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American Literature since 1900
Early 20th Century:
The Lost Generation:
The term comes from Gertrude Stein and refers to a group of American writers who became mature during the First World War and became alienated from both traditional prewar values and their own roots in the United States. The groups includes Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Hart Crane, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961) was born near Chicago into a family that was involved in outdoor activities. After graduation from high school he worked as a reporter. Because of poor eyesight he was rejected by the army but was an ambulance driver in Italy during the First World War. These experiences led to A Farewell to Arms about the relationship between an American ambulance driver and a British nurse in Italy during the war. After the war he worked as a reporter in Canada. In 1921 he worked in France as a reporter and then started his career as a writer. From experiences in France and Spain he wrote his first novel The Sun Also Rises a semiautobiographical account of the Lost Generation. Hemingway then began to pursue his favored activities of hunting and fishing, in The United States, Cuba, and Africa. He was again a reporter during the Spanish Civil War and these experiences led to For Whom The Bell Tolls, the story of an American teacher fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He spent World War II as a reporter and after moved to Cuba where is set his best known novel The Old Man and the Sea. It is about an old fisherman who finally catches a giant marlin only to lose it to shark. His last years were spent in poor health and he finally killed himself.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was born in Minnesota. He attended Princeton University but did not graduate. He was an army officer during the First World War. Much of his life was taken up with the care of his mentally disturbed wife Zelda. Because of the stress he became a heavy drinker. He had a nervous breakdown in 1935 for Zelda was in a mental hospital. He is best known for The Great Gatsby, a story of a flawed business during the Jazz Age and Tender is the Night Based on Zelda´s mental illness and his drinking.
John Dos Passos (1896-1970) was born in Chicago and graduated from Harvard and like Hemingway was an ambulance driver during the First World War. His first major novel Manhattan Transfer presents the alienation of people living to a big city. His U.S.A. Trilogy (The 42nd Parallel, 1919, and The Big Money) is a critique of American life.
Hart Crane (1899-1932) was a poet who wrote 2 volumes of poetry, White Buildings and The Bridge.
Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) was a journalist who wrote Sister Carrie, which was attacked as immoral as it dealt with the lower levels of society. An American Tragedy was based on an actual murder trial. The novel was banned upon publication in Boston.
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) was a poet who had been influences by Whitman. His poems were non-rhyming and present both rural and urban American life. He later wrote biographies of Abraham Lincoln.
Robert Frost (1874-1963) was one of the leading poets of the 20th century. He wrote mainly about his native New England.
Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) was the first American to win the Nobel Prize. His novels deal with small town midwest life. They include Main Street which is an attack on middle-class life in a dull town. Babbitt attacks the monotony of small town existence. Elmer Gantry is about a hypocritical Protestant minister more interested in money than faith.
William Faulkner (1897-1962) was the first important writer from the South. Most of his novels are set in the South. The Sound and the Fury presents the destruction of a southern family from 4 points of view. It is in the Stream of Consciousness mode used by James Joyce. Absalom, Absalom also is a stream of consciousness in form is about white racial pride in the South.
John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was the first important writer from the West. He was born in the Central Valley of California and his novels concern poor farm families and dispossessed people in this area. Tortilla Flat is an account of Mexican-Americans.The Grapes of Wrath deals with a farm family who loses their farm in the Oklahoma dust bowl and move to California hoping to find work. Of Mice and Men is a story of 2 migrant farm worker, one big and strong but mentally retarded and his friend wh tries to protect him. Travels with Charlie is an account of a journey across the United States that Steinbeck made with Charlie, his dog.
J. D. Salinger wrote about people who were not happy with comtemporary culture. His best known work is The Catcher in the Rye.
William Styron is better known in Europe than in America. His work includes The Confession of Nat Turner and Sophie´s Choice.
The Beat Generation:
This was a group of writers who formed in San Francisco in 1956. They are called the Beat Generation because they felt as if they had been beaten by society. They rebelled against commercialism and every day life. They wanted to make a better world through drugs, alcohol, and Zen Buddhism. The poets include Allen Ginsberg (Howl and Other Poems), William Burroughs (Junkie, The Naked Lunch), Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Pictures of the Gone World), and the writer Jack Kerouac (On the Road, The Town and the City).
Modern (1960-present day):
Robert Ludlum (1927-2001) wrote 27 novels of the thriller genre. All are very long with complex plots. They include The Scarlatti Inheritance, The Matarese Circle, The Bourne Ultimatum, and The Jansen Directive.
James Michener (1907-1994) wrote a series of historical novels. These include Hawaii, Centennial, The Covenant, The Source, Alaska, and Mexico.
Saul Bellow was born in Canada but at an early age moved to Chicago. His novels are about the psychological reactions of people to their worlds. Most of his main characters are Jewish. His best known works are Herzog, The Dangling Man, Seize the Day, and The Dean´s December.
Arthur Hailey was born in the United Kingdom but moved to Canada after the Second World War. He has written a number of novels which deal with different aspects of society. These include Airport, The Moneychangers, Hotel, Strong Medicine, and Detective.
Tom Clancey has produced several novels dealing with the cold war and international terrorism. They include The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Without Remorse, The Bear and the Dragon, and The Teeth of the Tiger.
Robin Cook is a medical doctor who writes medical detective stories. His works include Coma, Brain, Harmful Intent, Fever, and Shock.
Stephen King is the master of present day horror. He has also written under the pen name of Richard Bachman. His best known works include Carrie, The Stand, Christine, It, and From a Buick 8.
Anne Rice also writes horror, but she specializes in stories about vampires. Her Vampire Chronicles include Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, Merrick, and Blood and Gold.
John Grisham has written a number of detective stories based on lawyers. They include The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, and The Summons.
American Nobel Prize Winners:
1930: Sinclair Lewis.
1936: Eugene O´Neill.
1938: Pearl Buck.
1949: William Faulkner.
1954: Ernest Hemingway.
1962: John Steinbeck.
1967. Saul Bellow.
1978: Issac Bashevis Singer.
1980: Czeslaw Milosz.
1987. Joseph Brodisky.
Social Criticism Since the beginning of the 20th century, American novelists were expanding fiction's social spectrum to encompass both high and low life. Stephen Crane (1871-1900), best known for his Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, depicted the life of New York City prostitutes in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. And in Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) portrayed a country girl who moves to Chicago and becomes a kept woman. John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was born in California, where he set many of his stories. His style was simple and evocative, winning him the favour of the readers but not of the critics. Steinbeck often wrote about poor, working-class people and their struggle to lead a decent and honest life; he was probably the most social aware writer of his period. Grapes of Wrath, considered his masterpiece, is a strong, social-oriented novel that tells the story of a poor family from Oklahoma and their journey to California in search of a better life. Other popular novels include Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row and East of Eden. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.
Disillusion upon Wars American writers also expressed the disillusionment following upon the WWI. The stories and novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) capture the restless, pleasure-hungry, defiant mood of the 1920s. Fitzgerald's characteristic theme, expressed poignantly in The Great Gatsby, is the tendency of youth's golden dreams to dissolve in failure and disappointment. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) saw violence and death first-hand as an ambulance driver in World War I, and the senseless carnage persuaded him that abstract language was mostly empty and misleading. He cut out unnecessary words, simplified the sentence structure, and concentrated on objects and actions. He adhered to a moral code that emphasized courage under pressure, and his protagonists were strong, silent men who often dealt awkwardly with women. The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms are generally considered his best novels; in 1954, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) was born in Idaho but spent much of his adult life in Europe. His work is complex, sometimes obscure, with multiple references to other art forms and to a vast range of literature, both Western and Eastern. He influenced many other poets, notably T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), another expatriate, who wrote spare, cerebral poetry, carried by a dense structure of symbols. In The Waste Land he embodied a jaundiced vision of post-World War I society in fragmented, haunted images. Like Pound's, Eliot's poetry could be highly allusive, and some editions of The Waste Land come with footnotes supplied by the poet. In 1948, Eliot won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Drama In addition to fiction, the 1920s were a rich period for drama. There had not been an important American dramatist until Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) began to write his plays. The 1936 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, O'Neill drew upon classical mythology, the Bible, and the new science of psychology to explore inner life. He wrote frankly about sex and family quarrels, but his preoccupation was with the individual's search for identity. One of his greatest works is Long Day's Journey Into Night, a harrowing drama, small in scale but large in theme, based largely on his own family. Another strikingly original American playwright was Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), who expressed his southern heritage in poetic yet sensational plays, usually about a sensitive woman trapped in a brutish environment. Several of his plays have been made into films, including A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
William Faulkner, another American novelist who won the Nobel Prize, managed to encompass an enormous range of humanity in Yoknapatawpha, a Mississippi county of his own invention. He recorded his characters' seemingly unedited ramblings in order to represent their inner states - a technique called 'stream of consciousness'. (In fact, these passages are carefully crafted, and their seeming randomness is an illusion.) He also jumbled time sequences to show how the past - especially the slave-holding era of the South - endures in the present. Among his great works are The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, Go Down, Moses, and The Unvanquished.
Faulkner was part of a southern literary renaissance.
One of the practitioners of the 'nonfiction novel' was Norman Mailer (*1923), who wrote about an antiwar march on The Pentagon in Armies of the Night, and Tom Wolfe (*1931), who wrote about American astronauts in The Right Stuff.
Literature in black and white The 1920s had seen the rise of an artistic black community in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. The period called the Harlem Renaissance produced such gifted poets as Langston Hughes (1902-1967), Countee Cullen (1903-1946), and Claude McKay (1889-1948). The novelist Zora Neale Hurston (1903-1960) combined a gift for storytelling with the study of anthropology to write vivid stories from the African-American oral tradition. Through such books as the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God - about the life and marriages of a light-skinned African-American woman - Hurston influenced a later generation of black women novelists. After World War II, a new receptivity to diverse voices brought black writers into the mainstream of American literature. In Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison (1914-1994) linked the plight of African Americans, whose race can render them all but invisible to the majority white culture, with the larger theme of the human search for identity in the modern world.
In the 1950s the West Coast spawned a literary movement, the poetry and fiction of the Beat Generation, a name that referred simultaneously to the rhythm of jazz music, to a sense that post-war society was worn out, and to an interest in new forms of experience through drugs, alcohol, and Eastern mysticism. Poet Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) set the tone of social protest and visionary ecstasy in Howl, a Whitmanesque work that begins with this powerful line: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness...." Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) celebrated the Beats' carefree, hedonistic life-style in his episodic novel On the Road.
Some names may serve to adumbrate postmodernism: Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, Robert Coover, William H. Gass, John Barth, Raymond Federman, Don deLillo. One pattern for all of them: every cultural structure must be part of a larger structure; none can be complete. The ideal of a structure of all possible structures is unrealizable. Knowledge must remain finally indeterminate. All this leads to the 'Pattern of the pattern', the 'Finnegans Wake' matrix. For the time being, we must not choose between the One and the Many, Humanism and Deconstruction, Community and Dissemination. We can only reopen such terms to constant negotiations, perpetual transformation of desire.
From Irving and Hawthorne to the present day, the short story has been a favorite American form. One of its 20th-century masters was John Cheever (1912-1982), who brought yet another facet of American life into the realm of literature: the affluent suburbs that have grown up around most major cities. Cheever was long associated with The New Yorker, a magazine noted for its wit and sophistication.
Although trend-spotting in literature that is still being written can be dangerous, the recent emergence of fiction by members of minority groups has been striking. Here are only a few examples. "The Catcher in the Rye", J. D. Salinger a champion of the train of consciousness style of writing. Native American writer Leslie Marmon Silko (1948- ) uses colloquial language and traditional stories to fashion haunting, lyrical poems such as In Cold Storm Light. Amy Tan (1952- ), of Chinese descent, has described her parents' early struggles in California in The Joy Luck Club. Oscar Hijuelos (1951- ), a writer with roots in Cuba, won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. In a series of novels beginning with A Boy's Own Story, Edmund White (1940- ) has captured the anguish and comedy of growing up gay in America. Finally, African-American women have produced some of the most powerful fiction of recent decades. One of them, Toni Morrison (1931- ), author of Beloved and other works, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, only the second American woman to be so honored.
Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler pioneered gritty detective fiction that has had great influence on other genres and in other countries.
Ernest Hemingway was one of the 20th century's most important and influential writers, and many details of his own life have become nearly as well-known as has his work. His image was of a stoic, macho, adventurous figure, and he often drew heavily on his own experiences for his writing. He was a leading figure of the so-called Lost Generation. Hemingway's fiction, especially his early work, was dominated by two types of characters. The first type were people altered by their World War I experiences, people who'd become detached and cynical, yet emotionally needy. The second type of character — perhaps a response to the first type — is a simple, plainspoken individual of direct emotions, who finds fulfillment or even redemption in fishing, bullfighting or other physical activities.
Death and violence were constant themes in Hemingway's life and writing. He saw violence in both World Wars, and in the Spanish Civil War. Hunting was among his favorite interests. He was notoriously accident-prone, perhaps due to his adventurous life.
Hemingway created one myth after the other about himself: he claimed he had an affair with Mata Hari and that he joined the Arditi after his wounding in the first World War, among other accounts. Many people were perfectly willing to believe these tales, unlikely as they often were.
Hemingway was sometimes captured or challenged in his lies, and the discrepancy between himself and the idealized image he had created has been cited as a factor in his troubled life and eventual suicide. Hemingway probably suffered from depression, which was aggravated by his alcoholism.
He was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois. His father was a physician, and the family lived a comfortable, protected life.
Some reports claim that, when Hemingway was born, his mother fantasized that he was the twin of his older, 18-month-old sister, Marcelline. Some accounts hold that she dressed them both as girls and let their hair grow long, then later cut their hair and dressed them both as boys.
In his youth, Hemingway joined his father hunting; at ten, he got his first shotgun. He enjoyed a good fight, and boxing was a lifelong passion. After high school, Hemingway worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. He adopted as his personal standard the main directives of the newspaper's stylebook: "Brevity, a reconciliation of vigour with smoothness, the positive approach".
Hemingway left his reporting job after only a few months, and, against his father's wishes, tried to join the United States Army. He did not pass the medical examination.
Later, he enlisted in the American Field Service ambulance Corps and left for Italy, then mired in World War I. En route to the Italian front, he stopped in Paris. The city was under constant bombardment from German artillery.
Instead of staying in the relative safety of the Hotel Florida, Hemingway asked the cab driver to bring him to the place where the shells were falling. Hemingway wouldn't stop looking for enemy fire until one shell tore apart the facade of a church at the Place de la Madelaine nearby. (He later said: "I was an awful dope when I went to the last war...")
Not long after arriving in Italy, Hemingway saw the brutalities of war: On his first day of duty, an ammunition factory near Milan suffered an explosion. Hemingway had to pick up human remains, mostly of women who'd worked at the factory.
This first and extremely cruel encounter with human death left him shaken. The soldiers he met later didn't lighten this horror: Eric Dorman-Smith quoted Shakespeare's Henry IV Part Two: "By my troth, I care not; a man can die but once; we owe god a death ... and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the next". A 50-year-old soldier, to whom Hemingway said "You're troppo vecchio for this war, pop." replied "I can die as well as any man." Hemingway, for his part, would conjure this very same Shakespearean line ("we owe god a death") in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, one of his later famous African short stories.
On July 8, 1918, at the Italian front Hemingway was wounded, ending his career as an ambulance driver.
The exact details of the July 8 attack remain mysterious but two facts are certain: A trench mortar shell hit him leaving fragments in both legs, and he was awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor from the Italian government. He may have saved another soldier's life by carrying him on his back.
Hemingway later transferred to the Italian infantry, and was seriously injured.
Convalescing in Milan, he met Sister Hannah Agnes von Kurowsky, a nurse from Washington, DC, and one of eighteen nurses looking after just four patients. He fell for her, but they never were together. Soon after his departure, she fell in love with another man.
After being discharged from the Army, Hemingway returned home and in 1920 took a job in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at the Toronto Star newspaper as a freelancer, staff writer, and foreign correspondent.
About this time, Hemingway met Canada's young literary prodigy, Morley Callaghan who also was a cub reporter at the same paper. Callaghan, who respected Hemingway's work, showed his own stories to him and Hemingway praised it as fine work. (The two later joined up in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris, France with F. Scott Fitzgerald and the other expatriate writers of the day.)
In 1921 Hemingway married Hadley Richardson and moved to Paris as a correspondent for the Toronto Star covering the Greco-Turkish War.
In 1923, Hemingway's first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems, was published in Paris by Robert McAlmon. In the same year, his first son, John, was born in Toronto. Busy supporting a family, he became bored with the Toronto Star, and on January 1, 1924, Hemingway resigned.
The Hemingways decided to live abroad for a while, and, following the advice of Sherwood Anderson, they settled in Paris. Anderson gave Hemingway a letter of introduction to Gertrude Stein. She became his mentor and introduced Hemingway to the "Parisian Modern Movement" then ongoing in Montparnasse Quarter. Hemingway's other mentor was Ezra Pound, the founder of imagism. He was so impressed with Pound that he considered giving him the Nobel Prize gold medal. Hemingway later said of them: "Ezra was right half the time, and when he was wrong, he was so wrong you were never in any doubt about it. Gertrude was always right."
At the same time, Hemingway became a close friend of James Joyce. These authors and many others met in Paris.
In Montparnasse, Hemingway's favorite restaurant was La Closerie des Lilas. Here, in just over just six weeks, Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises.
A tragedy became an unexpected boon when Hemingway's manuscripts, including A Farewell to Arms were stolen at Gare de Lyon. In re-writing A Farewell..., Hemingway had time to reconsider it, thus improving the work. The second version was a great deal less ornate. Hemingway compressed his prose to its bare essentials, related in a nearly journalistic, matter-of-fact style. These features would become essential components of Hemingway's style.
The Sun Also Rises
The 1926 publication of The Sun Also Rises was met with acclaim and success. Hemingway's style rocked the literary scene when it first appeared: it seemed simple on the surface, but was revolutionary in a time when Victorian writing with neo-Gothic decorations still governed the literary world.
Hemingway divorced Hadley Richardson and married Pauline Pfeiffer in 1927. Because of his Roman Catholic faith, some conflicts of conscience arose, but these were eventually overcome. In the one hundred days Hadley ordered him to stay away from Pauline, Hemingway wrote much of Men Without Women.
1927 saw the publication of Men Without Women, a collection of short stories, containing "The Killers," one of Hemingways best-known and most-anthologized stories.
Hemingway's father committed suicide using an old Civil War era pistol. He couldn't bear the burden of his incurable illnesses. This suicide was doubtless a great pain to Hemingway, who may have been ashamed by the "cowardice" of the act. Another suicide was of Harry Crosby, founder of the Black Sun Press and friend of Hemingway from his days in Paris.
A Farewell To Arms
Hemingway drew heavily on his own World War I experiences for his second major work, A Farewell to Arms, published in 1929. The novel details the romance between Frederic Henry, an American soldier, and Catherine Barkley, a British nurse, ending with her death in labor.
A Farewell to Arms was published at a time when many other World War I books were prominent, including Frederic Manning's Her Privates We, Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, Richard Aldington's Death of a Hero, and Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That.
By this time, Hemingway was no longer in love with Sister von Kurowsky and had divorced Hadley. He had fathered a boy named Patrick who was, like Henry's son in A Farewell to Arms, delivered by Cesarean section. The intense labor pains of his second wife, Pauline, inspired Catherine's labor in the novel.
Having published the successful A Farewell to Arms, the years of financial struggle were ending. Ernest Hemingway was now an author of worldwide renown, happy with Pauline and financially independent.
Many of the novel's characters are based on real-life persons, like Helen Ferguson, who inspired Kitty Cannell, and the priest, who was based on Don Giuseppe Bianchi, the priest of the 69th and 70th regiments of the Brigata Ancona. A mystery is the character Rinaldi, who had already appeared in "In Our Time".
A Farewell to Arms has been criticised as being a male fantasy. Lieutenant Henry always seems to know what to do and say. Women are attracted to him, men respect him, and Italians embrace him as they would a native. Nurse Barkley falls for him so much she thinks of little else. Nobles want to play billiards with him. Henry is always in grave danger, yet he always escapes. The entire novel is built on this kind of fantasy.
Still, it remains an important work.
Things Turn Sour
His books sold very well and were approved by critics, but with Hemingway's success came bad behavior. He told F. Scott Fitzgerald how to write, and told Allen Tate that there was a fixed number of orgasms a man had. He also claimed Ford Madox Ford was sexually impotent . This was perhaps a hint of Hemingway's own sexual neurosis.
In return, Hemingway himself was criticized — and, some claim, bothered by the criticism. The journal Bookman attacked him as a dirty writer. McAlmon, the publisher of his first, non-commercial book said, according to Fitzgerald, Hemingway was "a fag and a wife-beater" (Burgess (9.), p. 57) and that Pauline was a lesbian. Gertrude Stein criticized him in her book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. She claimed Hemingway had derived his prose style from her own and from Sherwood Anderson's, and that this shameful origin was "yellow".
Max Eastman was even more confrontational in his attacks, suggesting that Ernest "come out from behind that false hair on the chest". Eastman would go on to write an essay entitled Bull in the Afternoon, a parody and a satire of Death in the Afternoon, a book dear to Hemingway.
It is worth noting that these attacks on Hemingway's pride and talent were accompanied by the already-mentioned injuries which kept him almost constantly in poor physical shape.
Ernest Hemingway's writing desk in his Key West home.Following the advice of John Dos Passos, Hemingway moved to Key West where he established his first American home. From his old stone house — a wedding present from Pauline's uncle — Hemingway fished in the Dry Tortugas waters, went to Sloppy Joe's, Havana's famous bar, and traveled to Spain occasionally, gathering material for Death in the Afternoon and Winner Take Nothing.
A collection of pieces mostly about bullfighting, Death In The Afternoon, was published in 1932. He became an aficionado of bullfighting after having seen the Pamplona fiesta of 1925, which was fictionalized in The Sun Also Rises. In Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway extensively discussed the metaphysics of bullfighting: the ritualized, almost religious practice. In his writings about Spain he was greatly influenced by the Spanish master Pio Baroja (when Hemingway won the Nobel Prize, he travelled to Baroja, then on his death bed, specifically to tell him that he thought Baroja deserved the prize more than he did) although the extent of Baroja's influence is not fully appreciated in the English speaking world.
A safari led him to Mombasa in fall 1932, Nairobi and Machakos in the Mua Hills. The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber were the literary results.
1935 saw the publication of Green Hills of Africa, another nonfiction work, this one based on Hemingway's big game hunting and safaris in Africa
But his good fortune in business, art and marriage was overshadowed by serious attacks on his health (anthrax infection, a cut eyeball, a gash in his forehead, grippe, toothache, hemorrhoids; kidney trouble from fishing in Spain, torn groin muscle, finger gashed to the bone in an accident with a punching ball, laceration of arms, legs and face from a ride on a runaway horse through a deep Wyoming forest, and a car accident resulting in a broken arm.)
Hemingway's leisurely way of life provoked some criticism: Max Eastman and others demanded greater commitment to the affairs of the people. A young left-winger begged Hemingway to give up his lonely, tight-lipped stoicism and write about truth and justice.
For a while, it seemed he would do so. His article Who Murdered the Vets? for New Masses, a leftist newspaper, and his novel To Have and Have Not showed a certain social awareness. Soon, he would take political sides more explicitly.
For Whom The Bell Tolls
In spite of efforts to support the Spanish republicans, Francisco Franco won the Spanish civil war in the spring of 1939. Hemingway had lost his adopted homeland of Spain to Franco's nationalists, and would later lose his beloved Key West home as a result of his 1940 divorce. Furthermore, many of his literary peers were dead or would soon die.
For Whom The Bell Tolls was published in 1940. The novel, which concerns the Spanish Civil War, told of an American man who fought on the side of the Republicans and blew up a bridge in order for an attack take place on the fascists.
The Second World War
The United States entered World War II on December 8, 1941 and for the first time in his life, Hemingway took an active part in a war.
Aboard the Pilar, now a Q-Ship, Hemingway was ready to fight and sink Nazi submarines threatening the coasts of Cuba and the United States.
It is worth noting that, according to Anthony Burgess, Hemingway never before shot nor would have shot another human being, and that he was a non-combatant in World War I, in the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) he was reporting on after having written For Whom the Bell Tolls and in the Spanish Civil War, where even the money he collected to support the Loyalists was used for non-belligerent purposes.
Perhaps his failure in preventing Fascists from taking Spain — for he was very possessive of this country — had led him to take more drastic actions.
As the FBI took over Caribbean counter-espionage, Hemingway went to Europe, first as war correspondent for Collier's magazine.
At Villedieu-les-Poêles, France, Hemingway threw three grenades into a cellar where SS officers were hiding, a clear violation of the Geneva Convention. It was the first time he had killed a man.
Seemingly encouraged, he declared he would be an unofficial intelligence unit. Later, he acted as an unofficial liaison officer at Château de Rambouillet, and afterwards, he even formed his own partisan group which took part in the liberation of Paris. Some have argued Hemingway tried to emulate the characters he'd created in his fiction.
By firing his machine pistol at a portrait of Mary Welsh's husband after having placed it atop the toilet bowl in his room in the Hôtel Ritz Paris, he proved he would no longer flinch from killing a man who stood face to face with him.
After the Second World War
After the war, Hemingway started and abandoned a novel about the earth, the sea and the air.
He went to Italy where he gathered material for Across the River and Into the Trees, an homage to Venice. He derived the title from the last words of General Stonewall Jackson. In Across..., his now-divorced third wife appeared as the third wife of the protagonist, Adriana Ivancich as his lover Renata, which means "Reborn" in Latin.
The novel received poor reviews, many of which accused Hemingway of bad taste, stylistic ineptitude and sentimentality. Perhaps the last charge was most true, and fit an emerging pattern: Hemingway was growing old.
The Old Man and the Sea
He started and, depressed by its mediocrity, abandoned a long sea novel to be published posthumously as Islands in the Stream. One section of it was used as the idea for The Old Man and the Sea, which was published in 1952. That novel's enormous success satisfied and fulfilled Hemingway, probably for the last time in his life. It earned him both the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, and restored his international reputation.
Then, his legendary bad luck struck once again: On a safari he was the victim of two successive plane crashes.
Hemingway's injuries were serious: He sprained his right shoulder, arm, and left leg, had a grave overall concussion, temporarily lost his vision in the left eye, his hearing in the left ear, had a paralysis of the sphincter, crushed a vertebra, suffered from a ruptured liver, spleen and kidney and was marked by first degree burns on his face, arms and leg.
As if this was not enough, he was badly injured one month later in a bushfire accident which left him with second degree burns on his legs, front torso, lips, left hand and right forearm. The physical pain caused him to lose his mind. His strength was gone entirely, and so was his will to live. He couldn't even travel to Stockholm personally to accept his Nobel Prize.
A glimpse of hope came with the discovery of some of his old manuscripts from 1928 in the Ritz cellars, which were transformed into A Moveable Feast. Although some of his energy seemed to be restored, severe drinking problems kept him down. His blood pressure and cholesterol count were perilously high, he suffered from aortal inflammation, and his depression, aggravated by alcoholism had probably already started.
He also lost his Finca Vigía in San Francisco de Paula and was forced to "exile" to Ketchum, Idaho after the situation in Cuba had started to escalate.
The very last years, 1960 and 1961, were marked by severe paranoia. He feared FBI agents would be after him if Cuba turned to the Russians, that the "Feds" would be checking his bank account, and that they wanted to arrest him for gross immorality and carrying alcohol. (The FBI was in fact surveilling Hemingway due to his activities in Cuba.)
Hemingway was upset by perfectly normal photographs in his Dangerous Summer article. He was receiving treatment in Ketchum for high blood pressure and liver problems - and also electroconvulsive therapy for depression and his continued paranoia.
Hemingway attempted suicide in the spring of 1961, and received treatment again, but this was unable to prevent his suicide on July 2, 1961 - at 5:00 AM, he died as a result of a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head. Incidentally, the shotgun used in Hemingway's suicide was purchased at Abercrombie and Fitch.
Hemingway donated his entire Cuban estate to Fidel Castro.
He is interred in the Ketchum Cemetery in Ketchum, Idaho.
In 1996, his granddaughter, actress Margaux Hemingway, would take her own life; she is interred in the same cemetery.
(1926) The Sun Also Rises
(1929) A Farewell to Arms
(1937) To Have and Have Not
(1940) For Whom the Bell Tolls
(1950) The Old Man and the Sea
(1932) Death in the Afternoon
(1935) Green Hills of Africa
(1964) A Moveable Feast
Ken Kesey (1935-2001) was born in La Junta, Colorado and in 1946 he moved to Springfield, Oregon, where he spent several years on his family's farm. He was raised in a religion household where he developed a great appreciation for the Christian ethical system. During high school and later in college, Kesey was a champion wrestler, setting long-standing state records. After high school, Kesey eloped with Faye Haxby, his high school sweetheart, and they had three children together. Kesey attended the University of Oregon with a degree in Speech and Communications. He also received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to enroll in the Creative Writing program at Stanford. While at Stanford, he participated in experience involving chemicals at the psychology department to earn extra money. These chemicals included psilocybin, mescaline and LSD. This experience fundamentally altered Kesey, personally and professionally. While working as an orderly at the psychiatric ward of the local hospital, he began to have hallucinations about an Indian sweeping the floors. This formed the basis for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, his writing project. Kesey became notorious for throwing parties in which certain chemicals found their way into the punch. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, published in 1962, was an immediate critical and popular success. Dale Wasserman adapted it into a stage play, while Milos Forman directed a screen adaptation in 1975. To do research for his second novel, which dealt with a family of loggers, Kesey moved to California, where he wrote Sometimes a Great Notion, published in 1964. The novel deals with the conflicts between West Coast individualism and East Coast intellectualism. In 1964, Kesey and his friends, who had become known as the Merry Pranksters, bought a school bus and drove to New York. Kesey recruited Neal Cassady from Kerouac's On the Road to drive the bus, and filmed a significant portion of the journey; Kesey would later show clips from the trip to chemically-induced audiences. He became the proponent of a local band known as the 'Warlocks'," which later became the 'Grateful Dead'. Kesey's exploits with the Merry Pranksters formed the basis for a best-selling book by Tom Wolfe called The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. When the government made LSD illegal, the Pranksters fled to Mexico. When Ken Kesey returned to the United States, he was arrested on a marijuana charge. Upon his release from jail, Kesey moved to a farm in Oregon to raise his family. He did not publish his third novel, Sailor Song, until 1992, but did write several shorter works and compilations. Even decades after his counterculture experience, Kesey did not 'settle down.' As he attested on his website late in life, Kesey warned that every now and then he got the itch to do 'something weird.' He died in 2001 following cancer surgery on his liver.
About One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, published in 1962, is the product of both the personal experiences of its author, Ken Kesey, and the specific culture in which it was written. Kesey developed the novel while he attended Stanford University as a graduate student in their Creative Writing program as the winner of a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. The novel was partially inspired by Kesey's part-time job as an orderly in a Palo Alto veterans' hospital. It was also as a student at Stanford where Kesey began participating in experiments for the psychology department that involved the use of LSD. This use of LSD prompted Kesey to have hallucinations while working as an orderly. Kesey hallucinated seeing a large Indian mopping the floors of the hospital; this hallucination prompted Kesey to add the character Chief Bromden as the novel's narrator.
Kesey published One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to great critical and commercial success, but for one reader the factual information that he included from his experiences at the veterans' hospital proved problematic. Both Kesey and his publisher, Viking Press, were sued by a plaintiff who claimed that a minor character in the novel, a Red Cross nurse, was based on her and she was unfairly portrayed. The case resulted in revisions to subsequent editions of the book. The Red Cross nurse was changed to the nameless character Public Relation. The plaintiff in the case later became a novelist herself, and wrote a novel set in a California spa. In an ironic twist, she was the subject of a lawsuit from a doctor who claimed that a character in her novel defamed him.
The novel in some sense forms a bridge between the bohemian beatnik movements of the 1950s and the 1960s counterculture movement. Kesey was significantly inspired by the beatnik culture around Stanford, and in the novel Kesey deals with a number of themes that would be significant in the counterculture movement, including notions of freedom from repressive authority and a more liberated view of sexuality. Kesey himself became a highly influential counterculture figure as part of the Merry Pranksters.
Despite the counterculture themes of the novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a popular and critical success. Dale Wasserman adapted the novel into a two act play in 1974, while Milos Forman directed a successful film adaptation of the novel the following year. This film, recently named as one of the twenty greatest films by the American Film Institute, featured Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy and Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture and gained awards for Nicholson and Fletcher. It remains only one of three films to sweep the top five categories at the Oscars.