Hemingway and Mary in Africa before the two plane accidents
In 1948, Hemingway and Mary traveled to Europe, staying in Venice for several months. While there, Hemingway fell in love with the then 19-year-old Adriana Ivancich. The platonic love affair inspired the novel Across the River and into the Trees, written in Cuba during a time of strife with Mary, and published in 1950 to negative reviews. The following year, furious at the critical reception of Across the River and Into the Trees, he wrote the draft of The Old Man and the Sea in eight weeks, saying that it was "the best I can write ever for all of my life". The Old Man and the Sea became a book-of-the-month selection, made Hemingway an international celebrity, and won the Pulitzer Prize in May 1952, a month before he left for his second trip to Africa.
In 1954, while in Africa, Hemingway was almost fatally injured in two successive plane crashes. He chartered a sightseeing flight over the Belgian Congo as a Christmas present to Mary. On their way to photograph Murchison Falls from the air, the plane struck an abandoned utility pole and "crash landed in heavy brush". Hemingway's injuries included a head wound, while Mary broke two ribs. The next day, attempting to reach medical care in Entebbe, they boarded a second plane that exploded at take-off, with Hemingway suffering burns and another concussion, this one serious enough to cause leaking of cerebral fluid. They eventually arrived in Entebbe to find reporters covering the story of Hemingway's death. He briefed the reporters and spent the next few weeks recuperating and reading his erroneous obituaries. Despite his injuries, Hemingway accompanied Patrick and his wife on a planned fishing expedition in February, but pain caused him to be irascible and difficult to get along with. When a bushfire broke out, he was again injured, sustaining second degree burns on his legs, front torso, lips, left hand and right forearm. Months later in Venice, Mary reported to friends the full extent of Hemingway's injuries: two cracked discs, a kidney and liver rupture, a dislocated shoulder and a broken skull. The accidents may have precipitated the physical deterioration that was to follow. After the plane crashes, Hemingway, who had been "a thinly controlled alcoholic throughout much of his life, drank more heavily than usual to combat the pain of his injuries."
In October 1954 Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature. He modestly told the press that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen and Bernard Berenson deserved the prize, but the prize money would be welcome. Mellow claims Hemingway "had coveted the Nobel Prize", but when he won it, months after his plane accidents and the ensuing world-wide press coverage, "there must have been a lingering suspicion in Hemingway's mind that his obituary notices had played a part in the academy's decision." Because he was suffering pain from the African accidents, he decided against traveling to Stockholm. Instead he sent a speech to be read, defining the writer's life:
From the end of the year in 1955 to early 1956, Hemingway was bedridden. He was told to stop drinking to mitigate liver damage, advice he initially followed but then disregarded. In October 1956, he returned to Europe and met Basque writer Pio Baroja, who was seriously ill and died weeks later. During the trip, Hemingway became sick again and was treated for "high blood pressure, liver disease, and arteriosclerosis".
In November, while in Paris, he was reminded of trunks he had stored in the Ritz Hotel in 1928 and never retrieved. The trunks were filled with notebooks and writing from his Paris years. Excited about the discovery, when he returned to Cuba in 1957, he began to shape the recovered work into his memoir A Moveable Feast. By 1959 he ended a period of intense activity: he finished A Moveable Feast (scheduled to be released the following year); brought True at First Light to 200,000 words; added chapters to The Garden of Eden; and worked on Islands in the Stream. The last three were stored in a safe deposit box in Havana, as he focused on the finishing touches for A Moveable Feast. Author Michael Reynolds claims it was during this period that Hemingway slid into depression, from which he was unable to recover.
The Finca Vigia became crowded with guests and tourists, as Hemingway, beginning to become unhappy with life there, considered a permanent move to Idaho. In 1959 he bought a home overlooking the Big Wood River, outside Ketchum, and left Cuba—although he apparently remained on easy terms with the Castro government, telling The New York Times he was "delighted" with Castro's overthrow of Batista. He was in Cuba in November 1959, between returning from Pamplona and traveling west to Idaho, and the following year for his birthday; however, that year he and Mary decided to leave after hearing the news that Castro wanted to nationalize property owned by Americans and other foreign nationals. In July 1960, the Hemingways left Cuba for the last time, leaving art and manuscripts in a bank vault in Havana. After the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Finca Vigia was expropriated by the Cuban government, complete with Hemingway's collection of "four to six thousand books".
Idaho and suicide
Through the end of the 1950s, Hemingway continued to rework the material that would be published as A Moveable Feast. In the summer of 1959, he visited Spain to research a series of bullfighting articles commissioned by Life magazine, returning to Cuba in January 1960 to work on the manuscript. Life wanted only 10,000 words, but the manuscript grew out of control. For the first time in his life unable to organize his writing, he asked A. E. Hotchner to travel to Cuba to help. Hotchner helped him trim the Life piece to 40,000 words, and Scribner's agreed to a full-length book version (The Dangerous Summer) of almost 130,000 words. Hotchner found Hemingway to be "unusually hesitant, disorganized, and confused", and he was suffering badly from failing eyesight.
On July 25, 1960, Hemingway and Mary left Cuba, never to return. Hemingway then traveled alone to Spain to be photographed for the front cover of the current Life magazine piece. A few days later, he was reported in the news to be seriously ill and on the verge of dying, which panicked Mary until she received a cable from him telling her, "Reports false. Enroute Madrid. Love Papa." However, he was seriously ill and believed himself to be on the verge of a breakdown. He was lonely and took to his bed for days, retreating into silence, despite having had the first installments of The Dangerous Summer published in Life in September 1960 to good reviews. In October, he left Spain for New York, where he refused to leave Mary's apartment on the pretext that he was being watched. She quickly took him out to Idaho, where George Saviers (a Sun Valley physician) met them at the train.
At this time, Hemingway was worried about money and about his safety. He worried about his taxes, and that he would never return to Cuba to retrieve the manuscripts he had left there in a bank vault. He became paranoid and thought the FBI was actively monitoring his movements in Ketchum. The FBI had opened a file on him during World War II, when he used the Pilar to patrol the waters off Cuba, and J. Edgar Hoover had the agent in Havana watch Hemingway during the 1950s. By the end of November Mary was at wits' end and Saviers suggested Hemingway go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he may have believed he was to be treated forhypertension. The FBI knew Hemingway was at the Mayo Clinic, as an agent later documented in a letter written in January 1961. In an attempt at anonymity, he was checked in under Saviers' name. Meyers writes that "an aura of secrecy surrounds Hemingway's treatment at the Mayo", but confirms he was treated with electroconvulsive therapy as many as 15 times in December 1960, then in January 1961, he was "released in ruins".Reynolds accessed Hemingway's records at the Mayo which indicate the combination of medications may have created a depressive state, for which he was treated.
Three months later in April 1961, back in Ketchum, one morning in the kitchen Mary "found Hemingway holding a shotgun". She called Saviers who sedated him and admitted him to the Sun Valley hospital; from there he was returned to the Mayo Clinic for more electro shock treatments. He was released in late June and arrived home in Ketchum on June 30. Two days later, in the early morning hours of July 2, 1961, Hemingway "quite deliberately" shot himself with his favorite shotgun. He unlocked the basement storeroom where his guns were kept, went upstairs to the front entrance foyer of their Ketchum home, and "pushed two shells into the twelve-gauge Boss shotgun ...put the end of the barrel into his mouth, pulled the trigger and blew out his brains". Mary called the Sun Valley Hospital, and a doctor quickly arrived at the house. Despite his finding that Hemingway "had died of a self-inflicted wound to the head", the story told to the press was that the death had been "accidental".
During his final years, Hemingway's behavior was similar to his father's before he himself committed suicide; his father may have had the genetic disease hemochromatosis, in which the inability to metabolize iron culminates in mental and physical deterioration. Medical records made available in 1991 confirm that Hemingway's hemochromatosis had been diagnosed in early 1961. His sister Ursula and his brother Leicester also committed suicide. Added to Hemingway's physical ailments was the additional problem that he had been a heavy drinker for most of his life.
Hemingway's family and friends flew to Ketchum for the funeral which was officiated by the local Catholic priest, who believed the death accidental. Of the funeral (during which an altar boy fainted at the head of the casket), Hemingway's brother Leicester wrote: "It seemed to me Ernest would have approved of it all."
In a press interview five years later, Mary Hemingway admitted that her husband had committed suicide.
The New York Times wrote in 1926 of Hemingway's first novel, "No amount of analysis can convey the quality of The Sun Also Rises. It is a truly gripping story, told in a lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame." The Sun Also Rises is written in the spare, tight prose that made Hemingway famous, and, according to James Nagel, "changed the nature of American writing." In 1954, when Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, it was for "his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style." Paul Smith writes that Hemingway's first stories, collected as In Our Time, showed he was still experimenting with his writing style. He avoided complicated syntax. About 70 percent of the sentences are simple sentences—a childlike syntax withoutsubordination.
Henry Louis Gates believes Hemingway's style was fundamentally shaped "in reaction to [his] experience of world war". After World War I, he and other modernists "lost faith in the central institutions of Western civilization" by reacting against the elaborate style of 19th century writers and by creating a style "in which meaning is established through dialogue, through action, and silences—a fiction in which nothing crucial—or at least very little—is stated explicitly."
Developing this connection between Hemingway and other modernist writers, Irene Gammel believes his style was carefully cultivated and honed with an eye toward the avant-garde of the era. Hungry for "vanguard experimentation" and rebelling against Ford Madox Ford's "staid modernism", Hemingway published the work of Gertrude Stein and Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven in The Transatlantic Review. As Gammel notes, Hemingway was "introduced to the Baroness's experimental style during a time when he was actively trimming the verbal 'fat' off his own style, as well as flexing his writer's muscles in assaulting conventional taste."
Because he began as a writer of short stories, Baker believes Hemingway learned to "get the most from the least, how to prune language, how to multiply intensities and how to tell nothing but the truth in a way that allowed for telling more than the truth." Hemingway called his style the iceberg theory: the facts float above water; the supporting structure and symbolism operate out of sight. The concept of the iceberg theory is sometimes referred to as the "theory of omission". Hemingway believed the writer could describe one thing (such as Nick Adams fishing in "The Big Two-Hearted River") though an entirely different thing occurs below the surface (Nick Adams concentrating on fishing to the extent that he does not have to think about anything else).
Jackson Benson believes Hemingway used autobiographical details as framing devices about life in general—not only about his life. For example, Benson postulates that Hemingway used his experiences and drew them out with "what if" scenarios: "what if I were wounded in such a way that I could not sleep at night? What if I were wounded and made crazy, what would happen if I were sent back to the front?" Writing in "The Art of the Short Story", Hemingway explains: "A few things I have found to be true. If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened. If you leave or skip something because you do not know it, the story will be worthless. The test of any story is how very good the stuff that you, not your editors, omit."
The simplicity of the prose is deceptive. Zoe Trodd believes Hemingway crafted skeletal sentences in response to Henry James's observation that World War I had "used up words". Hemingway offers a "multi-focal" photographic reality. His iceberg theory of omission is the foundation on which he builds. The syntax, which lacks subordinating conjunctions, creates static sentences. The photographic "snapshot" style creates acollage of images. Many types of internal punctuation (colons, semicolons, dashes, parentheses) are omitted in favor of short declarative sentences. The sentences build on each other, as events build to create a sense of the whole. Multiple strands exist in one story; an "embedded text" bridges to a different angle. He also uses other cinematic techniques of "cutting" quickly from one scene to the next; or of "splicing" a scene into another. Intentional omissions allow the reader to fill the gap, as though responding to instructions from the author, and create three-dimensional prose.
In his literature, and in his personal writing, Hemingway habitually used the word "and" in place of commas. This use of polysyndeton may serve to convey immediacy. Hemingway's polysyndetonic sentence—or in later works his use of subordinate clauses—uses conjunctions to juxtapose startling visions and images; Jackson Benson compares them to haikus. Many of Hemingway's followers misinterpreted his lead and frowned upon all expression of emotion; Saul Bellow satirized this style as "Do you have emotions? Strangle them." However, Hemingway's intent was not to eliminate emotion, but to portray it more scientifically. Hemingway thought it would be easy, and pointless, to describe emotions; he sculpted collages of images in order to grasp "the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or in ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always". This use of an image as an objective correlative is characteristic of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Proust.Hemingway's letters refer to Proust's Remembrance of Things Past several times over the years, and indicate he read the book at least twice.