Hemingway preserved

Thursday, 2 July, 2015

One of the happier news items of recent weeks was the report that the Boston-based Finca Vigia Foundation plans to ship nearly $900,000 worth of construction materials to Havana to build a state-of-the-art facility for preserving Ernest Hemingway’s books, letters and photos, which are stored in the home where he lived and worked intermittently in the 1940s and ’50s. These valuable items are disintegrating because of neglect and it is essential that they be saved for posterity.

On this day in 1961, Ernest Hemingway “quite deliberately” unlocked the door to the basement of his home in Ketchum, Idaho, went upstairs and, with the “double-barreled shotgun that he had used so often it might have been a friend”, shot himself. He left the world a legacy of writing that remains unmatched in its grace, clarity and humanity:

“Zelda was very beautiful and was tanned a lovely gold colour and her hair was a beautiful dark gold and she was very friendly. Her hawk’s eyes were clear and calm. I knew everything was all right and was going to turn out well in the end when she leaned forward and said to me, telling me her great secret, ‘Ernest, don’t you think Al Jolson is greater than Jesus?’

Nobody thought anything of it at the time. It was only Zelda’s secret that she shared with me, as a hawk might share something with a man. But hawks do not share. Scott did not write anything any more that was good until after he knew that she was insane.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

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