Daily Archives: 13 July 2007

One More Word on Ernest Hemingway


Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) and Spain are intrinsically linked.

When Hems was a young man he came to Spain to write and report on the struggle of the Left after World War I. Hemingway himself had entered WWI in Italy on a voluntary basis and had been wounded. For his service, Hemingway was twice decorated by the Italian government.

When Hemingway saw his first bullfight in Pamplona in 1923, he brought his first wife Hadley along because he hoped the event would have a positive influence on the unborn son she then carried. The sport certainly affected the budding writer. It became one of the reigning passions of his life.

In the 1920s, Hemingway spent as much time as possible in Pamplona. He stayed at the Pension Aguillar because that was where the bullfighters lived. Although he never ran with the bulls in the San Fermín festival, he competed in amateur bullfighting competitions.

In 1932, he journeyed to Spain to research Death in the Afternoon, a manifesto on bullfighting that was published in Esquire and that later became the Bible of the sport.

In 1937, Hemingway returned to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War, translating his experiences into newspaper articles, short stories, and the 1940 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. Fiercely supporting the Loyalist cause, he overcame his fear of public speaking to deliver an anti-Franco speech at the Second American Writers’ Congress. He also helped produce the propaganda film Spanish Earth.

Hemingway last visited Spain in 1959 to cover a series of one-on-one contests between two leading matadors. Life magazine had commissioned a piece. Hemingway turned in 10,000 words, later published as the 1985 epic The Dangerous Summer. During this visit, he met the famous bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominquín at a hospital, who was being seriously gouged by a bull.

Later in life, Hemingway swapped his love for bullfighting with a passion for deep-sea fishing. This took him to the waters off Key West, the Bahamas, and to Cuba. Here he wrote The Old Man and the Sea, published first in Life magazine in 1952. He spent nearly 27 years, on and off, on this Caribbean island which to him was like Spain but without the bullfights. With his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, he bought Finca Vigía, a house outside La Habana, Cuba. Hemingway stayed on after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. He supported Castro but when the living became too difficult, he moved to the United States. After his death, his fishing boat Pilar was taken to Finca Vigía, which has since been turned into a museum and a shrine for the author (see photo above).

Hemingway was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature. He was unable to attend the award ceremony in Stockholm, because he was recuperating from injuries sustained in an airplane crash while hunting in Uganda.

In 1960, Hemingway was treated for depression at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and released in 1961. During this time he was given electric shock therapy for a period of two months. On July 2, Hemingway committed suicide with his favorite shotgun at his home in Ketchum, Idaho.

After Hemingway’s death, two tickets to the upcoming bullfights in Pamplona were discovered in his desk drawer.

Several of Hemingway’s novels have been published posthumously. True at First Light, a depiction of a safari in Kenya, appeared in July 1999. It is arguably one of the worst books published by a Nobel writer, ever.


Nothing that a Hemingway Daiquiry or two would not put into perspective.