Chapter 11: Friendship

There was Loeb, looking as he had looked in the 1920s when they were still friends, playing tennis, traveling. Loeb had worked hard to get him published by Boni and Liveright.

“Mr. Loeb, would you sketch your background for the court?”

Didactically, unconsciously looking down his nose a little, the way he did in Paris: “I was born in 1891, so I was eight years older than Ernest. My father was an investment banker, a partner in Kuhn, Loeb and Co. My mother was a Guggenheim, so you might say that I had all the advantages – other than being Jewish, perhaps. After I graduated from Princeton, I worked on a ranch, then on a railroad, and then finally as a purchaser for a smelting and refining company. When the war came, I enlisted, but the army put me in a desk job in New York because of my eyesight. So, although I got into the army and Ernest didn’t, he got overseas and saw action and I didn’t. Ironic.”

“And after you were discharged, Mr. Loeb?”

“For a while I was co-owner of a bookstore in New York, and then in 1921 I went to live in Rome, and founded Broom to be an international literary and art magazine. After a while, I resigned to do my own writing. I moved to Paris. I met Hemingway in 1924, at Ford’s, at a tea party, of all things.”

“And after you met, you saw a good deal of each other? You played tennis, you went to the fights, you and your lover shared meals with Hadley and him?”

“That’s right.” Peering shortsightedly at the prosecutor, though surely that was only habit: “I wasn’t one of those phonies who spent their time in Paris cafes talking about what they were going to do. I worked, even though I had money and didn’t need to, and Ernest knew it and respected it.”

“After your own novel Doodab was accepted for publication by the New York firm of Boni and Liveright, you pushed them to accept Hemingway’s manuscript of In Our Time.”

“Yes, that’s right. I thought it would be fun for us to have the same publisher and maybe come out in the same season’s list. As they did.” He shrugged. “I didn’t take into account Ernest’s incredibly competitive nature.”

“In October 1924, you took the defendant to meet Boni and Liveright’s European scout, Leon Fleischman. Please tell the court what happened”

Loeb looked uncomfortable. “Fleishman acted like a fool. Here is Ernest, your typical young artist scraping by on very little money. And here is Fleishman, with his expensive clothes, in his expensive suite, laying out drinks and expensive snacks, offering to recommend his manuscript to Boni and Liveright without even looking at it!”

“That was bad? Why wasn’t it good? Why didn’t the defendant see that as a breakthrough?”

“Because even as a breakthrough, it was an insult. It as much as said that Fleishman could get him published sight unseen, merely because he knew him. That may have been true or it may not, but Ernest already suspected that in publishing it wasn’t what you wrote but who you knew, and here was Fleishman confirming it. Patronizing him.”

“How did he respond?”

“He controlled himself until we were out the door. But once we were on the street, he blew up, the way he would. He called Fleishman a goddamned kike.”

“Was he too angry to think about the fact that you were Jewish?”

“You have to understand, when Ernest got in a rage, he didn’t think about anything. He couldn’t think. Whenever the fit was on him, the people around him held their breath, waiting for it to pass, because he was liable to do anything and say anything, no matter how sorry he might be later. And I knew he wasn’t aiming it at me. Kitty thought it proved that he was anti-Semitic. I said that the only thing it proved was that he was mad at Fleishman for patronizing him, which I understood.”

“And it didn’t occur to you that perhaps it was anti-Semitism, Mr. Cohn?”

A tired smile. “Mr. Prosecutor, I had gone to Princeton: I knew all about anti-Semitism. If I was going to refuse to be friends with anybody with that anti-Semitic streak in them, I would have had to limit my friendships to Jews. I didn’t want to set up my own ghetto, I wanted to live in the world.”

“So, even though the defendant called people kikes, you considered him to be a friend?”

“He was a friend.”

“Then how do you explain what happened at Pamplona? And, even more to the point, how do you explain how you became Robert Cohn in The Sun Also Rises?”

Loeb shrugged. “Duff Twysden. Everybody knows the story.”

“We would like to hear the story as you experienced it.”

“Well, in the summer of 1925, Ernest started talking up a trip to Pamplona for the festival of San Fermin. That was something he liked doing, you know, organizing, pulling together a large group of friends, making good times happen. He and I were pretty good friends by that time. We had taken a couple of trips together, and they’d worked out. So this time it was going to be him and Hadley and me, and his friends Bill Smith and Don Stewart. And he invited Duff.”

“Brett Ashley, in his novel.”

“You have to remember, we were so young! I was only a couple of years past thirty, and Ernest was still in his early twenties. I didn’t realize it, but Ernest was lusting after Duff, maybe more than he realized. He knew she was going to be there with Pat Guthrie, sleeping with him. What he didn’t know is that she and I had just had a few secret days and nights together in a town on the French seacoast.” He sighed. “And what I didn’t know was that it hadn’t meant anything to her. Before we left for Pamplona, she sent me a letter warning me that she was coming with Pat, but I thought I could handle it, and maybe I could have managed it, if she hadn’t acted so different.”

“Different.”

“You would have thought she barely remembered who I was.”

“Surely she was in a difficult position.”

“Yes, with Pat there. I recognized that. But she didn’t have to be so –. Well anyway, I always thought Ernest was happily married. And, in fact, he was. But Duff had something tremendously attractive about her, something intoxicating. It wasn’t anything conscious; she just breathed it. I can’t explain it. And the week turned into a nightmare. I’m sure you know about Pamplona during San Fermin. If you don’t, just read The Sun Also Rises. Everybody else did! A solid week of eating and drinking and watching the bullfights and partying and more drinking, and maybe two hours of sleep at a time. The longer it went, the crazier it got. And the crazier it got, the crazier we got.

“The others seemed to be wild about bullfighting, and I wasn’t. I respected the courage of the toreros, and some of the passes, where you couldn’t understand how the bull had missed goring the bullfighter, were unbearably moving and beautiful. Heart-stopping, even. But I didn’t like seeing the horses gored, and for that matter, I didn’t like seeing the bulls killed. That set me apart from them, a little. And then there was the non-stop drinking. I had a reasonable capacity, but I couldn’t keep up, and in their eyes it made me less of a man. And of course the hardest thing was watching Duff flirting with Pat Guthrie, and with Ernest and even with Don and Bill, though that was innocent enough. And all this time she was ignoring me. And Guthrie kept riding me, and then it seemed like all the men were riding me, and Ernest more than any of them. And then Guthrie and Ernest started saying, `Why don’t you go away?’ Maybe I should have. But when I asked Duff if she wanted me to go, she said no, and I hated to leave her with Guthrie. And, after all, it was my vacation too. I had paid my share of the expenses. And I kept thinking, these are my friends. Ernest and Hadley, anyway. This is going to change.”

“And did it?”

A sigh. “Not really.”

“And then he wrote a novel casting you as the villain of the piece.”

“I don’t actually think that Robert Cohn comes across as the villain, you know.”

“In any case, is it your opinion that the defendant secretly hated you, as Jake Barnes said he came to hate Robert Cohn?”

Loeb shook his head. “I would have known. Anybody would have known. Ernest was a good hater, but he was not a good dissimulator. When he hated somebody, everybody around him knew it, whether they wanted to or not.”

“Then how do you account for the unfavorable, unmistakable, portrait?”

“Oh, I think Ernest was mad because he couldn’t have Duff, and he was mad at Hadley for being there so he couldn’t have Duff, and probably he was mad at himself for wanting Duff in the first place, and he was furious with me for having had Duff.”

“But he was not furious with Pat Guthrie. Because Guthrie was not Jewish?”

“Because Guthrie didn’t count. He wasn’t a writer, he wasn’t anything. He was a drunk, and a bad-check artist, not worth Ernest’s powder and shell. Guthrie was sleeping with Duff, well, that wasn’t news; they were supposed to be getting married, sooner or later. The fact that I had gotten her, though – well, Ernest never liked coming in second. That was too much for him, I think.”

“And do you think this explains the anti-Semitism of the books’ narrator, and that of the other characters?”

It was as if Loeb waved a hand in dismissal. “Oh well, that’s just the Jews serving their historical function. Not so much God’s chosen people as humanity’s chosen scapegoats. You will notice that the anti-Semitism didn’t hurt the book’s sales.”

“Mr. Loeb, I recognize that the subject may be painful, but this is important to our inquiry. Would you tell the court how that novel impacted your life?”

Robert Cohn all his life.

Loeb looked at him. “That’s right, Ernest. Robert Cohn all my life.”

“Are you of the opinion that the defendant intended this?”

“I am certain that he did not. No writer expects his first novel to be both a best-seller and a classic, with characters destined to live forever.”

“So that outcome was just a matter of luck?”

“Yes. For me, bad luck.” A flash of humor. “If I had to be skewered, I would have preferred it be in a novel that sold 100 copies and then was forgotten.”

“Mr. Loeb, did the defendant ever try to patch things up between you?”

“Once Ernest wrote you out of his life, he never let you back in. After Ernest left Paris in 1927, I never saw him again.”

Thank you, Mr. Loeb.” Turning to the defense attorney. “Cross-examine?”

“Mr. Loeb, I want to return to Pamplona. You said that the defendant never ceased razzing you. Did matters not come to a head at one point?”

“I think I know what you’re referring to, yes. Ernest pushed me too far, finally, and I challenged him to a fistfight, and we walked outside.”

“And what happened then?”

“I put my glasses in my coat, and I was looking around for a clean place to put my coat while we fought, but there wasn’t one. So Ernest offered to hold my coat, and we both started laughing, and we agreed we didn’t really want to fight, and we went back inside and forgot about it. That’s just the way he was, so mercurial. He’d blow up in an instant and sometimes cool down just as fast. Other times, he’d simmer for days. There was never any way of knowing.”

“Perhaps he had remembered that you were a trained boxer?”

“Really, I don’t think it crossed his mind.”

“So you don’t think it was his way of climbing back from a limb he had climbed too far out on.”

“No, it was just Ernest’s good angel coming back on the job, cleaning up after his bad angel. You saw it all the time, like the note of apology he left me when he and Hadley were leaving town.”

“Can you remember what the note said?”

“Of course. I still have it. I have saved it all my life.” It was as if the piece of paper materialized in his hand. Loeb read it as he had read things in life, with his head tilted a little upward, his eyes directed down, as if he were wearing bifocals. `Dear Harold, I was terribly tight and nasty to you last night and I don’t want you to go away with that nasty insulting business as the last thing of the fiestas. I wish I could wipe out all the meanness and I suppose I can’t but this is to let you know that I’m thoroughly ashamed of the way I acted and the stinking, unjust uncalled-for things I said. So long and good luck to you and I hope we’ll see you soon and well. Yours, Ernest.’”

Yes, he remembered writing that, and he remembered meaning it.

“Did you think the note was sincere?”

“Oh, I never had any doubt about it. That was Ernest, always breaking the china and then having to try to patch things up. Ernest wasn’t really one person at all, but at least two. One part of him still considered me a friend, and another part had turned on me. That apology was written by the part that still thought of me as a friend.”

“Thank you, Mr. Loeb, no further questions.”

“Just one question on redirect, your honor, if you please. Mr. Loeb, if your theory is correct, what happened to the defendant’s good angel afterward? Did the defendant never again remember that you were friends, in all the weeks he spent writing The Sun Also Rises and revising it? Did he never happen to remember, even while reading page proofs?”

“I don’t know. I think that once we were no longer in the same place, the part of himself that liked me went away. He re-wrote his memories.”

“Thank you, Mr. Loeb. Your honor, the prosecution calls Gerald Murphy.”

.3.

Gerald was looking as he looked in the twenties.

“Mr. Murphy, in 1921 you and your wife took your three young children to Europe, intending to raise them in France rather than America. Why was that?”

“Our families had disapproved of Sara and me marrying, and we wanted to get away from them. Also, I didn’t want to live my father’s life. I wanted art, not business all the time. We thought that maybe in Europe we could find a fuller life, a less restricted life. American life was all about making money, and getting ahead. Sara and I already had money; we already were ahead. We wanted to learn how to enjoy life, and we thought, who knows the art of living graciously better than the French?”

There he was, leaning forward, trying earnestly to explain. How familiar it was! Somehow the years had taken away how Gerald had really been. He’d rewritten him, somehow.

Looking over at him, Murphy nodded. “Yes, Ernest, you did. I was never the effete playboy you made me out to be, after the fact. And I was always your friend.”

“And so, Mr. Murphy, you moved to Paris, like so many postwar Americans.”

“Yes. This was before the bohemians and would-be artists found it.”

“Mr. Murphy, would you describe your life in France in the twenties for the court?”

His face reflecting a happy time, Murphy said: “First we made ourselves at home with the life of Paris, then we discovered the south of France in the summertime. We liked it well enough that we bought a place on the water at Cap d’Antibes. We called it Villa America.”

“In fact, you are credited with being the man who changed the Riviera from a fashionable winter destination to a summer playground as well. And you made Villa America into a meeting-place for your artistic friends.”

“Painters, writers, others, sure. Ernest, of course, and Scott Fitzgerald, but Picasso and Jean Cocteau and John dos Passos, Archie MacLeish, Dorothy Parker – a lot of them, and not just the ones who were famous. Creative people. This was what we had come to Europe to find. We loved it. We loved them.”

Yes, so much generosity, so thoughtfully concealed, so diffidently provided, as though it was more a pleasure for them to give than it was for the recipient to receive. The time they invited Hadley and Bumby to stay with them, for instance, when he was beginning to break up with her. He’d come to take all that goodwill for granted.

“So the young Murphys were similar to the young Hemingways, in certain respects.”

“In many respects. But of course, there was one difference. Scott and Ernest and the others had to earn their money, and I didn’t.”

“Was that an important difference?”

“I never quite understood why, but yes, it was.”

“That’s because you didn’t have the experience of being on the receiving end, Gerald.”

He looked at him. “Poor relation, you mean? Always the guest and never the host?”

“Yeah. That’s it.”

“How about being on the receiving end of so much instruction? There’s such a thing as being a poor relation that way, too. How many things did you ever let me teach you? And how different was my life from what you were doing, living on Hadley’s trust fund until you could make it on your own?”

That was true, and it hadn’t struck him before, oddly enough. Another readjustment.

“Mr. Murphy, over the years, you often hosted the defendant on the Riviera. When he and Hadley broke up, you let him live in your studio, silently deposited money in his bank account, and in general provided emotional support. Were you surprised, then, to see how unfavorably he characterized you, later in his life?”

A pause. “I was hurt, I admit. But, surprised? Well, Ernest had established a track record by that time.”

He winced, hearing that.

“By this you mean that his friends knew that he could turn on them at any time?”

Murphy frowned, thinking. “You want the whole truth, I gather, not any one truth. With Ernest, you’re going to keep coming back to `yes, but.’ Yes, he could turn on you, but if he didn’t, he could be the best friend you ever had.”

“Would it be fair to say, `he would be your friend as long as he felt he might need you someday?`”

“No it would not. Ask Ezra Pound. Ask Sylvia Beach. Ask all the unknown people he helped anonymously, just because he wanted to help them.”

“All right, Mr. Murphy, but you were as much a friend to the defendant as Ezra Pound was. So was Scott Fitzgerald. John dos Passos. So were a long list of others that he turned on. How do you account for the difference in how he treated different people?”

Hesitation. “I can’t account for it. It would be mere speculation.”

“Speculate for the court, then, if you please.”

“No. I’d rather not.”

“Mr. Murphy, you have stated that you were hurt by the defendant’s rejection after so much generosity and goodwill on your part, yet I have the impression that your own sense of affection toward him remains unimpaired. Why is that?”

“I can’t say. Emotions have their own rules and reasons, I suppose.”

“And you decline to speculate.”

“I decline to speculate, yes.”

“One last thing, then. When you first knew the defendant, he was relatively poor. After he married Pauline Pfeiffer, he began living on a different scale. And of course, after For Whom the Bell Tolls, he was rich and he lived rich. Looking at his lifetime, how would you say that his attitude toward money changed?”

Murphy shrugged. “It didn’t change, as far as I know. Ernest didn’t care about money, as long as he had enough to be able to buy what he wanted.”

The prosecutor seemed to smile. “Couldn’t that be said of anybody?”

“Oh no, not at all. Some people, it’s never enough, either because they’re still climbing, or because they’re terrified that the money will run out some day. Not Ernest, and not Hadley either. It was essentially the same attitude that Sara and I had, except that our income was ample and assured, and theirs wasn’t. But Ernest wasn’t like Scott, running himself deep into debt. He’d borrow when he needed to, like for that Miro painting, but what he borrowed, he repaid, because he never let himself get beyond his depth.”

“Defense?”

“Mr. Murphy, did you find that Ernest’s attitude toward people changed as he got older?”

“I no longer knew him as he got older, unfortunately.”

“No further questions, your honor.”

“Prosecution?”

“The prosecution calls Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway.”

 

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