Ernest Hemingway was a legendary writer and adventurer who lived an eventful life.
Hemingway lived through some of the most remarkable events of the 20th century, from world wars to revolutions to literary upheavals. He was hailed as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
In this biography of Ernest Hemingway, we delve into the writer’s fascinating life and exceptional work.
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Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Ill., to his parents, Clarence and Grace Hemingway. He was the second of six children.
Ernest grew up in a middle-class home, where he developed an interest in reading and writing at an early age. Grace encouraged her son’s artistic pursuits.
Hemingway graduated high school in 1917, during World War I. To keep Hemingway out of the war, an uncle got him an internship at The Kansas City Star newspaper. It’s there that Hemingway published his first article as a journalist.
But adventure called Hemingway. At 18, he left Kansas City to join the Red Cross to serve as an ambulance driver during World War I. It was while delivering food and supplies to the Italian front lines that exploding mortar shells wounded Hemingway. The shrapnel wounds were so severe that it took him numerous surgeries and almost a year to recover.
After the war, Hemingway traveled throughout Europe for almost two years before settling in Paris in 1921. He became friends with literary greats such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and James Joyce.
And it was while in Paris that Hemingway wrote some of his most memorable works.
Ernest Hemingway in Paris
Ernest Hemingway settled in Paris with his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and began to write seriously.
The young writer immersed himself in Parisian life, often visiting cafés around the city and attending artistic events. He also saw many European cities during this period, including Madrid, Pamplona, and Venice.
While visiting Spain, he began writing his first novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926).
The book follows a group of American and British expatriates living in France and Spain as they travel around Europe and eventually head to Pamplona for the annual festival of San Fermin. Critics and readers alike praised The Sun Also Rises, and it became one of the most commercially successful novels of the 1920s.
Ernest Hemingway’s second novel, A Farewell to Arms, came out in 1929. Hemingway based the book on his experiences during World War I.
The novel follows Lieutenant Frederic Henry, an American serving as an ambulance driver for the Italian Army during World War I. Henry meets and falls in love with Catherine Barkley, an English nurse serving on the Italian front. Together they flee advancing Austrian forces and retreat to Switzerland amidst the backdrop of a war-torn Italy.
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”A Farewell to Arms
Some consider A Farewell to Arms as Hemingway’s most mature work and one of his most significant accomplishments as a writer. It captures the spirit of human courage in adversity and suffering. The book also expresses how love can bring hope even during despair.
In addition to his literary pursuits, while living in Paris, Hemingway was also a noted journalist. He contributed regularly to magazines such as El Sol and Vanity Fair. His unique reporting style can be seen throughout these works, often drawing upon real-life experiences from his sojourns across Europe.
The years Hemingway spent living in Paris were formative ones that shaped him personally and professionally.
Hemingway’s marriage to Richardson ended in divorce in 1927. And shortly after that, so did his time in Paris.
On to the Keys
Ernest Hemingway married Pauline Pfeiffer in 1927, and the couple moved to Key West, Fla. The island’s warm tropical climate and relaxed atmosphere provided the perfect setting for Hemingway to continue writing and exploring his passion for journalism.
While living in Key West, Hemingway finished one of his most-acclaimed books, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). Set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, the novel tells the story of Robert Jordan, an American who joins forces with a band of guerrillas to fight for their country’s freedom.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”For Whom the bell tolls
Hollywood made the book into a movie of the same name. That film starred Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper.
Unfortunately, Hemingway’s and Pfeiffer’s marriage didn’t work out. They divorced in 1939.
Hemingway went on to marry Martha Gellhorn one month later in 1940. But unfortunately, their marital bliss also didn’t last, and they divorced in 1944.
His time in Cuba
Ernest Hemingway and Gellhorn moved to Cuba in 1939. The couple settled in San Francisco de Paula and built a house known as Finca Vigia.
While living there, Hemingway developed a deep love for the country and its people.
During this period, Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea (1952). The book netted Hemingway’s lone Pulitzer Prize in 1953. Set in Cuba’s Gulf Stream region, the novella tells the story of Santiago, an elderly Cuban fisherman struggling with his faith in God after months of unsuccessful fishing attempts.
While living in Cuba, Hemingway also wrote Islands in the Stream (1970). This posthumously published novel follows Thomas Hudson, a painter struggling to find peace following World War II.
Also during this time, Hemingway wrote several short stories such as “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (1936) and “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” (1933). These stories are still highly acclaimed today for their powerful yet nuanced depictions of human struggle against mortality and loneliness.
Hemingway lived in Cuba until 1960 when he returned to the United States after the Cuban Revolution. He spent his remaining years in America before committing suicide in Ketchum, Idaho, on July 2, 1961. He was 61.
Ernest Hemingway’s literary legacy
Ernest Hemingway was a literary giant. His writing style was simple, concise, and direct, focusing on portraying real-life characters facing everyday struggles.
But Hemingway’s personal life was tumultuous, marked by alcoholism, depression, and multiple marriages. His relationships with women, including his wives and mistresses, were often stormy and passionate.
Hemingway’s legacy endures, with many still studying his writing. We see his influence in the works of countless writers, including Cormac McCarthy and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And even an online app tries to help you write like Ernest Hemingway.
Ernest Hemingway’s life was a mosaic of triumphs and tribulations, a saga of adventure and creative inspiration. His legacy as a writer, soldier, and cultural icon endures, leaving a trail of tantalizing stories and unforgettable characters.
Books by Ernest Hemingway
- In Our Time (1925)
- The Sun Also Rises (1926)
- Men Without Women (1927)
- A Farewell to Arms (1929)
- Death in the Afternoon (1932)
- Winner Take Nothing (1933)
- Green Hills of Africa (1935)
- To Have and Have Not (1937)
- For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
- Across the River and Into the Trees (1950)
- The Old Man and the Sea (1952)
- A Moveable Feast (1964 – posthumously published)