Ernest Hemingway witnessed many of the seminal conflicts of the twentieth century, and he recorded them with matchless power. Now, this landmark volume brings together Hemingway's most important writings on war.Edited and with an introduction by Hemingway's grandson Se n and featuring a personal foreword by the author's only living son, Patrick, this volume includes selections from Hemingway's first book of short stories, In Our Time, as well as from A Farewell to Arms, his towering novel of World War I.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Hemingway on War by Ernest Hemingway
I am sure Ernest Hemingway would be pleased with the selection his grandson Se ' n has made from his grandfather's writing on war. Any selection implies just that: some things have been left out, but more than enough has been left in to give the twenty-first-century reader the true gen on war as it was waged in the last hundred years.
Hemingway was born in 1899 and had he lived as long as it is possible for a man to live, he could have borne witness to the whole of the deadliest and most war-torn century of which we have a historical record. Sadly, his health began to fail at mid-century and drastically worsened when he was forced to choose by the Cold War between his beloved Finca Vigéa and his country. He died just short of completing the second third of the twentieth century.
How much did his going to the wars affect his health and shorten his life In my opinion, a great deal. As a fortunate American, he chose to go to war rather than, as an unlucky Spaniard or an even unluckier Pole, have it inevitably come to him.
James Joyce, perhaps the greatest writer of the twentieth century, neither went to war nor wrote about it in any way but he did not have Hemingway's initially robust constitution and would not have lasted very long in war. Writers who write of war from personal experience have to have special qualities, and I am not sure any of them succeed without strong drink. I like to think that Karl von Clausewitz would never have made it through the Jena campaign without potato schnapps and we know Ulysses S. Grant needed both cigars and corn whiskey to get him through the Wilderness.
About the earlier wars: the Italian front in 1918 and the Greco-Turkish War in the 1920s I know only from what my father wrote in such stories as "A Way You'll Never Be," but I do remember when I was ten years old in 1938 and in the fifth grade being beside my father at the top of the stairs on the second floor of our home in Key West when he opened and read a telegram informing him of the start of the last big offensive of the Spanish Republic which would end sixteen weeks later in disaster on the Ebro. Papa left us for Spain at once. That was the year my mother, my younger brother, and I went to war, three whole years before Pearl Harbor. My family was, as they say, prematurely antifascist.