Repoter, soldier, short-story writer, novelist, playwright, deep-sea fisherman, and a big game hunter, Hemingway was a man whose unique mastery of the art of writing influenced the style of an entire generation of writers. The influnece spread far beyond the English language, far beyond the borders of the United States. It is an influence that persists today.
Ernest Hemingway, one of six children, was born into the family of a small town doctor at Oak Park, Illinois, on July 21, 1899. He was active in sports; and under the guidance of his father, he came to love the outdoors, becoming an excellent hunter and fisherman.. His parents wanted him to become a doctor, but after graduation from high school, he began his writing career as a sports reporter for the Kansas City Star. When the USA entered WWI, Hemingway left his job and tried to enlist in the army. After repeated rejections because he was under age, he was finally accepted as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross in Italy. Shortly before his 19th birthday, he was badly injured by enemy fire and spent several weeks in a hospital in Milan. This experience would provide material for his future nove „A Farewell to Arms“.
Hemingway returned to Chicago in 1919 and then went to Canada to work for the Toronto Star. From 1921 to 1927, he lived in Europe where he worked hard to become a writer. Joining the literary circle of expatriate American writers brought together by Gertrude Stein, Hemingway profited from his association with writers like her, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He wrote his first three books: „Three Short Stories and Ten Poems“ (1923); „In Our Time“ (1925), a collection of short stories; and „The Torrents of Spring“ (1926), a novel which went unnoticed by the public.
With the publication of „The Sun Also Rises“ in 1926, his reputation as a novelist was established. Written in an original style, it quickly influenced other writers. In 1927 he published a collection of short stories „Men Without Women“. In 1928 he returned to the USA, Florida where he worked on „A Farewell to Arms“(1929).
In1932 he published a moving study of bullfighting „Death In the Afternoon“.
Hemingway made many trips, including several safaris to Africa. Drawing on the experiences of these African trips, he wrote „The Green Hills of Africa“ (1935), „The Snows of Kilimanjaro“ (1936) and some others.
At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, he went to Spain to gather material for a film, „The Spanish Earth“, and returned to Spain the next year as a correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Out of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War came a play, „The Fifth Column“ (1940), and his longest novel, „For Whom the Bell Tolls“ (1940). The novel emphasizes the openess of humanity an the idea that a loss of liberty anywhere means the loss of liberty everywhere. This idea is well expressed by the hero, Robert Jordan, as he is dying.
Critics have described this novel as a study in „epic courage and compassion“, and in it, according to some, Hemingway reached the peak of his creative skill.
WWII saw Hemingway serving again in the role of war correspondent. When the war ended, he settled in Cuba where he lived until 1959. During this period of his life, he talked with many of the fishermen. One story he heard gave him the idea for his short novel, „The Old Man and the Sea“ (1952). It tells of an old Cuban fisherman who, sfter a run of bad luck, hooks a giant marlin. The story of the old man’s struggle with the fish, of his final victory which turns into defeat as sharks attack the catch and reduce it to a skeleton, ends with the words, „Man is not meant for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.“ The novel led to Hemingway’s receiving the Pulitzer Prize. In 1954 the Swedish Academy awarded him the Nobel Prize for „his powerful, style-forming mastery of the art of modern narration, as most recently reavealed in The Old Man and the Sea.“
During the last years of his life, Hemingway was a figure of heroic proportion. He had been honored internationally, and his rugged life which he had lived presented the public with an image of a superman. Yet Hemingway suffered fits of depression made worse by an increasingly serious stomach ailment. Writing was becoming impossible as he realized his own human weakness and frailties .
On July 2, 1961, firing both charges of a double barreled shotgun, Hemingway commited suicide.
He died but „his techniques, his attitudes, his sensitivity to the spirit of the age, and to violence, which has played such a role in it, made him one of the greatest of modern writers, and the best of his work seems likely to secure him a permanent and prominent place in the history of American literature.“