Reader's Encyclopedia

Hemingway, Ernest [Miller] (1899 - 1961)

American novelist and short-story writer. Early in his career as a newspaperman and foreign correspondent, Hemingway was already the craftsman whose terse style, with its dramatic understatement and superb dialogue, was to influence several generations of writers. Son of a doctor in rural Illinois, he went to Europe as an ambulance driver in World War I and was seriously wounded when he was eighteen. Later he went to France as a correspondent for the Toronto Star and met Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein, whose writing had already greatly influenced his own. His first published work was Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923), containing the stories "Up in Michigan," "Out of Season," and "My Old Man." In Our Time is a collection of stories, semiautobiographical, about Nick Adams, a prototype of later Hemingway heroes.

His first novel, The Torrents of Spring (1926), is remembered mainly for the unmannerly burlesque of Sherwood Anderson, which was Hemingway's declaration of literary independence. Immediately following it, however, came The Sun Also Rises, a forceful and original novel about the lost generation after World War I, which established his reputation and is widely considered his finest work. Men without Women, short stories including the famous The Killers and "Fifty Grand," continued his success. For the many critics who find Hemingway at his best in this form, this volume ranks at the top of the list with the later collection, Winner Take Nothing (1932). His next novel was A Farewell to Arms, a vivid and impeccably written love story about a war-time ambulance driver and a nurse. Two pieces of nonfiction followed: Death in the Afternoon (1932), with its eulogy of the bullfight ritual, and Green Hills of Africa (1935).

In 1937 Hemingway's early dissociation from political matters gave way to involvement, a development marked by the novel To Have and Have Not, with its dying hero gasping, "One man alone ain't got ... no chance." That same year, his sympathy with the Loyalist cause in the Civil War took him to Spain as a war correspondent. The Fifth Column (1938; adapted for stage by Benjamin Glazer, 1940), celebrating "the nobility and dignity of the Spanish people," was followed by For Whom the Bell Tolls, a widely admired novel using the same theme to make a plea for human brotherhood. This was a fertile period for Hemingway, in which he also produced The First Forty - Nine Hours and Other Stories (1938), which included the great stories The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.

Occupied during World War II as a war correspondent, Hemingway did not publish another novel until the coolly received Across the River and into the Trees (1950), about an aging hero of the First World War revisiting the battleground where he was wounded. Two years later, The Old Man and the Sea, a novella, received high critical acclaim and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1954 Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He published nothing more of significance before his suicide in 1961.

The classic Hemingway hero, courting danger to prove himself, obsessed with the fear-courage and tough-tender dialectic, in a sense defined the writer himself. Posthumously published works are A Moveable Feast (1964), his memories of Paris in the 1920s; Islands in the Stream (1970), a novel; and The Nick Adams Stories (1972), concerning the alter - ego who appeared in his early short stories. Hemingway's Selected Letters 1917-1961 (ed C. Baker) appeared in 1981. In 1985 The Dangerous Summer, a novel that had not been published earlier, was issued. It was followed by The Garden of Eden (begun in 1946; published 1986).