Sea,” a movie script based on the novel, an alternate ending to “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and thousands of letters, with correspondence from authors Sinclair Lewis and John Dos Passos and actress Ingrid Bergman. (AP)

Cuba scanned and digitized all of the materials to flesh out the U.S.A.’s Hemingway collection. The nation has given us a significant gift. As Rep. McGovern suggests, perhaps a tad optimistically, “[i]t’s a turning point toward a more rational, mature relationship between our two countries [. . . .] I think Hemingway can be the bridge to help move both sides to a point where we can have a good, solid relationship” (AP). Hemingway would most definitely be glad to hear this.

As an aside:   in one of my early academic experiences,  a female instructor notified me that, as a woman, I’d not “get” Hemingway. Or Melville (I’m sure she was trying to articulate something about then-current theories about differences between male and female ways of thinking). Sadly, I shied away from the great man’s works after that.  Happily, I later devoted a summer to reading–and “getting”–Hemingway.

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