Saturday, October 17, 2015
F: 5:30 a.m. So, Papa, I think we have firmly in mind now that you were changed by your early experience of Spain but that it took a while for that change to manifest, just as it took a while for your near-death experience to manifest.
EH: Here is a way to look at it. We have described that American kid. Now imagine that kid – still a role-playing and self-dramatizing romantic even though he thought he was a hard-boiled realist – playing with the new elements he could feel stirring within him. Not only was he still the kid who had crossed the ocean again, he was also a kid of great imaginative powers who was you might say mimicking the new world he was experiencing within himself and without.
He was still casting about for a pre-defined role to play, so he tried them on, partly knowing what he was doing and mostly not, so that who he was became blurred to others and even to himself. People found it harder and harder to know who he really was.
F: Hadley didn’t.
EH: No, Hadley didn’t, and Sylvia Beach and a few others who loved me and had a particular insight. They might be fooled or misled or ignorant about certain pieces of me, but they knew my heart, and that never changed. Lincoln Steffens knew, for instance, even though he and I didn’t stay particularly close.
F: I think you are saying that – well, continue
EH: I need you to understand that I was many people and many of those many people were in turn trying on different roles, different attitudes. They had different values, different standards of morality, different opinions of others, and they all coexisted and contended and took turns driving. Naturally other people got confused. Naturally I would have been confused, if I didn’t have sort of a ringside seat, and if my own awareness hadn’t fluctuated with the changes of ground.
F: If people didn’t understand that, they probably wrote you off as a liar and a pretender.
EH: Sure and in that light they were right. It’s just that my range extended so far, they couldn’t follow me, so they decided that this or that aspect was the real Hemingway and the rest was imposture.
F: I keep thinking of that guy who wrote, much later, that you “pretended” to be a great outdoorsman but left a library of 7,000 books.
EH: Exactly. He could see the elements of self-dramatization but he couldn’t see the underlying reality, and it didn’t occur to him that all of it was my reality.
So, anyway, I was exposed to something in Spain, and at first I reacted to it, naturally from what I was. It didn’t change me immediately; at first it seemed to add to what I was, the way any new enthusiasm would.
F: Like six-day bicycle racing, say.
EH: Or anything. I threw myself into things, and for that moment they might out-balance the rest of my life. And at first that is what Spain was to me, a new enthusiasm.
But meanwhile I was making my way and learning my trade and meeting the people who would make up my world for a while until new ones replaced them.
F: New versions of you required different people.
EH: Required, and attracted, and the older ones either stretched to it or fell off. Naturally people saw this as opportunism on my part, because mostly people fell off.
Now, fast-forward to the summer of Brett and Jake and Robert Cohn. In other words, to the experience of Pamplona that bubbled up to the plot and characters that started to be a short story about a woman and became a novel about a maimed man and a maimed generation and, by contrast, a world still whole.
By the summer of 1925, you see, I was
F: I’m hung up here. Was it the summer of 1925? Or was it 1926?
EH: Either way, it doesn’t matter to what I’m giving you, except that it is evidence that I do or don’t exist, that you are or aren’t making all this up. Don’t you ever get tired of entertaining that doubt?
F: I get tired of it. But I can’t see arbitrarily dismissing it either.
EH: Look it up, then.
F: Okay. According to The Hemingway Log, 1925.
EH: Okay if I proceed?
F: Sorry. Sure.
EH: I was able to write that novel, or let it write me, because the initial shocks had had time to work their way into my system. Spain wasn’t brand-new, bullfighting wasn’t, the delirium of San Fermin wasn’t. I had enough familiarity with it all to be able to see it. Yet this time I had brought the clashes and tensions of my life in Paris with me. That is the tension that suddenly boiled up creatively after the fiesta was over and everybody but Hadley and me had gone home.
Robert Cohn – Harold Loeb. I liked Harold, we had done things together and he wasn’t a phony though we was different. When I cooked off at him I was thoroughly ashamed of myself the next day and I wrote telling him so. But that implicit rivalry for Brett [Duff Cooper] was important. I was with Hadley but I was longing to be with the other woman, and so it fueled resentment and jealousy that had no external cause that I could admit, and therefore got redirected inappropriately. Yet it was important. And the same with the others in the situation. I was there as I experienced myself in Spain but I was there as I experienced myself in Paris, and by reflection, in Chicago – and the tension of coexistence of opposites was unbearable and yet it turned productive.
F: Not only – I take it – in the form of the novel, but in your life.
EH: Yes. I couldn’t ever quite admit that I lusted after Duff – Lady Brett – and I wasn’t physically incapable like Jake, and my relations with Harold were richer and deeper than Jake’s with Robert – and Jake’s wife does not exist and so there is no place nor no need for Hadley anywhere there. So all the emotional elements were there to provide a plot, but the underlying story of a clash of cultures and of the clash of one man’s awareness of the clash of cultures had to ride the plot.
F: You mean, the plot allowed you to portray it.
EH: That’s right. The plot is the action that carries you along the terrain, but the scenery itself is, in a way, the real story, a story that cannot be told but only pointed toward.
And even though we haven’t gone an hour, this is a good place to stop.
F: All right. Why?
EH: Because where you pause is as important as what you say. That’s why novels have chapters and that is why lives have culminating episodes. And that’s all I’m going to say.
F: Well, thanks as always.
Saturday, October 17, 2015