Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 1926-1929

Today, I got The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 1926-1929. This volume, edited by Rena Sanderson, Sandra Spanier, and Robert W. Trogdon, is the third in a projected 17 volume series. Like the first two volumes, this one is a treasure trove of information that illuminates Hemingway's writings, his relationship with family members, friends, fellow writers, editors, and publishers.

Hemingway comes out as a man devoted to his family and friends alike. After the birth of his son Patrick, for example, on June 28, 1928, Hemingway constantly writes in his letters about the event--a difficult, 18 hour experience for his wife Pauline, which culminated in a caesarean operation.

In letter after letter, in the subsequent weeks, Hemingway let people know how Pauline was recovering and how the baby was doing. Patrick, he writes again and again, was a fine baby who slept soundly, hardly ever cried, laughed always and at any joke, and liked to play with his father's gun. I am amazed how, right in his old age, Patrick continues to be jovial, full of jokes and laughter.

In addition to the letters, there are photographs in this volume, some of which I had never seen before, such as one of Hadley and Pauline, Hemingway's first and second wife respectively. Equally memorable for me is a photo of Patrick Hemingway as a baby.

Though Hemingway himself never intended these letters for publication, it is clear that their publication is a great service to humanity. They afford insights into Hemingway which are not available anywhere else. The Hemingway most people know is more myth than reality, and these letters show us the man behind the myth, a human being who is in turn or simultaneously serious, sensitive, conscientious, humourous, and admirable.

Monday, May 30, 2016

An Intimate Portrait of Hemingway

In the last two days, I have been reading Denis Brian's The True Gen: An Intimate Portrait of Hemingway by Those who Knew Him. I bought this book attracted by its subtitle, the opening lines of its introduction, and the blurbs on its back cover.

This is a remarkable and most satisfying book. It not only confirms things I knew about Hemingway, such as his tendency to fabricate stories and pass them on as true, but it also offers new insights into the man famously known as Papa, providing more details than I have read anywhere else about his life and activities.

For example, while I knew that during the second world war Hemingway engaged in espionage against German submarines in the Caribbean sea around Cuba, using his boat, the Pilar, The True Gen provides more light into this matter in the form of testimonies by people who collaborated with him and also documents from FBI files.

I have also gained a new understanding of Pauline, Hemingway's second wife. My previous readings had led me to see her as lacking a maternal instinct, and whose devotion to Hemingway led her to put aside her own children: Patrick and Gregory. The True Gen changed my perspective, when I read the favourable testimony of Carol, Hemingway's sister:

Pauline was very friendly and kind and when I was living in Florida she invited me down to Key West--when Ernest was living in Cuba and was remarried to Martha Gellhorn. Pauline had always been very kind to me and treated me like a younger sister. When I went to Europe she helped me buy clothes and not only gave me the money, but gave me good advice. She knew what I'd need (184).

With my abiding interest in Hemingway's connection to Africa, I wish there was more in The True Gen on that side of Hemingway. Apart from books such as Mary Welsh Hemingway's How it Was, there are letters by Hemingway, and there are people--such as Patrick Hemingway--who could have provided testimonies.

Overall, The True Gen confirms Hemingway's image as a complicated, enigmatic person. Denis Brian's characterization of him is right on target:

Ernest Hemngway had an extravagant effect on others, leaving them beguiled, besotted, bruised, or bitter. To everyone he was an extraordinary, unforgettable presence (3).

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Talk With Patrick Hemingway

I called Patrick Hemingway yesterday evening at 8:22 pm, to let him know that I will soon be going to the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, to visit the Hemingway collection. As usual, his wife Carol picked up the phone, and the moment she realized I was the caller, she got Patrick on the line.

As soon as we had greeted each other, Patrick mentioned his impending birthday and remarked, light-heartedly, that he was not getting any younger. I told him that his birthday reminds me of my visit, years ago, to Kansas City, where he was born, and the places I visited in that city, which are associated with Hemingway: the premises of the Kansas City Star, the Hemingway home, and the railway station. I forgot to tell Patrick that I also visited the Muehlebach Hotel.

I gave him an update of my Hemingway pursuits--that I had been encountering and reading his prefaces to the new editions of Hemingway's books prepared by Sean Hemingway. I also introduced the subject of the work Sandra Spanier is doing in producing volumes of Hemingway's letters. We agreed that Sandra's work is very valuable.

We talked about developments in Tanzania and sub-Saharan Africa in general, and Patrick reiterated his concern about the future, wondering whether our countries will be able to sustain their urban populations. He is concerned about the kind of urban growth that is taking place, and the increasing burden on the rural people who are supposed to feed the urban populations.

Patrick's concerns about the negative developments taking place in Africa remind me of Ernest Hemingway, who also bemoaned the disappearance of the balanced life of the African people he knew, such as the Maasai. Patrick emphasized again and again that he did not know the solutions to the encroaching problems he was so aware of.

I told Patrick that I called him to let him know about my plans to visit the Hemingway collection at the John F. Kennedy Library, in mid-June, and he repeated his previous pledge to introduce me to the library staff. One thing I always note in my conversations with him is that despite his age--turning 88 this June--his memory is incredibly sharp. He told me that this was a good time to visit the John F. Kennedy Library because there is an exhibit in progress which will continue for some months. He said I should make sure to also see the lion on the floor.

I didn't know anything about this "lion on the floor," but just now, while writing this blog post, I have checked online and read about it. To my surprise, this is the famous "Miss Mary's lion" we read about in Ernest Hemingway's Under Kilimanjaro. This is truly exciting, since I didn't know that this lion had been transported to the U.S.A. I also checked online just now and found information about the exhibit. This is going to be a truly remarkable experience for me.

I also mentioned to Patrick my desire to visit the Hemingway home in Key West, but he said I should think more about visiting Cuba. Patrick and I have talked about Cuba before, with a focus on the Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway's home. He noted that with the current state of relations between Cuba and the U.S.A., this should be easier than in the past, although such visits for researchers were allowed.

We talked for 25 minutes, which is probably the shortest conversation we have had, but it was valuable and memorable. (The photo above was taken at Patrick and Carol's home in Craig, Montana, on 27 April, 2013)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

At the World Festival 2016, Rochester


 Today, I attended the World Festival at the Mayo High School in Rochester, Minnesota, which I mentioned on this blog. I set up my table, displaying my publications and the Tanzanian national flag. People, some saying they were attracted by my display, came to talk with me about my work and share their stories. I remember, for example, an American lady who said that she has a friend who taught at the Moshi International School in Tanzania. Another lady said that she had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Western Kenya during the mid eighties.


For the duration of the festival, people kept coming and going. At my table and around the exhibition hall and in the corridors, I met and spoke with people from many countries, including China, Philippines, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, U.S.A., Mexico, Trinidad, and Guatemala.




The two men in the picture on the left are from Guatemala. After I gave them my little newspaper article, "Chickens in the Bus," the man wearing a hat regaled me with tales of how in Guatemala one can see people traveling in the bus with their chicken or piglet.








The lady in the picture on the left represented Trinidad. I told her I have read and taught some Trinidadian literary works. I mentioned Sam Selvon as one of my favourite writers.

She asked if I had read The Lonely Londoners. I told her that that is one of the works I liked the most and that I had taught it a number of times. We went on to talk about other writers, including V.S. Naipaul, Shiva Naipaul, and Earl Lovelace.















The festival involved many aspects. There were artistic performances, drumming, displays of national flags, art, handcrafted items, musical instruments, jewelry, and publications. There was even a karate demonstration.






The diversity of cultures and organizations represented at the festival was impressive. The pictures on this page, taken at random, afford some indication of this fact. The festival presented unique and unforgettable learning opportunities.





















It is not possible to recount everything that transpired at the festival. Considering that there were hundreds of attendees, it is clear that there were countless experiences and conversations. This was a truly significant community event with global significance, for which the Rochester International Association deserves much praise and gratitude.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Awaiting World Festival 2016, Rochester

I am looking forward to attending the World Festival 2016 which will take this place on April 29 and 30. This is an annual event, and I attended it for the first time last year, as I reported on this blog.

Rochester,  a city in southeastern Minnesota, is famous as the home of the Mayo Clinic It is also a true microcosm of the world, in terms of its cultural and ethnic diversity. It makes perfect sense that this city hosts an annual World Festival.

Like last year, I will be displaying my books, talking with people of different ages and cultures about my work as an educator and cultural consultant. It is likely that I will meet Americans who have traveled to Africa or lived there, or who have family members or friends there, and we will have ample opportunities to share stories about our experiences in cultures different from our own.



Thursday, April 14, 2016

More on Nawal el Saadawi's "The Fall of the Imam"

In my Muslim Women Writers course, we have now read our third text: Nawal el Saadawi's The Fall of the Imam.  I always hesitate to say we have finished reading any work of literature.

I had taught The Fall of the Imam years ago, in my Post-colonial Literature course. Reading it now, I see clearly how it weaves together recurring accounts of what appears to be a dream or a nightmare in a social system ruled by the Imam, supposedly in accordance with shariah.

The rule of the Imam is one of terror, whose claims of piety are hypocritical. In certain respects, The Fall of the Iman evokes Kafka's writing and the existentialist notion of the absurd. The Imam's regime appears formidable, but it is haunted by intense feelings of insecurity, perpetually lashing out at real or imagined enemies.

The main character is a woman who is hounded by the male accomplices of the Imam seeking to punish her for alleged offences. These men's zeal in what they believe is defence of Islam expresses itself in the cruel oppression of women. They believe that independent or disobedient women have to be punished, and the recurring image I have mentioned dwells on such punishments.

The Fall of the Imam  does not lend itself to easy, straightforward analysis. Drawing from and incorporating familiar traditions such as Islamic and Christian doctrines as well as Arabic folklore, it is an intriguing feat of the imagination and a caustic critique of religion and society.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Conversation With Patrick Hemingway

I called Patrick Hemingway today, and we had another conversation. I wanted to touch base and share with him my latest Hemingway adventures and dreams. I told him about my Oak Park visit, my acquisition of the new edition of Green Hills of Africa, my plan to visit the John F. Kennedy Library and maybe the Finca Vigia and other places in Cuba, such as the Floridita Bar.

We talked, as always, about Tanzania. Patrick wanted to know the state of writing in Tanzania, and wondered whether writing in Swahili had a chance in a world dominated by languages such as English. We also talked about the educational system, including the University of Dar es Salaam.

We talked about my plan to go to Iringa, to visit his old home in the Sao Hill area. I mentioned Ernest Hemingway's hunting expedition in the Bohora Flats. Patrick immediately asked if he had told me about a Baluchi settlement in that area. He said the Baluchis grew onions there. He gave a broader account of them as having been brought to East Africa as soldiers and mentioned their role as guards of caravans into the interior. He also mentioned a recent film about animals in the Ruaha National Park.

We talked about the caravan routes, and he said that European explorers used them. I mentioned Henry Stanley, who went inland and met Dr. Livingstone at Ujiji. Patrick noted the important role Dr. Livingstone played in getting Europeans to know that quinine was their salvation in otherwise deadly malaria country. Patrick noted that the evidence of the slave routes remained, in the form of mango trees, especially.

Patrick was happy that I was planning to visit the Hemingway collection at the JFK Library. As he had told me in the past, he told me to let him know when I was going. He would let the library know so they would assist me. I thanked him and mentioned that he had told me this in the past.

Regarding the Finca Vigia, Patrick told me that if I get there, I will be surprised to see how its surroundings resemble Africa, for it was all "nyika." "Nyika" is the wooded grassland vegetation that is so common in Tanzania and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.

I told Patrick that I had bought the new edition of Green Hills of Africa that he had told me was in the pipeline. I shared with him my excitement that this edition contained Pauline's diary, as he had told me. I reminded him that I had dreamed of going to Stanford University to read it. He said it is probably easier to read it in its printed form.

Patrick remains concerned about the population explosion in Africa, and he wonders about the availability of adequate food. He reiterated that the thing that mattered to him the most in Africa was the people. He repeated his criticism of people who return from Africa talking only about the wildlife, and flaunting their photos of lions.

I told Patrick about my plan to return to Tanzania upon my retirement, and that I looked forward to being the host for Americans who go to Tanzania. He commented that I would be a good bridge between the two peoples. When I said that I feel confident about that role, since I know something about Americans, Patrick quickly responded, "You know us very well. I like your book."
He meant my Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences.

Once again, I was touched to hear Patrick say this. He has told me again and again how much he likes my book, and I feel both honoured and humbled.