Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Phone Call From Patrick Hemingway

I was resting at home after church today and, at 12:16pm, my phone rang. It was a call from Patrick Hemingway, with whom I speak from time to time. I had called him twice in the last few weeks and left phone messages for him. I was happy to get his call today.

As usual, we talked about many things. He said he has had knee surgery and was recovering well. I was relieved to hear that. Our conversation led right away into Ernest Hemingway. I told Patrick that I am, as I had told him, intent on reading all of Hemingway's works in order to establish for myself a proper framework for understanding Hemingway's African writings. I said that in the last few weeks I have read, in particular, A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises.

Patrick recalled that Hemingway had, early on, read a Francophone African writer, and I joined in with the comment that the writer was Rene Maran, whose novel, Batouala, Hemingway read and reviewed in 1922 when he was living in Paris. We talked about how this novel meant so much to Hemingway in terms of exemplifying proper writing, which should make the reader feel, see, smell, and hear what the writer is describing.

I talked about how, in my writing classes, I invoke Hemingway's ideas about writing, such as his notion of "one true sentence," which can be understood as part of Hemingway's broader concern with authenticity in human endeavours such as hunting, bull-fighting, and writing. I also refer to Hemingway's comment that writing comes easily sometimes and sometimes is as hard as blasting rocks.

When I talked about Hemingway's descriptions, in The Sun Also Rises, of the aesthetics of bull-fighting, Patrick brought up Death in the Afternoon, and I mentioned that I had planned to read this novel next.

We talked about the current political situation in East Africa. Patrick noted the longstanding American economic interests in Africa mentioning, for example, American economic activities in Zanzibar from around the mid-nineteenth century. He said that cloth was one most enduring commodities, and he referred to the persistence of a type of fabric called "Amerikani."

As always, Patrick never tires of talking about Tanzania, having lived there for about twenty five years from the early fifties. Today, while I was answering his question about the regions which produce food for the urban centers, I mentioned Rukwa, among these regions, and he recalled that he used to hunt in a place called Mpunga in the Rukwa region. "Doesn't 'mpunga' mean rice?" he asked me, and I said yes.

Patrick is widely read and is an avid reader still, despite his advanced age. Today, he told me about a book he is reading, by Oscar Hijuelos, which deals, in a fictional way, with the friendship between Henry Morton Stanley and Mark Twain. I listened intently, since I knew nothing about Hijuelos and about Stanley and Twain having been friends.

I told Patrick that I am planning to go again to the Hemingway Collection in Boston in October, and that I deliberately planned the trip this way so I can see the ongoing Hemingway exhibit again before it ends. He remarked that there is a new director there. This should not affect my work, however, and besides, the staff members who helped me last time are still there.

After this conversation, which lasted one hour and five minutes, I went online and looked up information about Hijuelos and his novel. I am delighted to have spent time reading about this author and his novel. I have also learned about Stanley's immigration to America from Wales, his meeting Twain, and their subsequent life-long friendship. I am grateful to Patrick for opening my mind to such things. He always does.

No comments: