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Post  eddie Sun Jul 03, 2011 4:39 pm

Fresh claim over role the FBI played in suicide of Ernest Hemingway

Friend reveals regret for dismissing writer's fear that he was being targeted by J Edgar Hoover

Peter Beaumont The Observer, Sunday 3 July 2011

Ernest Hemingway Ernest-Hemingway-AE-Hotch-007
AE Hotchner, left, after duck hunting with Ernest Hemingway in Ketchum, Idaho, in 1958. Photograph: Mary Hemingway/AP

For five decades, literary journalists, psychologists and biographers have tried to unravel why Ernest Hemingway took his own life, shooting himself at his Idaho home while his wife Mary slept.

Some have blamed growing depression over the realisation that the best days of his writing career had come to an end. Others said he was suffering from a personality disorder.

Now, however, Hemingway's friend and collaborator over the last 13 years of his life has suggested another contributing factor, previously dismissed as a paranoid delusion of the Nobel prize-winning writer. It is that Hemingway was aware of his long surveillance by J Edgar Hoover's FBI, who were suspicious of his links with Cuba, and that this may have helped push him to the brink.

Writing in the New York Times on the 50th anniversary of Hemingway's death, AE Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway and Hemingway and His World, said he believed that the FBI's surveillance "substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide", adding that he had "regretfully misjudged" his friend's fear of the organisation.

The reassessment is significant as it was precisely because of Papa Hemingway that the writer's fear of being bugged and followed by the FBI first surfaced. Hotchner's belated change of heart casts a new light on the last few months of Hemingway's life and two incidents in particular.

In November 1960, Hotchner writes, he had gone to visit Hemingway and Mary in Ketchum, Idaho, for an annual pheasant shoot. Hemingway was behaving oddly, Hotchner recalls: "When Ernest and our friend Duke MacMullen met my train at Shoshone, Idaho, for the drive to Ketchum, we did not stop at the bar opposite the station as we usually did because Ernest was anxious to get on the road. I asked why the hurry. 'The Feds.'


"'They tailed us all the way. Ask Duke.'

"'Well... there was a car back of us out of Hailey.'

"'Why are FBI agents pursuing you?' I asked.

"'It's the worst hell. The goddamnedest 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.'

"We rode for miles in silence. As we turned into Ketchum, Ernest said quietly: 'Duke, pull over. Cut your lights.' He peered across the street at a bank. Two men were working inside. 'What is it?' I asked. 'Auditors. The FBI's got them going over my account.'

"'But how do you know?'

"'Why would two auditors be working in the middle of the night? Of course it's my account'."

It would not be the only time during this visit that Hemingway would complain about being under FBI surveillance. On the last day of Hotchner's visit, at dinner with the writer and his wife, Hemingway pointed out two men at the bar who he identified as "FBI agents".

With the two incidents immediately preceding Hemingway's hospitilisation at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he received electric shock therapy, and several unsuccessful suicide attempts that followed his release, most have written off Hemingway's complaints about the FBI as largely delusional.

In the 1980s, however, Hemingway's FBI file was released following a Freedom of Information request by Jeffrey Myers, an academic then at the University of Colorado. The file demonstrated a keen interest in Hemingway, including his wartime attempts to set up an anti-fascist spy network called the Crook Factory, and the interest persisted until he entered the Mayo Clinic in 1960.

Indeed, in January 1961, the special agent tasked with following him dutifully reported to Hoover in January of 1961 that Hemingway "was physically and mentally ill".

That file, running to more than 120 pages, 15 of them largely blacked out for national security reasons, also demonstrates quite how close an interest Hoover and his organisation took in Hemingway. It is reassessing the revelations contained in this file that prompted Hotchner to voice his regret that he had not taken Hemingway's complaints more seriously – or considered the potential impact that such surveillance might have had on a man entering a period of mental illness.
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Post  eddie Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:04 am

Ernest Hemingway letters reveal painful late years of affection and loss

Remarkable correspondence between Hemingway and friend Gianfranco Ivancich showcases the author's sentimental side

Alison Flood, Friday 30 March 2012 15.52 BST

Ernest Hemingway Ernest-Hemingway-008
Island life ... Adriana Ivancich (far right) sits next to Ernest Hemingway and others as they relax with friends in Havana, Cuba. Photograph: JFK Library

The tears Ernest Hemingway shed over the death of his cat are revealed in previously unseen letters which show the bull-fighting aficionado's sentimental side.

The 15 letters, which have just been unveiled by the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, were written by the Nobel prize-winning author to his good friend Gianfranco Ivancich. Hemingway first met Ivancich, who was 20 years younger than the author, at a Venice bar in January 1949. They bonded over the serious leg wounds both had received during the war. When Ivancich found work in Cuba, he stayed with Hemingway at the writer's house, the Finca Vigía, and the visit in 1950 of Ivancich's sister, Adriana, is believed to have inspired the Hemingway creative period that gave rise to The Old Man and the Sea. Ivancich and Hemingway kept up a close friendship through letter writing, until Hemingway's suicide in 1961.

Both handwritten and typed, their letters give an insight into the last years of Hemingway's life. The Kennedy library's director, Tom Putnam, called them "extraordinary", and said they would be a "treasure trove for new scholarship".

In February 1953, Hemingway wrote to Ivancich of his pain at having to shoot his cat, Willie, after it was hit by a car. "Certainly missed you. Miss Uncle Willie. Have had to shoot people but never anyone I knew and loved for eleven years. Nor anyone that purred with two broken legs," wrote the author, also revealing the heartless behaviour of a group of tourists who arrived at his house the same day. "I still had the rifle and I explained to them they had come at a bad time and to please understand and go away. But the rich Cadillac psycho said, 'We have come at a most interesting time. Just in time to see the great Hemingway cry because he has to kill a cat.'"

By April, Hemingway was in a better mood, telling Ivancich of a trip with his wife, Mary, to Paraiso. "It was much better weather than last year and there were many more fish," he wrote. "We caught an average of 20 good fish a day; many beautiful big yellow tails and pargos. Not as many groupers (cherna) as last year. I trained hard and got in fine shape; no belly and indio tostado color. Mary was in wonderful shape too and very happy. She caught the most fish and that made her even happier. Fishing in the Tin Kid is certainly lots of exercise. I always think of you and the big marlin of last year."

His affection for Ivancich and his sister is evident in the letters, which are often signed "Papa", or "Mr Papa". In 1956 he told his friend: "We miss you very much and it is lonesome to have somebody around as you were and have them like a brother and have them go away. Now I have no brother and no good drinking friend nor hard-working banana grower. Everybody remembers you with so much affection and sends very best wishes."

Later, in 1958, he confesses to Ivancich: "I wish I could write you good letters the way you do. Maybe it is because I write myself out in the other writing." In 1960, the writing was clearly progressing well, as Hemingway wrote: "I have worked terribly hard – written over 100,000 words since the end of January and every day when finish too tired to write letters. Have the first draft of this about the bulls that comes after Death in the Afternoon done now."

The Kennedy library has also acquired from Ivancich's collection a manuscript of Hemingway's fable The Faithful Bull, which was written for Ivancich's young nephew, Gherardo Scapinelli. An extract in the author's scrawling, sloping handwriting reads: "'Perhaps we should all be faithful,' the matador said."
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Post  eddie Sun May 27, 2012 9:37 pm

A Moveable Feast rises above the struggle of Hemingway's later years

By 1956 Hemingway was in a terrible state, in both mind and body, but he could still craft writing that is eternal

Sam Jordison, Friday 25 May 2012 14.18 BST

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In physical and mental decline... Hemingway two years before his death. Photograph: John Bryson/Time Life Pictures/Getty

In looking at In Our Time and A Moveable Feast, we've mainly focused on Hemingway as a young man: fit, young and heading for the stratosphere. But as Mogger64 noted in his original nomination, it's significant that A Moveable Feast was "written at the end of his life". It isn't quite the work of an old man. Hemingway never made it that far. But it's pretty much the last word from someone on the way out. It speaks as loudly of Hemingway at the end of his career as it does of the beginning.

Ernest Hemingway A-Moveable-Feast
A Moveable Feast
by Ernest Hemingway

And that career was remarkable. He had done it all by 1956, when he was spurred into reminiscence following the rediscovery of some old Paris notebooks which had lain for many years in a trunk in the basement of the Ritz hotel. He'd won the Nobel prize. He'd won the Pulitzer prize. He'd sold hundreds of thousands of books. He'd inspired dozens of imitators. He'd become an adjective and a legend. His life outside writing was just as celebrated: the bull fight aficionado, the boxer, the big game hunter, the fisherman, the friend of Spanish Republicans, the man who liberated Paris. Papa: the tall, handsome, heavyweight alpha male.

But by 1956 all that was heading into memory, if it had ever really existed. Plenty of people said his writing had long since gone into decline, although that's a debate we could profitably have here. (Most writers would settle for a fallow period that included The Old Man And The Sea and A Moveable Feast.) Physically and mentally, however, there was no question that he was struggling. His once-powerful body, already softened by years of good living and hard drinking, took a pummelling in the years after the war. A car crash in 1945 smashed his knee. Two successive plane crashes in 1954 gave him severe concussion, a broken skull, cracked discs, burns, kidney and liver ruptures and a dislocated shoulder. Then he was caught in a bush fire for good measure. Add to that his wounds from the first world war, insomnia, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, and a dangerously increased alcohol intake to counter all the pain, and you have a sick man. Elsewhere, his literary friends (and enemies) were dropping like flies. He'd been through three divorces and his children – especially his youngest son, Gigi – were all troubled. He was becoming increasingly convinced (rightly as it turned out) that the FBI were trailing him. He also suffered – as did so many in his family – from depression.

He was, in short, a wreck as he struggled to complete his Paris sketches. A Moveable Feast should be seen as the product of a man in terminal decline as much as the triumphant recollection of one beginning to realise his true powers.

Except, it doesn't read like that. One of the most impressive things about A Moveable Feast is how sure and how hopeful it seems. How much fun it all is.

Although, of course, we shouldn't ignore the bitterness and unpleasantness. "The rich" who would do so much to sour Hemingway's life come in for some stick. So too does Pauline, his second wife, the woman who took him from the Hadley he speaks of so fondly in the book. And then there is the Ford Madox Ford business, labelled "excruciating" by Reading Group contributor OshiMichi. Here was a man who helped Hemingway a great deal. A writer who, for the Good Soldier alone, deserves the title "great". A man who, by all accounts, fought bravely in the first world war, and suffered dreadfully – he had poison gas to thank for heavy breathing Hemingway remarks upon. And yet Hemingway treats him with vicious contempt. Personally, I don't object to the story as much as OshiMichi. The business with the drink orders is amusing (rudeness to waiters is always a reliable shorthand for an ugly personality), and Aleister Crowley's cameo made me laugh, first time around. It's also probably true that Ford was unpleasant company. Plenty of others wrote similar things about the ugly, smelly, wheezy old walrus who, by the 1920s, seemed a relic from another age. I should also say that this chapter is based on those notes from the trunk. Perhaps we can forgive this as a product of the young generation doing as it should and sticking two fingers up to the one before. Or perhaps I should stop making excuses for Hemingway. After all, it's his faults as well as his astonishing talent that make him such a fascinating character. The ultimate truth is that the story leaves a bad taste. The young man left it out. (It was originally written for Fiesta.) The older man put it back in. (Even if we can never be certain that he would have kept it in the final version.)

The older man, however, could also write sentences like this:

"His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly's wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless."

And this:

"I do not think I had ever seen a nastier-looking man... Under the black hat, when I had first seen them, the eyes had been those of an unsuccessful rapist."

And this:

"As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans."

He could craft moments like that are delightful, awful, joyful, and horrible by turn; writing that is eternal. Even at the end, Hemingway could still do it. Or, at least, he could until he was sent for electroshock therapy, which ruined his memory. In his introduction to the revised 2009 edition of A Moveable Feast, Patrick Hemingway includes his father's "last piece of professional writing", an attempted forward to the memoir:

"This book contains material from the remises of my memory and of my heart. Even if the one has been tampered with and the other does not exist."

Early in the morning of 2 July 1961, Ernest Hemingway pulled down a shotgun from the rack, loaded it, put the barrel in his mouth and splattered his brains over the vestibule of his house.

Last edited by eddie on Mon May 28, 2012 2:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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