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.

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