Sebastian Oates on “Hemingway the Expatriate: Driven to Death”
As an American Expatriate, Ernest Hemingway spent much of his life abroad. Being an esteemed author, the man was able to dictate to American audiences the differences between their homeland and the countries he had spent time in. The prestige of Hemingway’s writing placed the author in a position of power and marked him as an expert of culture. Because of Hemingway’s authority and ability to communicate to the mass public, he became a threat to the United States government because he could make a negative claim about the United States and many of his readers would regard the statements as truth. The power that the individual author possessed mirrored the strong central figures that lead communism overseas and fundamentally opposed American tradition. The intellectual expatriate was a person to be feared because of the control that they held over their audience and the potential they had to damn their home country.
Fifty years after Ernest Hemingway’s suicide, his friend and author of works such as “Papa Hemingway” and “Hemingway’s World,” A. E. Hotchner reflected on the event in an article he wrote for The New York Times. Hotchner recalls the paranoia that Hemingway felt in the year leading up to his death stemming from his belief that the F.B.I. had been tracking him. In the essay, Hotchner describes a conversation he had with Hemingway only months before his suicide in which he asks, “Why are F.B.I. agents pursuing you?”
In his response, Hemingway never answers his friend’s question, but he does reveal the depths of his paranoia by saying, “It’s the worst hell. The goddamndest hell. They’ve bugged everything. That’s why we’re using Duke’s car. Mine’s bugged. Everything’s bugged. Can’t use the phone. Mail Intercepted.” Less than seven months later Hemingway was found dead in his home in Idaho.
Although Hemingway never answered the question as to why the FBI was following him, Hotchner discovered the answer for himself when the FBI released its Hemingway file in 1983. He says, “J. Edgar Hoover had placed Ernest under surveillance because he was suspicious of Ernest’s activities in Cuba. Over the following years, agents filled reports on him and tapped his phones.”
Looking inside the Hemingway file reveals the activities that Hemingway took part in while in Cuba. “In the fall of 1940 Hemingway’s name was included in a group of names of individuals who were said to be engaged in communist activities. These individuals were reported to occupy positions on the ‘intellectual front’ and were said to render valuable service as propagandists.” Although there may not be proof to support Hotchner’s suggestion that it was the FBI’s pursuit of Hemingway that drove the author to suicide, his death and the FBI’s file against him demonstrate the concern that the American government had in regards to returning expatriates—especially those on the “intellectual front”.
In Exiles Return, Malcolm Cowley describes the mindset of the expatriate, “We suffered from a sense of oppression. We felt that the world was rigorously controlled by scientific laws of which we had no grasp, that our lives were directed by Puritan standards that were not our own” (Cowley 18). It was these beliefs of oppression that lead many intellectuals abroad and directed many others towards communism. However, the Hoover administration, which “had placed Ernest under surveillance” and was well known for its McCarthyism, fought to repress communist activities as well as retain puritanical values within the United States.
In fact, in a 1950 letter to his friend Robert Cantwell, Hemingway addresses Senator McCarthy directly by writing, “Probably soon Senator McCarthy, God rest his soul in hell, will decide I should be done away with.” Three months earlier in a letter to McCarthy challenged the Senator to fight only to say in his conclusion, “Actually I don’t think you have the guts to fight a rabbit; much less a man.”
These letters and the FBI file on Hemingway display the tension between Hemingway and the American Government who viewed the author and other expatriates as potential enemies to the puritanical values of the United States.
Cowley, Malcolm. Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920’s. New York: Penguin, 1994 .
“Ernest Hemingway Part 01 of 01.” FBI. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.
Hemingway, Ernest, and Carlos Baker. Ernest Hemingway, Selected Letters, 1917-1961. New York: Scribner, 1981. Print.
Hotchner, A. E. “Hemingway, Hounded by the Feds.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 July 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.
Klinton Horn on “Ernest Hemingway: Self-Proclaimed Spanish Citizen”
As an expatriate who helped define what is heralded as the Lost Generation, Ernest Hemingway made it no secret that he enjoyed the oversea life. Starting in Paris, and ending in Africa before returning to the States for his suicide attempt, Hemingway would find no more important inspiration than in Spanish speaking countries. Arriving first to Spain in 1937 with plans to report on the Spanish-Civil War, Hemingway became enamored with the Spanish lifestyle, and would soon turn his hand into writing books about his experiences abroad.
Hemingway’s first outing stemed from a need to abdicate himself from his American heritage. A loner growing up, Hemingway forged his career to progress past American boarders, eventually landing himself in Spain. Although previous attempts to Europeanize himself have been ill-fitting (most through a level of tryst affairs and writers Hemingway viewed as inerior), in Spain Hemingway was able to find within himself a man who fits with his surroundings; he became a soldier and reporter, dutifully employed (albeit however shortly). He allied himself with Republican, became an activist and took active thought and interest in the social climate of his newfound country and culture. Hemingway becomes a sports spectator and connoisseur, enraptured by bull-fighting and collecting fine wine. Although taken with Europe and foreign countries as a whole, none enraptured Hemingway quite like Spain. Ernest Hemingway revokes any form of identity that he previously had, and instead ties his entire being to the Spanish culture.
Hemingway focused on his Spanish-self, a sense of moral identity and character he constructed by “mimicking his new-found countries socio-cultural practices in language, astronomy and sports, and adopting Spanish Values” (Gladstein). His writing as result reflected this, with Hemingway distinguishing the two-types of American found across Europe: the tourist and the resident. Similar to other authors of the Lost Generation Modernism, Hemingway prides himself for not just being a true artist, but also a true citizen. He had formally come to adopt his homeland as Spain, Hemingway could arguably be considered a “Cuban refugee in the United States” by the time of his eventual return in 1960 (Petrarca).
Gladstein, Mimi. “In Paris or Paname: Hemingway’s Expatriate Nationalism.” Proquest Literature Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.
Petrarca, Anthony J. “Irony of Situation in Ernest Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home”” JSTOR. National Council of Teachers of English, n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.
Sanders, David. “Ernest Hemingway’s Spanish Civil War Experience.” JSTOR. American Quarterly, n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.
Sarah Aburumuh on “The Split Soldier: Hemingway Against Fascism”
Expatriate writers who traveled to Italy and Spain underwent changes in their political views that shaped their identities. Among them was Ernest Hemingway, who left the United States with the intention to express his personal political values in places that were perceived not as open to free speech. Spain under the fascism of Francisco Franco (late 1930’s-1975) was an open wound of economic, social and religious turmoil of the period. Hemingway found himself eager to practice his political views, even though while in America, he would have normally stayed away from political and religious questions, responding “Damned if I know” (Sanders 135).
His service in the Spanish Civil War, taking side with the Republicans, was the manifestation of an inner urgency to engage in activism against oppressive governments that he otherwise would not have cared to discuss. “Hemingway’s intimate knowledge of Spain, rather than these negative attitudes toward political questions, conditioned his experience in the Spanish Civil War” (Sanders 136). This is not to say that Hemingway did not make his political stances apparent, for in June of 1937 his gave his famous speech “Fascism is a Lie” and had its text published. From his perspective as a writer, describes his disdain for oppressive regimes and how they ultimately affect the psyche of a writer having experienced them. “There is only one form of government that cannot produce good writers, and that system is fascism. For fascism is a lie told by bullies. A writer who will not lie cannot live or work under fascism” (Hemingway 4). His speech was published in The New Masses which was an American Marxist magazine in which its writers sympathized with leftist parties, and began to voice their opinions on communism and class struggles.
Now that Hemingway fought in the war, he used that experience to shape his writing. He even considered watching Spanish bullfights as a way remember death and violence, saying that the ring was “the only place where you could see life and death, i. e., violent death now that the wars were over, was in the bull ring and I wanted very much to go to Spain where I could study it. I was trying to learn to write…” (Duffus). The inner urgency to be a solider was manifested in his service; and later in his recreation of war and death he was able to write about those experiences. For Hemingway, memories create writing and without memories, one cannot write.
Hemingway made it a point to continue writing for The New Masses because he was heavily influenced by the economic strain put on lower classes, and this was best represented from his experience fighting in the Spanish civil war on the side of the republicans (Mirkalem). He wrote To Have and To Have Not published in 1937 detailing a the political strife and cultural struggles of Cuba. Although it was fictional, it was a definite demonstration of his concern for the social issues surrounding communism and fascist rule. The novel was later made into a film in 1944.
Besides enjoying the patriotism Spain had to offer with its intimate culture, Hemingway found that fighting against a Fascist regime revived the soldier within him. His writing became increasing enriched with violence, and the theme of the “wartime” narrative. This is best represented in his works following the war which include For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. In both novels, Hemingway depicts his experiences on the war front in the deepest concern and empathy for those he fought for. In A Farewell to Arms Hemingway’s cynicism and struggles of being a soldier are also revealed, a part of him in his writing left for us to settle with in all its bitterness.
Duffus. R. L. “Hemingway Now Writes of Bull-Fighting as an Art.” Books. The New York Times on the Web, 25 Sept. 1932. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.
Hemingway, Ernest. “Fascism Is a Lie.” New Masses 22 June 1937. Print
Mirkalem, Burcu, Cansu Yesiltepe, Ezgi Conan, and Ladin Bayurgil. “Fascism: Research on Falange Movement of Spain.” (2012): 1-3. Fascism in Spain. Ezgi Conan. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.
Sanders, David. “Ernest Hemingway’s Spanish Civil War Experience.” American Quarterly 12.2 (2012): 133-43. JStor. Web. 29 Sept. 2014.
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