The Dangerous Summer is Hemingway's firsthand chronicle of a brutal season of bullfights. In this vivid account, Hemingway captures the exhausting pace and pressure of the season, the camaraderie and pride of the matadors, and the mortal drama as in fight after fight the rival matadors try to outdo each other with ever more daring performances. At the same time Hemingway offers an often complex and deeply personal self-portrait that reveals much about one of the twentieth century's preeminent writers.
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December 31, 1984
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Excerpt from The Dangerous Summer by Ernest Hemingway
This is a book about death written by a lusty sixty-year-old man who had reason to fear that his own death was imminent. It is also a loving account of his return to those heroic days when he was young and learning about life in the bull rings of Spain.
In the summer of 1952 Life magazine headquarters in Tokyo dispatched a courier to the front lines in Korea with an intoxicating message. After prowling the mountainous terrain along which desultory action was taking place, he found me at a forward post with a small detachment of Marines.
"Life is engaged in a tremendous venture," he told me in conspiratorial whispers. "We're going to devote an entire issue to one manuscript. And what makes the attempt so daring, it's fiction."
"By who "
The name exploded in the cavelike foxhole with such force, such imagery, that I was instantly hooked. I had always admired Hemingway, considered him our best writer and certainly the man who had set free the English sentence and the crisp vocabulary. As I wandered about the world I constantly met foreign writers who went out of their way to assure me that whereas they considered themselves as good as Hemingway, they did not want to mimic him. They had their own style and were satisfied with it. And I began to wonder why they never said: "I don't want to write like Faulkner..." -- or Fitzgerald, or Wolfe, or Sartre, or Camus. It was always Hemingway they didn't want to copy, which made me suspect that that's precisely what the lot of them were doing.
If you had asked me the day before that meeting with the Life man I'd have said: "I admire Hemingway immensely. He gave us all a new challenge. But of course I don't want to write like him."
The emissary continued: "With so much riding on this experiment Life can't afford to take chances."
"On Hemingway How could you lose "
"Apparently you haven't been following the scoreboard. The critics murdered his last offering."
"Across the River and Into the Trees It wasn't too hot. But you don't condemn an artist for one..."
"That's not the point. They not only blasted the novel, which was pathetic, but they called into question his legitimacy, his right to publish any further."