Chapter 22: Ground War

“You had contracted to write about the RAF, and you did make some flights with them. Did you enjoy the experience?”

“Very much. Those were great boys, young like the way I was in 1918. Also, for some reason my headache would go away as long as we were in the air, and that was a relief. And being in the air gave me an unfamiliar perspective, plus something could happen at any moment.”

“But you didn’t spend much time in the air.”

“No, writing up the RAF was just me paying for my ride over. Collier’s was paying me to be at the front lines. On D-Day I went across the channel on a troop transport and transferred to a landing ship and went in with the seventh wave, at 7 a.m., but they brought me out again on the same ship. That was not the day for non-essential personnel to be on the ground.”

“When it came time for you to decide what unit to attach yourself to, you considered George Patton’s armored divisions.”

“I did, but with armor, everything was dust, and my throat couldn’t take it. I found my home in the infantry, with Buck Lanham’s regiment.”

“Your honor, I should like to call Gen. Charles T. Lanham and question him and the defendant together.”

“Without objection, proceed.”


And there was Buck, a general now, but in the colonel’s uniform he had been wearing during that long fall and winter. “It’s so good to see you looking like this, Ernest, very good to know you’re all right. Any chance I will remember this, back in the body?

The judge: “I’m afraid not, Colonel. I’m sorry.”

“Well, I wish I could.” He smiled. “So. Ernest, you were quite a handsome young man, weren’t you? Or are you embellishing?”

“Huh? Oh, you mean, am I improving this body? No, this is what I looked like when I was in my thirties. Or actually, I guess it’s what I would have looked like if I hadn’t gotten blown up in Italy.”

A dry chuckle. “Just like life, then. Always telling the truth, but always improving on the facts.”

He laughed. “I suppose so.”

“Col. Lanham, would you tell the court who and what you were in 1944?”

“I was career army, out of West Point, and in 1944 I was in command of the 22nd regiment, 4th infantry, under Tubby Barton.”

He grinned at him. “Just that, huh? Mr. Prosecutor, you should know, among other things, his unit was the first to break through the Siegfried Line, he survived Hurtgen Forest, and he led a breakout in the Battle of the Bulge. He was also my model for Colonel Cantwell, and he was the man I described, in print, as the finest and bravest and most intelligent military commander I have known.”

“Yes, well, maybe you didn’t know all that many military commanders. But thanks.”

“Hurtgen Forest won you the Distinguished Service Cross.”

“A lot of brave men won that for me,” Lanham said softly. “A lot of men who died there.”

“Col. Lanham, many people have said the defendant was just playing soldier, that he didn’t really know anything about warfare. Would you please give this court your impression of the defendant’s military knowledge?”

“I had heard of Hemingway the writer, naturally, so I watched him pretty close, to see what he really was. I saw right away that he could read a map, and visualize terrain, and he understood the briefing I gave him. He asked good questions, quietly and appropriately. As time went on, it became clear that he could size up a tactical situation, and he knew our weapons and the enemy’s weapons as well as any of us.”

“Would you describe the man as you observed him?”

“He was as brave a man as I ever saw, and I saw a lot of brave men. He was a born leader, and I was glad to have him there. He seemed to be absolutely fearless, sometimes in situations where a little fear would have been a good idea.” He smiled a tight reminiscent smile. “One night a group of us were in a house eating supper, and they started shelling. A shell came through one wall and went out the opposite wall. Everybody hit the deck, but I looked up and there he was, still sitting at the table, picking splinters out of his food, and he point-blank refused to take cover or even to put on his helmet. He said it can’t kill you unless it has your number on it, some nonsense like that.” A pause. “He also had this spooky ability to know when people were going to die sometimes. One time, he had been with me while I was talking to one of my officers, and as we were walking away I said I was going to have to relieve him, but Ernest said I wouldn’t have to, because he was going to get killed. And he got killed minutes later. When I asked Ernest how he had known, he said the man had smelled of death. And that wasn’t the only time that happened.”

“Colonel, why do you think the defendant’s reputation came to differ so widely from the man you observed at close hand?”

“Simple. He was always shooting himself in the ass with his crazy stories, like how he killed hundreds of Germans, or how he knew the whole German order of battle, or how he’d made his living as a professional prize-fighter. He could really pull you into his stories, and people started not believing anything he said. It’s too bad.”

“I was just being a story-teller, Buck. That’s what I was.”

“Colonel, would you have wanted him as an officer?”

“I’d have been glad to have had him.”


“Mr. Hemingway, please tell this court what happened in August, 1944, on the army’s road to Paris. Bear in mind, the intent is not to point a finger or to ask for a mea culpa, but to assist you to accurately assess your own motivations, judgments, and actions.”

Slowly, choosing his words: “That big storm in July that wrecked our mulberry harbors meant that we got fewer supplies and reinforcements than was planned. And hedgerow fighting was murder; it was perfect defensive terrain, and the Germans knew how to use it. But once we broke out into open country at the end of July, suddenly we had all the advantages. We had command of the air, which is everything. We had informants and guides everywhere, and they had nobody they could trust. From the breakout to the German border, the krauts were the fox and we were the hounds.”

“It became a chase.”

“It became a chase. But you can chase well or you can chase badly, and the difference determines how many of your boys you get killed.”

“And you viewed this as your opportunity to participate, rather than remaining on the sidelines.”

“Listen, you say you want my own judgment, here it is. I knew France and Frenchmen and Paris and the country around Paris. Frenchmen trusted me, because they knew me by name and reputation. All the French partisans knew which side I had been on. And I had the skills. I could read terrain as well as any officer, and the Crook Factory had given me recent experience in running a group of intelligence agents and evaluating their reports. In mid-August, while I was spending the night at Mont St. Michel, I met an OSS officer and told him what I could do, and I wound up acting as an unofficial liaison officer between the army and the Free French underground. I sent men here and there and they reported to me on where the Germans were setting mines, and which roads they were covering and which ones were open, and I told the army what I learned, as fast as I could put it together. I worked with the OSS and with Army intelligence both, and specifically I helped my old friend David Bruce from the OSS to defend Rambouillet, and I helped him interrogate prisoners. And since you know I can’t lie here, you tell me. Was I posing? Was I pretending? Or was I doing what I could?”

“Mr. Hemingway, you say the OSS officer sanctioned your activities?”

“That’s right.”

“Even though they contravened the Geneva Convention?”

A look of disgust. “This was warfare. Real bullets, and real soldiers getting killed. The OSS was like the army, they wanted to get the job done. If they found a way to save American lives and shorten the war, would you have told them they shouldn’t take it?”

“But you admit that what you did was illegal.”

“It also saved lives. And we could have saved more, if they’d used the information I gathered to move into Paris sooner. The extra five days it took to throw the Germans out of Paris cost the lives of 1,500 Free French irregulars and French civilians. None of that was necessary.”

“But the Geneva Convention forbids accredited war correspondents from engaging in combat operations. After some of your fellow correspondents filed a formal complaint about your activities in August, the army convened a formal inquiry, and in October you testified under oath that you had done nothing to violate your status as a war correspondent. You explained away the sworn testimony of your fellow correspondents that you had carried arms, and had kept a huge stash of arms in your hotel room, and had participated in military operations as the de facto chief of a band of French irregulars. Speaking to the court in an environment which makes a lie an impossibility, I put it to you directly. Did you lie to that military court?”

“I did.”

“You did engage in those activities forbidden to war correspondents under the Geneva Convention?”

“I did.”

“Knowing that you were thereby jeopardizing the protection that convention offered to your fellow correspondents?”

“I don’t know how much protection it ever offered them, and I don’t think I actually jeopardized anybody. But I couldn’t tell that court what I had done, and the court didn’t want me to. It was something that needed doing, and the best thing would have been to pass over it in silence. Instead, I had to squirm around like a worm on a hook, flat-out lying sometimes. Everybody in the room knew I was lying and wanted me to lie. I was covering for a lot of people, including Bruce and the OSS.”

“So it was merely theater?”

“The Army knew I had done a good job, but it had to pretend to investigate. And I think the worst of it was that I had to lie about something I was proud of. If I had been able to tell the truth, people might have understood why I had the respect of men like Buck. Anyway, to hell with it. I was exonerated.”

“It hurt.”

“Of course it hurt.”

“Very well, let us examine the day the allied armies liberated Paris. You remember that day well, I would imagine. I believe that day is sometimes known as the day that Hemingway liberated the Ritz.”

A grin. “Yeah.”

“You reached the city with the liberating armies, and found a city hysterical with joy.”

“People in the streets everywhere. People wild, just wild. They had had four years of occupation, and they were blowing it all out of their systems as best they could. Cheering, singing, offering us anything they had to drink, surrounding our vehicles so we could hardly move. Never got kissed so much in my life.”

“Sounds like wonderful material for Collier’s.”

“It would have been, but it was completely indescribable. We all knew we’d never see anything like it.”

“So what did you do?”

“Well one thing, we decided to get inside. Everybody with a weapon was shooting it off in the air, and all those rounds had to come down someplace. Would have been a hell of a thing to survive the Germans and get shot accidentally by somebody in another street, celebrating. So we took off – me and Bruce and Red Pelkey.”

“Pelkey being Private Archie Pelkey, your driver?”

“That’s right. We got onto the Champs Elysees – we were the only car on it – and we liberated the Travelers Club. We were the first ones to get that far, so they opened a bottle and toasted us in champagne, and then we headed out for the Ritz, which was totally empty except for Ausiello, the manager. Since we were the first ones there, we got rooms – and I had them set up fifty martini cocktails for the boys and me.”

“There was a formal surrender ceremony, but you did not cover it.”

“No need. Collier’s hired me as a feature writer, not a news reporter. Plenty of other people would get the story, and the Ritz was more comfortable.”

“You were not concerned that you were missing a bit of history?”

“Nope. That’s the kind of thing Martha wouldn’t dream of missing and I wouldn’t dream of covering.”

“And the victory parade through the city?”

“Not that either. Mary watched it, I found out later. No, I stayed at the hotel, and I ate and drank with whatever friends came by, and I was plenty happy to relax after what we’d just been through. When I went out, it was to revisit places I knew and loved. What did I care about parades and ceremonies? But, if I had known that the reason Paris was still standing was because von Choltitz had defied Hitler’s orders to destroy it, I would have tried to shake his hand for saving the city I loved best in the world.”


“In context of the liberation of Paris, your honor, the defense would like to call a witness.”

“Without objection, you may proceed.”

“The defense recalls Sylvia Beach.”


Sylvia looked as she looked that day in 1944, a little underweight, a little drawn.

“May I do the questioning this time?”

“It’s irregular, but go ahead, and we’ll see.”

“Sylvia, would you tell the court where you were in August, 1944, when the Germans were driven out of Paris?”

“In 1944, Adrienne and I were living for the day when our lives would resume. I had had to close my shop and hide the books when the Germans came in.”

“Would you tell the court about the last time we met?”

Her eyes widened. “But of course! It is the very last anecdote I tell in Shakespeare and Company! As you know, Adrienne and I were in Paris for the whole time of the occupation, and it was very hard. At the end, there were still German snipers on the roofs of our street, and we were very tired of it all, and we were trying just to stay alive long enough to see the end. And one day I am in my apartment and I look down and there are several American jeeps, and I hear a voice calling my name. `Sylvia! Sylvia!,` and of course everyone else starts calling `Sylvia,’ and Adrienne says, `It’s Hemingway,’ and I went running downstairs and you were running upstairs and we crashed together and you picked me up and whirled me around and kissed me, and all the people were cheering.”

“Not the Germans, probably.”

“No, not the Germans. You remember? You asked me if Adrienne had collaborated, and when I said she had not, you knew we were in no danger from the resistance, and you asked if there was anything you could do for me, and I asked you to get rid of the German snipers. You got your men out of the jeeps and led them on to the roofs, and that was the last time we heard guns fire on our street. You came down from the roof bloody and dirty, but no worse when you arrived.”

“Yes, and Adrienne offered me a glass of wine and her next-to-last bar of soap.”

“Then you said you were off to liberate the wine cellar at the Ritz, and that was the last time we saw you. I heard that as a war correspondent you should not have been doing those things, but I assure you, you had no critics on the rue de l’Odeon that day.”

“Thank you Sylvia. You were a lovely person, and I loved knowing you.”

“Why, Hemingway, I thought you were prejudiced against lesbians!” They laughed again, and he felt like he had tears in his eyes. Good times. “Was that okay, Mr. Defense Attorney?”

“Yes, well done. No further questions, your honor.”



“Very well, Mr. Hemingway, you were there on the day the city you loved was freed. You ate, drank and were merry. Then what?”

“I gave myself a few days off, and hung around with the boys , and then a couple of days later, on the first of September, Buck sent me a message: `Go hang yourself, brave Hemingstein. We have fought at Landrecies and you were not there.’ Taking off from Henry V, you know. So I went off to join the division up near the Belgian border. But by the time I got there, the task force was disbanding, and there wasn’t much to see, so I went back to Paris for a short sweet reunion with Mary.”

“And then?”

“And then on the 7th, Red and I were able to drive east along with two cars and another jeep and a motorcycle; much safer that way. By the time we got back to the regiment, it was already well inside Belgium, chasing Germans and defending against their counter-attacks. This kept up for another week and then we topped a hill and there was Germany ahead.”

“Were you off scouting again?”

“No, I was staying with the unit. My action with the irregulars around Paris was a one-time operation, taking advantage of the fact that I knew the area and could talk to the locals. None of that applied in Belgium, nor when we crossed over into Germany, which we did on the 12th.” A pause. “And I suppose that was the happiest day, and evening, and night of the war.”

“Because the army had reached German soil?”

“No. Because of what followed, how bad it was.”

Another pause, a long one.

“Mr. Hemingway?”

“You know, we go along rummaging through these old memories, and even the things I’m not proud of, the things I bitterly regret, the things that still sting, it hasn’t been as bad as I would have thought. But –.”

Another pause.

“When Buck’s combat team seized the high ground just beyond a village and we halted for the night, I decided to organize a feast. I took over a farmhouse, and got one of the German women to cooking some chickens I shot, and after the nightly staff conference, we ate chicken and peas and carrots and onions and salad and some preserved fruit for dessert. Naturally, we drank everything in sight. Everybody was laughing and drinking and telling stories, and since I was the one who had organized the feast, it was like they were my guests. We were happy that night.”

“And what happened next?”

“What happened next is that the division attacked Hitler’s West wall defenses. They cracked it after heavy casualties, but that first assault was nothing next to what was ahead.” Another pause. “It’s funny, all those years, I thought the feelings hadn’t dulled any, but I guess they must have. I see I hadn’t remembered how it felt fresh, not really.”

“Without a body to be numbed or diverted, you have no way to dull feelings, Mr. Hemingway. That’s one of the reasons for this procedure, to help you deal with them.”

“But I’m as dead now as those boys that got killed. Wouldn’t you think I’d feel differently about them? About the whole fuck-up that put them in the ground?”

“Why should you feel different, just because you are dead? You knew then that sooner or later everybody dies. What’s different now?”

“I don’t know, it just seems like it ought to feel different.”

“Please proceed.”

“You had to know what we were up against. The Germans had had years to plan their defenses, and Germans are always competent, always thorough. The 50 square miles of hill country that 4th was supposed to clear had been made into a fortress. Mines, mortars, machine guns, heavy artillery, you name it, all sighted and interlocked. Plus the trees and the underbrush were so thick. we couldn’t see, and the upper branches of the trees would shatter incoming shells, sending fragments flying, what we called tree bursts. The weather was lousy, first cold rain, then sleet. The ground was mud. You couldn’t get dry.”

Yet another pause.

“I’ll just give you the numbers. Between November 16 and December 3 Buck’s regiment lost 12 officers and 126 men killed and nearly 1,900 wounded in battle, and 180 men missing, as well as 500 non-battle casualties. That’s an 87% casualty rate, in 13 days. Replacements were getting killed before they even got to the front. The few of us that made it across wondered why we were spared when nearly nine out of ten of us weren’t. I wrote Mary a poem that said `Those of us who know walk very slowly, and we look at one another with infinite love and compassion.’ That’s what it came down to. Endurance, and love, and compassion.”

The prosecutor gave him a moment, then said, “It gave you nightmares.”

“Yes it did, as a matter of fact. For years. I thought, if I get out of this alive, I’m going to try to write it. But I couldn’t, really.”

“You needn’t fear going back into those memories, Mr. Hemingway. As I said earlier, the point is to free you from the need to forget. Please tell the court what you experienced.”

“I’m not going to talk about how I reacted to combat. You want to know, ask Buck, or any of the officers or men.”

“Very well, let’s do that.”


“Colonel, the defendant has declined to talk about his own participation in the Hurtgen Forest, and asked that you speak for his conduct.”

“I can do that. What do you want to know?”

“You have already testified that he was knowledgeable and competent. My questions now are somewhat less tangible. You said he was brave, and occasionally foolhardy. Would you say he had a death-wish?”

Weighing it: “He was a complicated man, variable.”

“Are you saying he was `mad north northwest’?”

“He wasn’t mad, at all. He was as sane as any of us”

I did not mean that literally, I was quoting Shakespeare –“

Hamlet, I know, but your question can’t be answered yes or no. Ernest was sane, but it seemed to me that he was caught between a death-wish and an equally powerful fear of death, and sometimes one would gain the upper hand and sometimes the other. Three forces, I suppose, because he told me that he had regained the old sense of invulnerability that he had lost in Italy in 1918.”

“It’s true. In September, I had been having premonitions that I was going to be killed, but suddenly I knew I was going to be all right.”

“Colonel, here, where you needn’t fear legal consequences, I ask you if his actions were those of a correspondent or a soldier.”

“We were in a desperate situation, Mr. Prosecutor, and every man was needed. We couldn’t afford to be too particular about the rules.”

“Even in the face of the inquiry that had investigated just such charges, a few weeks before?”

“I always thought those correspondents filed those charges more because Ernest annoyed them and made them jealous than because they really thought what he did was wrong. But that kind of correspondent wasn’t up in the lines among us.”

“But still, according to the letter of the law—“

“I know, and I’m not saying the Geneva Convention was a bad thing. It was better for all concerned that it be followed, and usually it was. But sometimes, it wasn’t practical. Correspondent status was not going to protect you from a shell burst, or mortar fire, or machine gun fire. Somebody 100 yards away from you is going to see a target, not a protected observer. And if you’re fighting off a counter-attack, do you think the attackers are going to be making fine distinctions? You can’t be safe unless you stay way behind the lines and live off the official handouts. And when the guys under fire are your friends, is that the right time to worry about the Geneva Convention?”

“Colonel, that brings me to perhaps the central question here. What effect on him do you think it had? Not just Hurtgen Forest, but the war?”

Long thought. “I suppose you want a simple answer, but the answer is as complicated as he was, and he was the most complicated man I ever met. He had always had this deep longing to emulate his grandfather, who had fought in the Civil War. Maybe in France in 1944 he finally got his chance to be a soldier. Perhaps it reassured him of his bravery, too. You mightn’t think it – and he never would have admitted it – but he had his doubts about himself.”

“You’re only as good as your last fight, Buck.”

“Right, see, that’s what I mean. And Ernest was always a student. The war in Europe gave him first-hand experience of modern infantry warfare, and he enjoyed learning and storing it up for possible use in a book. And, clearly, he enjoyed living a life with the emotional complications stripped away. It let him run away from his marital problems, for one thing. A lot of men find that.”

A hesitation. “But I think the most profound effect was that he came out of it with combat fatigue. Not that any of us could have come out of Hurtgen Forest without it, but of course he would be more prone to it than most. After the war, I heard about his depressions, and I was witness to a couple of his sudden irrational rages – sorry, Ernest, but you know it’s the truth. Those are common symptoms of combat fatigue.”

“You say `more susceptible than most.’ Why do you say that, colonel?”

“Combat fatigue is more than being tired. It comes from seeing too many boys die, too many terrible wounds, too many sights that soldiers see and never talk about. It’s the result of having experienced too much, for too long, with nothing you can do to forget, and no way to deal with it but to stuff it away as best you can. The most sensitive ones suffer the worst, especially if they tell themselves they’re tough and they can take it. I don’t think Ernest ever got over it, not really.”

“Col. Lanham, you accepted the defendant as a fellow soldier.”

“De facto. Quietly. But yes, absolutely.”

“And as a man?”

“As a man, he was a Godsend. In September, when our attack stalled out for lack of supplies, and division left my regiment practically unprotected for two weeks, he and I sweated it out together. And in November, on the night before Hurtgen Forest, he and I sat up until 3 a.m., telling each other our life’s stories. Only somebody who had been in my position would know what it meant to have somebody like him to talk to. We became brothers, those nights, no matter what happened afterwards.”


“As you no doubt know, Ernest was capable of lashing out against his friends, as much as anyone else. His behavior after the war could be erratic. Such incidents affect friendships, even though you don’t want them to. I knew what he had been through. I’d been there myself. I still valued him as a friend, but I learned to be a little careful, I taught myself to expect a little less.”

“Thank you colonel. Mr. Hemingway, we are finished with the war, except for tying up loose ends.”



“I note that you returned to the front in December, despite fever and sweating that had put you in the infirmary, to see the culmination of the Battle of the Bulge.”

“Yeah, but that was the last combat action I saw. When it was clear that the Krauts were whipped, I went back to Paris and started thinking about how to get home.”

“You didn’t want to observe the battle for Germany.”

“No. I was glad to be able to leave without having to see any more kids get killed. On March 6th, I was in the air, hitching a ride home with General Anderson.”

“Did you see Miss Gellhorn before you left?”

“Yeah, in her hotel room for maybe five minutes. She was in bed with the flu. I told her I’d give her a divorce, and I beat it, and that’s the last time we ever saw each other.”

“As you look back, do you regret going to France in 1944?’

He waited for his feelings and thoughts to clarify, waited for the words to come.

“That is a harder question than maybe you know. I value my experiences in France, particularly with Buck Lanham’s outfit, but maybe I paid too high a price.”

“If you had to sum up your experience in the European theater, what would you say?”

“I put it into Across The River And Into The Trees. War can be exciting, but it isn’t glamorous. It had to be done, and we did it, but that didn’t blind us to how dirty it was. I wrote a short story I never got published, that I call `Black Ass at the Crossroads,’ that shows how the men hated what we were doing. It marked you, you couldn’t help being marked by it, and you were glad to be done with it. As soon as you were able to, you flew home to pick up the pieces of your life.”


Chapter 21: War at Sea

“Mr. Hemingway, after you returned from China and reported, you went on to Cuba instead of remaining in the States. Why?”

“Because if I didn’t spend six months of the year outside the US, taxes were going to eat me alive. I had been gone three months on the China trip, but now I had to stay in Cuba at least until September.” He sighed. “That was a hard year. I would have gotten the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but Nicholas Murray Butler overruled the unanimous decision of the board, so they didn’t give it out at all. I made nearly $140,000 that year, the first year I’d ever made any real money, and they took $90,000 of it in taxes! Sinclair Lewis gave an impromptu speech about me and Scribner’s didn’t send a stenographer to take it down, even though I had asked them to and told them I’d pay for it, so now I’d never know what he said. And Mr. Josie died in a Havana hospital after a minor operation, and he had been like my big brother. Hard year, 1941. Brutal. About the only good thing that happened that fall was Marty’s book of short stories, The Heart of Another. Otherwise, not much to cheer about. And then Pearl Harbor.”

“Although you were in Cuba, you thought up a way to help the war effort.”

“You mean the Crook Factory? No, that was more Spruill Braden’s idea.”

“Mr. Braden, the American Ambassador to Cuba, was a friend of yours.”

“He was. He was an ambassador, but he wasn’t just some political stuffed shirt. He was a literate man, an author. He had done things in the real world. He knew that Havana was full of Franco Spaniards and Nazi sympathizers. We didn’t have any counter-intelligence on the ground, and Braden knew I knew all kinds of people: celebrities, sportsmen, diplomats, government functionaries, reporters, headwaiters, whores, the rich I partied with and the raggedy-ass kids in the neighborhood and the people I used to give fish meat to when I came in from a good day fishing. He asked me to put it together as an intelligence network, and I did, at the same time I was putting together Men At War, a 1,000-page anthology of war writing. I called it the Crook Factory. The operation only lasted a few months, just long enough to fill the gap before the Gestapo came in. The FBI, I mean.”

The prosecutor smiled. “Then you persuaded the ambassador to let you refit the Pilar to go looking for submarines to attack.”

“That isn’t quite what happened. In 1942, U-Boats are sinking ships all up and down our Atlantic and Gulf coastlines, and the Navy doesn’t have enough ships to patrol with, due to the usual government stupidity. We’ve been attacking U-boats in the North Atlantic all during 1941, but nobody made plans to deal with the absolutely predictable retaliation. So now they need boats, and the only way they can get them is for civilians to volunteer their boats as auxiliaries. I don’t know how many boats the Navy enlisted, but I imagine it was a lot.”

“It was, Mr. Hemingway. Along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, more than 2,000 boats.”

“Well, I knew it had to be a lot. But we’re in Cuba, so we have to do things quietly. Batista’s government knew about our operation, but it had to pretend not to know. Cuban nationalistic sensibilities, you understand.” He let his face show just the shadow of his perpetual disgust with hypocrisy.

“They wanted us to use the Pilar as a Q-Boat along Cuba’s northern coast, to search various uninhabited keys for hidden submarine supply dumps, and to patrol certain waters while prepared to report U-Boat sightings. That was a valid mission, but I thought, `Okay, let’s carry the idea a little farther.’ We knew that sometimes subs would sometimes stop small boats to get fresh food. We’d look like an easy target to a sub. What if we were ready to run up to it and throw a bomb into the conning tower, maybe do enough damage to prevent it from submerging?”

“And the Navy went along with the scheme.”

“A few civilians putting themselves at risk wouldn’t cost them anything. They supplied us with ammo, and radio gear, and a Navy man to work the radio, and we took her out for a shakedown cruise in November 1942, supposedly engaging in scientific research into fish populations.” He snorted, remembering. “As if anybody was going to believe that, in wartime! “

“So you went cruising, looking for trouble.”

“We did. We were out from January through March 1943, and again from May to July, which turned out to be our longest, hardest cruise. After we came in, our redeployment kept getting delayed – not our fault – and we didn’t get out again until November, and that one didn’t amount to much. We went out one last time in January, 1944, and by then it was clear that we weren’t needed on the north coast anymore.”

“If you ever were.”

Ignoring her: “I volunteered us to patrol in the Caribbean, working out of Guantanamo, but we weren’t needed there either, because the U-Boats were finished.”

“Now, Miss Gellhorn, you have said that the defendant’s Q-boat operations were just an excuse to go fishing using government gasoline. Is that still your opinion?”

“All I can tell you is what I observed. There was Ernest surrounded by his fishing buddies, fortified by the usual wall of hard liquor, and the time I went out with them he brought his young sons, and they were taking potshots at junk in the water, claiming it was target practice. Does that sound like real war to you, or does it sound like pretense?”

“Often wrong, never in doubt.”

She turned on him, a familiar movement. “Oh sure, the usual. I saw but didn’t understand.”

“Marty, it’s all on the record. You think it was a year of partying because you don’t have the slightest idea of what it involved. You think the Navy gave us ammunition and installed communications gear and made arrangements for our refueling and re-provisioning, because they wanted to help me go fishing? You think the boats doing the same job in American coastal waters were just using government gasoline to go fishing?”

“I don’t know what the others were doing. I only know what I saw with my own eyes.”

“You know what you think you saw. You didn’t see the context. You don’t have any idea what it’s like, that many men on a small boat, six weeks at a time.” He could feel himself having to make the attempt to be reasonable, just like the old days. “Listen, instead of criticizing an operation you didn’t understand, why not go to the people who knew, and ask them?”

“No thanks. I can find other things to report on.”

He turned to the prosecutor. “The trouble with Marty is that she could never tell the difference between the way things looked and the way they really were. To use Pilar as a Q-Boat, we had to have cover. We made it look like a scientific expedition, but if people thought we were just conning the government so we could go fishing, that was all the better. The boys and I had our fun as we went along, but it was still a lot of men on a small boat for a long time. And we were ready to make an attempt on a submarine, if circumstances had allowed. It didn’t happen, but it could have happened. One time, a sub surfaced just where we should have been patrolling, but they had called us in to Havana for consultations. And the only time we did see a sub surface, it went off in the opposite direction, and it was doing 12 knots and we couldn’t catch it.”

“Which perhaps saved all your lives.”

“Perhaps. But suppose it had worked! It would have been something to remember all your life, if you happened to survive it. You could ask Wolfie.”


“Winston Guest. Ask him.”

“That sounds like a good idea. Without objection from the defense, I think we should call Mr. Guest.”

“No objection, your honor. The defense looks forward his testimony.”


Wolfie looked like he had during all those days on Pilar. “It’s very good to see you looking young and healthy, Papa,” he said. “I don’t know that I would have expected it.”

“Wolfie, Marty still tells people we were just out there having a good time on government gasoline. You want to say something about that?”

“Papa, I liked you and the rest of the boys, but eight men in a small boat for six weeks at a time is not my idea of a pleasure cruise. Neither is getting eaten alive by mosquitoes while we were searching up and down Romano Key looking for fuel dumps. And the hours we spent scanning for periscopes! I thought I’d go blind sometimes.”

“Mr. Guest, this court knows your background, including the fact that you were born rich, you were a graduate of Columbia Law School, and at 36, were considered too old for military service. We wish to ask you about the submarine patrols. Did you think the defendant’s plan could succeed?”

“We knew the specs, so we knew the odds. And the only time we did see a submarine, when that thing surfaced, I thought, `They call that a boat? It’s an aircraft carrier! ‘Chances were, we were going to get killed before we could get into range. Probably a good thing we never caught one.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I’m dead anyway, and what a thing if we’d been able to do it! If they’d had to scuttle the thing, or if we could keep them topside, and the Navy could get there soon enough, a 38-foot converted civilian yacht would have put a U-Boat out of commission. Or, maybe we could capture the whole crew. Maybe we would have gotten code books, a lot of things.”

Wolfie was watching him brighten with remembered enthusiasm, and he laughed, partly just from the joy that had always come with being around him. “And you knew as well as anybody did how bad the odds were.”

“Well, yeah, but it was worth taking that chance, if we could.”

“I said it was all right with me, didn’t I?”

“You sure did, and I never forgot it, you standing there with me on the flying bridge, the muscles jumping in your cheeks, saying, `Papa it’s all right with me. Don’t worry for a moment Papa it’s all right with me.’ But the point is, we weren’t just fooling around out there.”

“No. We burned a lot of government gas, but they got their money’s worth.”

“I was going to write about you, Wolfie. Did write about you, and the others, but I couldn’t get it into publishable shape. I wish I could have, you all deserved that.”

“Cross examination?”

“Can’t think of anything we could add, Mr. Prosecutor.”


“Mr. Hemingway, it sounds like you and your friends expected to die in that boat.”

“You go attack a submarine in a 38-foot boat and tell me if you expect to survive. But the war gods smiled on us, and we couldn’t catch the only son of a bitch we sighted, so we lived.”

“All very dramatic, Ernest, and there you are as usual, casting yourself in another heroic pose.”

“And there you are as usual, disparaging what you don’t understand. If we had bagged a sub, you would have said, `Oh, did the submarine interrupt the fishing?’”

“Mr. Hemingway, if you expected to die engaging the sub – why engage it? What good would it do to be killed when you couldn’t do it any harm?”

“We had our plans and here was the chance. What should we have done? Play possum? Run? Would you want to live with that memory for the rest of your life? And – maybe it would’ve worked!”

“I see. Yet your Q-Boat experience did not lead you to want to participate in the war in Europe.”

“I would have been happy to participate in Europe, but being a correspondent wasn’t participating, it was being in the audience. I could have been of great use to the OSS, but they turned me down.”

“Miss Gellhorn, in retrospect, would you still urge the defendant to report the war in Europe rather than remain in Cuba?”

“In retrospect I should have left him to play on his boat, but in 1942 and 1943 I still thought, if he got close enough to the war, later on he could do for it what he had done for the Spanish war. You see, until I saw him in Europe, I still believed he was the man I knew in Spain.”

“Even while we were still in Cuba, she had washed her hands of me, but she didn’t quite know it. And I was about finished with her, too, and I was a lot closer to knowing it than she was.”

“I’m afraid we need to talk about that last year together in Cuba.”

“Yes, Ernest, we can talk about our own little war.”

“Miss Gellhorn…”

“Hell, she’s right, that’s about what it amounted to.”

“Mr. Hemingway, when you and your wife were away from each other, you each expressed great love and tenderness, and then your coming together again drew sparks. How would you explain that?”

“I don’t know, it just kept happening.”

“Miss Gellhorn?”

“Maybe distance brought out the best in us.”

“Now what kind of sense would that make?”

“Well, Ernest, I don’t know. But whenever I left you, the things I loved about you got bigger, and as soon as we were together again, all I could see were the things I couldn’t stand. And then at the end, your behavior toward me was intolerable. No one should have to put up with people screaming at them, and insulting them in public.”

“How about the fact that it made you feel guilty, being safe and comfortable while a war was going on?”

“How about your going so long between baths and clean clothes?”

“How about your hating having to keep up any household routine?”

“How about your making it impossible to have a household routine? Living with you was living with chaos!”

“And living with you was like living with a record player, always playing the same tune.”

“What tune? That there’s a war on? That you ought to be pulling your weight and doing the one thing you could do better than anybody else in the world instead of playing war?”

“Why did you always think you knew what was best for me?”

“Because I could see what was happening to you, and you couldn’t! Because I respected the craftsman and I admired the writer and I remembered the man who had cared about the Spanish people, and instead of the man I knew, you were becoming `papa.’ Plus, you were drinking like a fish, and that always meant you were under pressure.”

“Yes I was! Living with you!”

“Not living with me, living with yourself! You knew you were wasting your life and you were working hard not to know it, so you drank.”

“Maybe that wasn’t the source of the pressure, did you ever think of that? I was doing what I could for the war effort, no matter what you thought, but I was hearing the clock ticking, and wondering if I would ever get back to my real work after the war was over. And I was sick of living with someone who was so cocksure about her own opinions about anything and everything.”

“That was another thing, wasn’t it? You were losing your ability to hear anybody say anything you disagreed with. Why do you think you couldn’t keep your friends? Dos Passos, MacLeish, you know the list – men of ability and integrity, and you and they had been comrades in arms, so to speak. But they all had one great fault, they wouldn’t become your disciples.”

“We’re not talking about other people, we’re talking about living with you and your illusions. You couldn’t just see things as they were; you had to see them as they ought to be. Roosevelt had to be God, and the New Deal the new dispensation, and World War II a glorious crusade to free mankind and bring in the millennium.”

“And you had to see everything in light of how it would affect Ernest Hemingway. Every month, you seemed to become more superficial.” To the prosecutor: “We’d go into Havana and he’d drink, and as soon as he was surrounded with admirers, he’d start on these self-aggrandizing stories, and the thing I could never figure out was why. He was Ernest Hemingway, for God’s sake! Why couldn’t that be enough? Why did he have to make himself into a war hero and a professional prize fighter and God knows what else?”

“You never could tell the difference between lying and story-telling.”

“You’d tell these stupid lies to the point that your friends – our friends – were embarrassed. And what did it mean to me, to be married to a liar?”

“It meant you had an excuse to try to tear me down, with your sarcasms and your lectures and your warnings that you were losing respect for me.”

“And that meant you had an excuse for raging at me like a crazy man whenever you got drunk enough, like the night you slapped me in the car when I was driving us home.”

“You were a model of self control yourself, as I remember. You deliberately drove my Lincoln into a tree.”

“What was I supposed to do, give you the idea it was okay to hit me? If I hadn’t given as good as I got, you would have walked all over me.”

“You know what I think? I think you secretly liked us fighting. I think if we had been poor, you would have liked me better.”

“If we’d been poor, at least you would have had to be more you, instead of having to be `papa.’”

“All right, both of you. I will take that as an adequate explanation of why you fought when you were together. But whenever you were apart, other feelings surfaced. Miss Gellhorn’s reasons for her reactions are her own business, but Mr. Hemingway, when she was away, what was going on with you? It is your reactions we are trying to understand.”

“I got lonely”

“For Martha specifically, for just to have a woman in your bed?”

“I answered your question. That’s all I feel like saying.”

“Your honor, may I ask a few questions of Miss Gellhorn?”

“Proceed, counselor.”

“Miss Gellhorn, you spent some weeks in the Caribbean in the summer of 1943, investigating conditions, gathering material for an article for Collier’s magazine.”

“That’s right, and Ernest objected strenuously, even though I needed to earn the money to pay my share of our expenses.”

“And, just in case you think we were rolling in dough, I was in the 80% tax bracket, and my 1941 tax bill was $103,000. I made a lot, but I didn’t get to keep much of it.”

“And after a few weeks at home, Miss Gellhorn, you went on to Europe, did you not?”

I did. I went up to New York in September, and it took nearly a month to get my papers, but I did get over to England, and then I got to see the war in Italy.”

“While you were in Europe, your novel Liana was published. Did it do well?”

“Max Perkins thought it would be chosen as a Book of the Month Club selection, and he was quite embarrassed when it wasn’t. Still, over time it did become a best seller.”

“The defendant had helped you with that book, had he not, while he was out on patrol in his boat?”

“I would read successive installments at night while we were on patrol, and pencil in my suggestions, and get it back to her next time we made port.”

“I never said he wasn’t a good editor. Maybe the thing we had most in common, by that point, was writing.”

“Thank you, Miss Gellhorn. No further questions.”


“Well, let’s follow up on that line of inquiry, Miss Gellhorn. You returned from Europe in March, 1944. What sort of reaction did you meet?”

“It was Ernest at his murderous worst, storming at me day and night. I was desperately tired but he was not letting me sleep, with his accusations and his tirades. He was more like a crazy man than the man I had used to know.”

“Did you think about leaving him?”

“There wasn’t any time for that. The invasion was coming, everybody knew that, and I had to be there. Only, fool that I was, I still wanted him there too. I couldn’t help thinking, if he just gets where he obviously belongs, he’ll find himself again.”

“Meanwhile, Mr. Hemingway, you had made up your mind to go.”

“Yeah, I didn’t like it, but I guess Marty finally wore me down. Up until May, I still had hopes of doing something active. Marty and I were already in New York, getting our papers to get across, when I learned that the OSS had turned me down. I gather they concluded I wouldn’t work well in harness.”

“No kidding. How in the world would they get an idea like that?”

“For somebody who lived with me for all those years, you’re amazingly consistent in failing to understand me. All the time Pilar was operating as a Q-Boat, we were under orders, or didn’t that ever occur to you? We didn’t just go where we wanted to go, when we wanted to go. They told us what to do and we did it.”

“But in any case, the OSS option was closed to you.”

“It was, and it’s the kind of work I should have been doing. Anybody could be a reporter; they had hundreds of ’em. How many people knew what I knew, and who I knew, in France? In fact, it’s just the kind of work I did do that summer on the way from Normandy to Paris.”

“We’ll get to that. First, let’s talk about how you got to England.”

“I flew. The Brits flew me over, in return for my promise to write about the RAF.”

“Which came about because I talked to Roald Dahl, a British assistant air attaché. Ernest forgets to mention that.”

“All right, it’s true, you talked to Dahl, and he got me a seat.”

“Also he forgets to mention that in New York, he signed up to report on the invasion for Collier’s, even though I had been writing for Collier’s for years, which automatically meant that I couldn’t, because magazines were limited to one correspondent each.”

“Mr. Prosecutor, she has it in her head that I stopped her from being their front-line correspondent. But the War Department had ruled that female correspondents couldn’t go any further than women’s services went, which meant they couldn’t go to the front. She knows that.”

He forgets to mention that he refused to try to get a seat for me on the airplane he got to ride in because of me, and I wound up as the only passenger on a ship that was carrying dynamite.”


“Mr. Hemingway?”

“Maybe I wasn’t anxious to cross the Atlantic hearing about my duty all the way.”

“Mr. Hemingway?”

“All right, it was spite, I admit it.”

“Mr. Hemingway, another opportunity. Find the complex of reasons and look at them.”

Apparently this was going to go on forever. He sighed and dredged, and came out sighing some more.

“It was a lot of things. I really didn’t want to be doing this. Either I wanted a position of responsibility, or I wanted to be left alone, and I wasn’t getting either. The OSS turned me down, and Collier’s didn’t really need me, they just wanted my name. And I was tired. A year at sea was like a year of warfare anywhere. It wears you down. The physical hardships, the uncertainty, the responsibility, it all takes its toll. And I went there already feeling the losses – the loss of time, the loss of energy, the loss of whatever I might have written. None of that was going to be recoverable. Also, I guess I blamed Marty for spending so much of the past year chasing moonbeams: I think I was feeling, she was spending time and energy that really should have been spent with me.”

“You mean on you.”

“Well, all right, on me. Why was I less important than everything else? By the time we got up to New York, part of me hated you, and that part was growing.”

“So you took it out on me.”

Grudgingly: “Maybe I did. But Marty, it was China all over again. Who wanted to go to the war in Europe?”

“At least I didn’t have to hear that every few days.”

“No, because by the time you got to England, we were finished.”

“Not on my part, not quite. When I arrived, I was leaning that way, but I was still undecided. It was only after seeing you in that hospital room that I knew.”

“Mr. Hemingway, Let’s talk about that.”

“I had been in London about a week. It was clear to everybody, we were days away from invading France. Everything was eat, drink and be merry. A party at Capa’s broke up at about 3 a.m., and Pete Gorer offered to drive me back to the Dorchester. Blackout conditions, of course, and he’d been drinking like everybody else. We hit a steel water tank that was in the road, and I got smacked into the windshield. I had a scalp wound pouring blood, and both knees were swelling up from hitting the dashboard, but the really serious thing was that I had another concussion. They got me to St. George’s Hospital – 57 stitches – and sent me to recuperate at the London Clinic. This was early morning, May 25th.”

“And I got to England two days later, and as soon as I get off the boat, people are asking me about Ernest’s accident. He’s in the London Clinic, and he’s supposed to be in terrible shape after a car wreck. So I go up to see him, and he’s turned the room into a goddamned cocktail party. He’s wearing a bandage like a turban and he’s drinking, and he has surrounded himself with cronies and celebrity-gazers, and I knew right away we were through.”

“She was livid. She disapproved of the fact that I had been out partying in wartime, that I was drinking in the clinic, that I was having a good time there with my friends. She figured that I didn’t really have a concussion, and the bandages were just window dressing – but if I was hurt, it was my own fault. Terrific amount of sympathy I got from my wife.”

Drily: “Under the circumstances, did you expect her to have any sympathy for you?”

Sheepishly: “You mean because of the ammunition ship? Maybe not. But it didn’t matter, we were through. Looking back, I think she and I had a long shipboard romance. Marty was a writer, she was passionately anti-fascist, and she was young and beautiful. She admired my work, which made us both think she admired me. In Spain we shared danger and work and fun and bed and friends and it looked like we belonged together. But she always had to work hard, and it looked to her like I didn’t. She started to think I was superficial, especially when I started picking apart her politics. She was always for the people against the fascists, and so far so good. But she wound up in a cheering-box, and you can’t do that and stay honest. The only time I did it, I wound up excusing Stalin’s murder of Andres Nin and Pepe Robles and others, and it cost me my friendship with dos Passos. Fundamentally she and I were on different courses. It just took a while to work itself out.”

“No further questions for Miss Gellhorn, your honor.”

“Mr. Hemingway, before Miss Gellhorn even arrived in England, you had met Mary Welsh and had already decided you were going to marry her.”

“It wasn’t so much decided, as recognized. Somehow as soon as we were introduced, I knew that this person and I belonged together the way you know that dawn is going to follow nighttime.”

“And after all that happened in the following seventeen years, do you still think you and she belonged together?”

“All I know is what I told you. How can I know what our lives would have been if we had done something else?”

“Very well. When you were discharged on May 29th, you were told not only to refrain from alcohol, but to rest quietly. Why didn’t you follow doctor’s orders?”

“Were they going to call off the invasion until I felt better? Besides, that isn’t how I handled injury. I paid for it, sure. I lived with continuous headaches all the next year, not to mention getting another concussion in the field. But it would have been silly to put myself to bed when we were any of us liable to be killed at any odd time for any reason, or for no particular reason.”

“Then perhaps we should look at your war experience in Europe.”



Chapter 20: A Long Way from Home

“Miss Gellhorn, you said that when you returned from Finland, you joined the defendant in Cuba intending not to return to the war. How did it happen, then, that in November you began lobbying for Collier’s to send you to China?”

“Mr. Prosecutor, when you were in the physical world, did you ever change your mind? I didn’t start asking to be sent to China until I have been home a good ten months. By then, the Nazis had taken most of Europe, and then there was the Battle of Britain, and I hadn’t done anything useful. Japan’s war on China had been going on for years, and I thought Ernest and I could report on it.”

“I’m tired and I’m ready to relax after a year and a half’s hard writing. The book is getting excellent reviews. Scribner’s has ordered a 100,000-copy initial press run, and so has Book of the Month Club. I want to celebrate, and she has to see about the war in China. Why go halfway around the world with her?”

“Well, Mr. Hemingway, since you did go, why?”

The equivalent of a shrug. “I can’t remember. True love, I guess, or maybe not enough sales resistance. Marty clearly had her heart set on it, and she was going to do it whether I liked it or not. And besides, I had noticed that I liked pretty nearly anything I did, once I got started on it.”

“Were you perhaps influenced by traces of your boyhood thoughts of seeing China, like your missionary uncle Willoughby?”

Another shrug. “Not consciously.”

“Miss Gellhorn, how did you prepare for the trip?”

“Eleanor got me a letter from the President asking U.S. officials to help if I requested it, and we arranged to leave from L.A. at the end of January, and meanwhile we went to Cuba to spend Christmas.”

“And since I had the money, I bought us the Finca as a joint Christmas present.”

“Which you didn’t buy in both our names, and which eventually turned out to be yours alone.”

“Not until after you practically deserted me, wandering around the Caribbean.”

“Could we return to the matter at hand? Your honor, with your permission I propose to question them about this matter jointly.”

“Seems to me you are doing that already, counselor. Proceed.”

“So, Mr. Hemingway, in January 1941 you went to China. The trip had unexpected and wide-ranging consequences, did it not?”

“You mean the report to Morgenthau?”

“That, and everything that followed from that. Would you briefly explain to the court how it came about that you wound up committed to producing a secret report for the government?”

“It was one thing leading to another. Once I agreed to go, I decided I’d get Ralph Ingersoll to pay for it. He had started an afternoon tabloid in New York called PM, and of course like any new paper he had to build up circulation. I proposed sending him a series of reports on the strategic situation in the Pacific, and he could see the value for his paper, so he said yes.”

“Did this involve enough money to be worthwhile?”

“You can always use more money, especially when you’re in the 60% tax bracket, but the point for me was to get some kind of official status as a journalist, rather than just travel as my wife’s traveling companion. But then I get a phone call from this guy in the Treasury Department, Harry Dexter White, a top assistant to Henry Morgenthau, the Secretary of the Treasury at the time. Years later it would turn out that he was a member of the Communist Party, which is ironic as hell, because it was at just this time that the lefties started to attack my book as a betrayal of the cause in Spain. But all I knew about White was that he worked for Treasury. He says he wants me to keep my eyes open over there and when I came back, tell him if I thought Chiang Kai-shek going to be able to stay in power, and if he would continue fighting the Japanese. We were shoveling a lot of  money in Chiang’s direction, and White was sure a lot of it being stolen or wasted, but he wanted an informed opinion on whether the effort was worth continuing.”

“Did you object to the idea of filing a secret report?”

“Why should I object? It was my government asking me to help. And it was my tax money they were sending over there.”

“So you became an unpaid spy.”

“It was really just reporting. I kept my eyes open, I talked to people, I figured things out.”

To skip ahead for the moment, when you returned you wrote up a report summarizing your conclusions.”

“I reported to Morgenthau and White in person, and then at the end of June I sent Morgenthau a confidential letter spelling out the ins and outs of the military and political situation. And, by the way, I said the Japanese would probably attack us, and probably not sooner than December, 1941. It was a nice piece of work, even if I do say it myself. But I didn’t dream that the Japs would attack Pearl Harbor, or that the Navy would let them get away with it!”

“At the proper time we will want to examine how that report changed your life in the longer term. But we need to look at the trip itself.”

“You mean the Oriental luxury tour.”

The ghost of a smile, from the ghost of a prosecutor. “That’s the one.”

He looked over at her. “Hey Marty, who wanted to go to China?”

“Oh, shut up.” But she said it without heat.

“You and Miss Gellhorn left Los Angeles for China on the Mauretania, on January 31, 1941. Is that correct?”

“Yeah, it is – unfortunately. From Hawaii on, Colliers was sending us by China Clippers, but they couldn’t get us seats from L.A. to Hawaii, so we had to go by boat, getting thrown around in rough weather all the way. Then, from Hawaii, we flew. Those flying boats were comfortable, and they stopped at the end of each leg of the trip. Hawaii to Wake, Wake to Midway, and Midway to Guam, with a good hotel on each of the atolls. So you’d fly all day, and you’d get a good meal and you spent the night in an honest-to-God bed, and then you’d get up and do it all over again the next day. It took you several days to get there, but you were comfortable on the way.”

“Did you get impatient?”

He didn’t, but I did, more fool me. We didn’t land in Hong Kong until the 22nd of February, three weeks after we left L.A., and it took another month in Hong Kong before we got permission to enter China itself. All I wanted to do was get to China, and it seemed like we weren’t ever going to get to.”

“And when we did get there, you couldn’t wait to get out.”

“But I didn’t know that ahead of time. I had no idea.”

“And what did I tell you at the time? You could hardly stand the crowding and noise and filth in Hong Kong, which had been governed by the English for a hundred years. Why wouldn’t you know that China in the middle of a war would be worse?”

“It’s always easy to see things clearly after the fact.” She sizzled.

He laughed. “Reminds me of old times,” he said.

“Miss Gellhorn, we appreciate your continued assistance. Your testimony can be of great value in assisting the defendant to see himself as he appeared to others.”

That would be an achievement, getting Ernest to see anybody’s point of view but his own.”

“Doesn’t apply to you, of course.”

“Miss Gellhorn. during your month of enforced inactivity in Hong Kong while you waited for your papers, how did you and the defendant spend your time?”

I spent it moving around, seeing what I could see, trying to understand the city. He spent it at the bar, talking with all the new buddies he made. That’s how he worked. That was his system. He just stood there, or sat there, and the information came to him. I used to tell people, I’m the part of the team who has to work. But not him! Within days – within minutes, it sometimes seemed – he had made friends everywhere.”

“Because as a best-selling author he was a celebrity?”

“Probably that helped with some people, but it doesn’t explain how he could become instant buddies with just anybody he’d meet. In a couple of days he was able to carry on animated conversations in the street, full of laughing and joking, and I wouldn’t understand a word. Just like in Spain. I don’t know how grammatical he was, but he could always make himself understood.”

“Mr. Prosecutor, do you mind if I explain my way of working?”

“Please do.”

“Think about it. You’re in a strange place for a few days, a week – a month, even. How much are you going to understand? Marty went all over the place trying to see for herself, because that’s the way she worked, she had to see. But I knew you needed context, and the way to get it was to pick the brains of people who have been around forever, then go see. If you do it that way, it’s like you’ve lived there for years.”

“But how would you know the right people to talk to?”

“You don’t. You can’t. So you talk to as many people as you can, and you try to find out their story. If you talk to enough people, you’re going to put together a picture in your mind. It will be a simplified picture, but it will be better than anything you could put together by relying on your own observation alone.”

“Is that why you didn’t read up on the subject ahead of time?”

“Much faster and more reliable to talk to people. The people I learned the most from don’t write books.”

“But were you not concerned that people might be trying to use you for their own purposes?”

He stared at the prosecutor. “Of course they were. You think I believed everything anybody told me? But sometimes people’s lies tell you more than you could have learned by them telling the truth. And if you listen to enough different people, the contradictions among them are going to tell you things. You can pick up all sorts of things if you listen – and I knew how to listen.”

“It’s true, you know. Sometimes he’d tell me something and I would say, how can you know that, and he’d say this one told me this, but that one told me that, and a third one told me something else, and what I just told you is the only way it makes sense.”

“It’s what we used to do covering the economic conferences, and what I did in Spain, and in France later, in the second war. It’s just basic intelligence work, really, and for that matter, basic journalism. There isn’t any magic to it, but you have to talk to enough people.”

“Miss Gellhorn, the defendant mentioned your reaction to conditions in Hong Kong, and later in China. Would you spell out what he was referring to?”

“It makes me ill, remembering it. The crowding, the filth, the continuous unending noise. People spitting everywhere, all the time, so that you walked down sidewalks covered with spittle. I had to get away from it. I was glad to move to the British sector where things weren’t so bad. I was ashamed, a little, but glad.”

“And the defendant?”

“He said to me, `The trouble with you is that you think everybody else is going to feel about things the same way you do. If these people were as miserable as you think they are, they wouldn’t keep having kids and they wouldn’t keep shooting off firecrackers in the street.’”

“And did he convince you?”

“No.” A moment’s thought. “That would be too much like saying the way things were was all right.”

“You were always wanting to remake the world, Mart, but it never seemed to occur to you that the mess the world was in was the result of other people remaking the world earlier. And wasn’t Hitler trying to remake the world?”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean you can just –“

“And even supposing you’re right, we weren’t going to cure anything in a month. The whole idea of traveling is to understand what you see, not criticize it for not being what you want it to be. Before you can change anything, you have to know what you’re changing, or you’re just going to make an even bigger mess. That’s one reason I stayed away from politics. Politics leads people to believe in easy answers, and there aren’t any.”

“You stayed away from politics? How can you say that?? What was For Whom the Bell Tolls about, if not politics?”

“Not politics in the way you mean it. I was on the side of the people, but I didn’t have to see everything as either left or right. I believed in the individual, and I had compassion for the little guy. So what does that make me?”

“It makes you infuriating and inconsistent. Those weren’t the beliefs that made you the man I fell in love with in Spain, when you were doing what you could to help the Spanish workers against the fascists.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. You understood that sometimes you have to chose between two evils, but you never could understand that sometimes the evil that exists is better than the evil you’re likely to call forth by resisting it.”

“Perhaps the two of you should agree to disagree. Meanwhile, let’s proceed to your time in China after you left Hong Kong.”

“I will concede that Ernest was right about one thing: China was even worse than Hong Kong. If I’d known ahead of time how it was going to be, I never would have done it.”

“Miss Gellhorn, in the six weeks after you received your papers, you and the defendant entered the 7th war zone, near Canton, observed the army there, then flew on to the seat of China’s wartime government at Chunking. After interviewing members of the government, you flew to Burma, and then he returned to Hong Kong and you went on to Java and then Singapore. Is that an accurate precis?”

“It took longer than it sounds when you put it that way, but yes.”

“A challenging trip. And precisely because the trip turned out to be so challenging, it gives us an interest in hearing your view of the defendant’s actions and demeanor during those weeks.”

“I know what you want. In everyday life, he could be totally impossible, but in emergencies, or in situations requiring ingenuity and endurance, he was as good as anybody I’ve ever met. That’s certainly how he was in China.”

“You mean I did something right?”

“Proceed, please, Miss Gellhorn.”

“He was always at his best in difficult circumstances, and China provided them. We didn’t dare drink the water without boiling it, we could eat nothing uncooked, unless it was a fruit that could be peeled. Exposure of any kind to their water could be dangerous. He even told me I was crazy to try to get clean by washing.”

“Which you ignored, and which gave you a good case of China Rot, and at that you were lucky it wasn’t worse.”

“China Rot, Miss Gellhorn?”

“Whatever it was, it was affecting the skin of my hands. Ernest made sure I found a doctor, who prescribed some kind of stinky ointment for it, and I had to wear gloves from then until the trip was over.”

“And if I hadn’t made you get medical attention, sure as hell you would have picked up leprosy.”

“It was pretty bad. And then there was the transportation. Except for getting over the Japanese lines, and then getting to Chunking and out to Burma, all our travel was by the most primitive means imaginable. We were jolted along theoretical roads in poor excuses for trucks, we rode diminutive horses that were scarcely able to carry us, we walked through great expanses where there were no roads at all, we took one long river journey on the deck of the only motorized craft on the river, a Chris-Craft towing a barge.”

“And did these hardships get him down?”

“In the half dozen years we lived together, I  never saw him so patient and so considerate. And not just to me, but to everyone he came into contact with. During the whole trip, I saw him blow his stack only once, and that was well deserved. That was after we’d been up to the front lines, and we were trying to get to Chunking to talk to government officials. Before we even left for the front, right after we landed on the other side of Japanese lines from Hong Kong, Ernest had carefully arranged for an airplane to fly us to Kunming after we returned from the front lines. When we got back, no airplane and no prospect of an airplane. Nobody had bothered to do what had to be done to get the plane, and nobody was in any particular hurry to do it.”

He remembered it well. Bland incompetence, smugly certain that Oriental inertia would overcome Occidental impatience.

“So on this occasion he lost his temper?”

“He erupted! He went into full Hemingway-volcano mode, and he seared everything and everybody within half a mile. He chewed them out as they’d never been chewed in their life, whether they understood English or not, and we got our airplane. But, as I said, this was the only time, and well deserved.”

“So you have no complaints of his treatment of you during the trip?”

“I could have done with fewer renditions of `Who wanted to come to China,’ but I’m sure he could have done with me doing less complaining. It really did throw me off my stride, the whole situation.”

“Marty, it was all about learning to roll with the punches. There’s an old saying, ‘What can’t be remedied must be borne.’ I put it into poker terms, ‘What you draw is what you get.’ As you know.”

“I should!”

He laughed. “I still remember that night, you’re lying across the room, on one of those pallets that passed for beds, and out of nowhere, no preamble, I hear you matter-of-factly saying, `I wish to die.’”

“Yes, there I am at the end of my rope and I say I wish to die, and you say, `Too late. Who wanted to come to China?’”

“Doesn’t it seem funny now? At least a little?”

A small smile. “Three percent, perhaps. And certainly not at the time.”

“No, not at the time. If I remember right, we’d run through all the whiskey I had so carefully brought along to share with our thirsty military hosts. I’m surprised I didn’t wish to die.”

“Why should you? You were just as happy drinking snake wine with them.”

“The only two things we could safely share in China were cooked food and liquor. You just had to learn to make allowances.” He smiled. “Snake wine, with the dead snake in the bottom of the bottle. Not too bad, actually, once you get used to it, if you don’t have anything better. If war had broken out while we were over there, I was supposed to be PM’s on-site correspondent. I might have wound up drinking snake wine for four years.”

“Did you see any real action, Mr. Hemingway?”

“Nah. The closest we came to seeing the war was when we inspected the army in the field, and they pretended to attack Japanese lines. It was just a dog-and-pony show for our benefit. The enemy wasn’t even in sight.”

“Why would they go to that trouble for two American journalists?”

“Do you really think that’s how they saw us, as two American journalists? When we were traveling with a letter from the president of the United States, and Marty was known to be a personal friend of Eleanor Roosevelt?”

“Do you think they knew about your own investigative mission?”

“Mr. Prosecutor, the term `Government secrecy’ is a contradiction in terms. Chiang naturally would have had agents all over D.C., trying to find out what was going on and what was likely to go on. It wouldn’t surprise me if they knew my mission before I did.”

“In any case the Chinese government attempted to influence your judgment by determining what you would see.”

“Well, sure, you’d expect that. But their bigger problem was preventing us from seeing what was too big to be missed. For instance, it was clear that nobody in power gave a good goddamn for the welfare of the troops. They’d conscript these poor boys and send them off somewhere and the families would never hear from them again. How could they? Even if the boys had known how to write, which they didn’t, there wasn’t any postal system. So China’s armies were full of kids whose old world was lost forever. Even if China somehow beat the Japs, who was going to see that these kids got home? And as to what it was all about, all they knew is that the Japs had invaded their country. All this was all right there to be seen.”

“And how did you react?”

“You mean, how did I feel about it, or what did I do? How I felt was that just like everything else in China, it was worse than the worst I’d seen in Spain. But what did I do? I acted like we were the honored guests we were supposed to be. I looked at what I was shown, I ate and drank with the generals, I kept my eyes open, and I made speeches to the troops whenever the generals asked me to.”

“May I say something, Mr. Prosecutor?”

“Of course. That’s why you’re here, for your insights and memories.”

“Ernest was always passing himself off as hard and calloused. But sometimes you could get a glimpse of something else. You see, I heard those speeches to those boys. He told me he felt sorry for them. They took it for granted that they would have no control over their lives, because they’d never known anything different. He said it was like Frost’s poem about the hired man, with nothing to look backward to with pride and nothing to look forward to with hope. So he tried to give them a sense that they were part of something larger, a struggle to make a better world.”

“At least, that’s what I said. God knows what they actually heard after it was translated.”

She looked over at him. “My point, though, is that you cared for those boys, even if you were afraid to realize it.”

“It wasn’t a question of being afraid to realize it, I couldn’t afford to really feel it. If you’re going to get torn up about everything you can’t do anything about, you’re going to spend your whole life like that. There wasn’t anything I could do about any of it. All I could do was smile and exchange toasts, and uphold the honor of the Western World.” A specific memory brightened his mood. “Remember that luncheon, our last day on the front?” And suddenly they were laughing together. “Tell them, Mart.”

“You have to understand, Mr. Prosecutor, this was the big farewell luncheon to the visiting journalists, representatives of America, etc., etc. There was plenty of food, for once, but after a while I realized that they were trying to get Ernest drunk. There were fourteen officers around that table, and each one of them in turn stood up and toasted Ernest. That meant he had to stand up and say something in return, and then they’d empty their glass of this god-awful rice wine. Time and again, until some of them are turning strange colors and falling over. But Ernest is still on his feet, ready for more if need be. He looked a little grim, and I was afraid he was going to kill himself, but finally the general announced that there was no more wine, and we were able to get away.”

“She asked me how I felt, and I said, `Like a man who’s never going to make a speech or a toast ever again.’ Showed ’em, though.”

“So, Mr. Hemingway, after your visit to the front, you made your way to the wartime capital, Chunking, arriving in April. And there you found your way smoothed, somewhat, by the Finance Minister, did you not?”

“H.H. Kung, sure. Our first day there, we had all three meals with him. He was married to Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s sister, which made him one of the chief insiders in the government, not just the finance minister.”

“And I was so surprised when he called you Ernie!”

“That was me reaping the benefit of the good deeds of my Uncle Willoughby, who had gotten Kung into Oberlin College. Kung and I had met several times when I was a boy and he visited my family in Oak Park. I remember him teaching my sisters and me how to sing `Jesus Loves Me’ in Chinese. One of life’s little tricks. Kung didn’t actually have all that much power, but it was a good connection.”

“If you don’t count his avaricious, empty, calculating wife, living like a princess and clearly all that appalling poverty on every side never bothered her.”

“Well, Marty, she was what she was. Who knows what we would have been, raised the way she was? And how different is it anywhere? People who have been given a lot tend to think they deserve it, and when you’re surrounded by enormous social problems that you don’t understand, it’s tempting to assume that nothing can be done, so you might as well enjoy your own life.”

“It was still revolting.”

“You never had any use for missionaries, but you have to admit, people like my uncle did what they could. They put their lives on the line.”

“A drop in the bucket. If you’re going to change things, you have to organize. Missionaries didn’t change China, the Communist Party did.”

“Mr. Hemingway, do you agree?”

“Well, what the reds produced isn’t a society I could live in, but it’s head and shoulders above the situation we experienced. Granted, we were there during a war, but Chiang’s government was never going to do what the communists did. You could see it in the difference between the government men we were meeting and Chou En-lai.”

He was an impressive man.”

“He certainly was. I knew of him as a friend of Joris Ivens, the guy who made the `Spanish Earth’ film, who was a communist himself. I think they met when Chou was living in Paris in the 1920s. We only saw Chou the one day, for an hour or two – after a lot of cloak-and-dagger stuff to be sure the government didn’t know what we were doing – but you could see that he was somebody.”

“He was the only decent man we met in China.”

“On the other hand, I’d seen the communists close up in Spain, and one way they prepared themselves to govern was to lie like governments. So I didn’t believe everything Chou told me. But he was a force in himself, no question about it.”

“Your newspaper articles did not mention your meeting him. Why was that?”

“Because I had been told not to write anything that would stir up animosity between the reds and the government, and I felt bound by that. I wasn’t there to make the situation worse. All I could do was report on what I had learned, and hoped that somebody in the government would listen.”

“Did you ever consider going public?”

“No I didn’t. Who wanted to give aid and comfort to the Japs? If I wasn’t going to lie, I had to keep my mouth shut, and that is what I did.”

“And years later?”

“It never came up. After I got back from Europe in 1945, my days as correspondent were over.”

“You left the wartime capital, you and Miss Gellhorn flew to Rangoon, to see what you could learn about the effectiveness of the Burma Road, and then you returned to Hong Kong. Were you sorry to leave?”

“Sorry? No. But China was an interesting experience. I never forgot the day I watched 100,000 men building an airfield. They were working with the crudest tools you could imagine – carrying dirt in buckets, smashing rocks with sledges – but they got it done. That taught me that it was true, what a guy had said to me, that China could do anything it set its mind to. So, it was all interesting, and I never hated it like Marty. But I had spent weeks not writing, and ahead of me were more days of travel, and then sometime in May I’d need to write my articles for PM, and prepare a report for Treasury. After that, with luck, I would be able to return to my normal life.”

“But that didn’t happen.”

“It did not. We had a few months of recuperation, and then we got Pearl Harbor for an early Christmas present, and that was the end of the world between the wars.”

“So, the China trip took nearly half a year of your life, but never used the material in a book or story. Why was that?”

“Same reason I didn’t write about Eskimos or penguins. I didn’t know enough about it. And by the time the war was over, the China trip was ancient history.”

“You returned home by way of New York City, where you wrote the articles you had promised PM.”

“Well, I wrote three of them in Hong Kong, and smuggled them out in my shoes so the limeys couldn’t censor them. I wrote the others in New York. Ingersoll came up to my suite at the Barclay and interviewed me at length, with a secretary taking shorthand, and he used those notes to write another article, introducing my series. He and I didn’t get along so well, but he was a good newsman, a professional.”

“Looking back, any thoughts about the job you did?”

“I think it stands up. But whether it was worth the time and effort, I don’t know. I did get Martha out of China alive. I’m not sure that would have happened if she’d gone in alone.”

“I hope it won’t astonish you if I say that I agree.”

“Well, good. I thought maybe later events made you choose to forget.”

“I wasn’t going to advertise it, but I didn’t forget.”

“So in mid-June, you were reunited in New York City.”

“And then we went to Washington, D.C. so I could report, and I wound up talking to the Navy. That’s when I met John Thomason, at ONI. He was quite a guy, half a dozen years older than me, a Marine, and in 1918 when I was handing out chocolates and cigarettes on the Italian front, he was winning the Silver Star and the Navy Cross. He could draw, he wrote short stories, and he wrote a biography of Jeb Stuart. He knew how to listen, both him and his boss Colonel Charlie Sweeney, and they asked good questions. But they were sure wrong about what Japan would do in the Pacific. I didn’t argue with them. A few weeks on the ground doesn’t make you an expert. They were wrong, but hell, it was in their favor that they listened to us at all.”



Chapter 19: Key West – Final Years

“Mrs. Hemingway, what was it like when the defendant returned from Spain for the final time in 1938?”

“By that time, it was all over between us. I could feel it in myself and I could feel it in him. For years, we used to laugh and play, and plan our fun as we went along. Even though we wanted very different things from life, we left plenty of space between ourselves, and fashioned a life together. There was none of that now. It was like living with a crazy man.”

“Could you give the court a specific example of crazy behavior?”

“You want the story about the gun and the lock and the costume party?”

“Yes, I’m afraid we do.”

He’d seen this one coming, but still it made him wince.

“I had planned a costume party at the Havana Madrid nightclub to celebrate the opening of the highway from Miami. Ernest didn’t want to go, which was fine with me; he went fishing with Joe Russell. Charles and Lorine came over to pick me up, and they were there when Ernest came home early. He still didn’t want to go, which was still fine – but then when he wanted to go to his writing room, it was locked and he couldn’t find the key. He got enraged, and suddenly he was standing in the living room brandishing his pistol. I was petrified that he was going to hurt somebody.”

“Deliberately, you mean?”

“No, of course not deliberately, but what consolation would that have been? He didn’t shoot anybody, but he did fire a shot into the ceiling. He fired a pistol shot into the ceiling of the living room! And then he stormed off to his writing room and shot the lock off the door and disappeared inside.”

“How did you react?”

“Really it seemed best to get away. Lorine said it would be all right for me to send the children to her house, just to be safe, and we went on to the party. And, a while later, he showed up there, all calmed down and acting as if nothing unusual had happened. But before the night was over, he got involved in a fight, right on the dance floor. And I don’t mean he exchanged a couple of punches, I mean a brawl that resulted in broken furniture. It’s amazing, in retrospect, considering his temper and his wild impulses and the amount of drinking he did, that he never killed anyone. I was mortified, and left. But by that time, it hardly made any difference. As I said, I knew it was all over between us. I knew it and I didn’t want to know it.”

“When did you finally decide that there wasn’t any going back?”

He decided, really. In July, 1939, I left the boys in the house with Ada and went to Paris with a couple of friends. It was the first time I’d gone off by myself since we were married. I was trying to regain my balance. When I returned to New York, just about the time the war broke out in Europe, I learned that he and Martha had crossed over from Cuba to Key West, picked up his car and the boys, and had driven to St. Louis. He left Martha to visit her mother, and he drove the boys to Montana, to the L-Bar-T. I called him from New York and told him I wanted to fly out to join him. I was still hoping for one last miracle, I suppose.”

“He agreed?”

“Oh, what could he say? I don’t want you? That was a little too direct for Ernest. He agreed to meet me in Billings, but everything worked against me. I got a cold on the way, and within hours of my getting there, I was running a fever. It rained continuously, which meant that we couldn’t get away from each other, and he had to take care of me when his feelings for me were gone. It made him even more irritable than before. I wouldn’t be surprised if he took my being sick to be emotional blackmail.”

That struck him. “I never reasoned it out, Pauline, but you’re right, that was exactly how it felt.” Another sudden knowing: “And that’s why your crying over the buttons was the last straw!”

“The buttons, Mrs. Hemingway?”

“He’s right, it was the last straw for him, and now I can see why. He couldn’t stand living with the guilt, watching me suffer. Here was something that couldn’t be blamed on him, so he couldn’t defend himself by finding reasons why it was my fault.”

“Explain, please.”

“A few days after I got there, I finally felt well enough to unpack, but when I opened a suitcase and found that the wax buttons on one of my favorite dresses had melted into the fabric, I started to cry, and I couldn’t stop. It just seemed so symbolic. It felt like I was losing everything in my life that I valued. I couldn’t stop crying, and then when I did, I couldn’t get away from that feeling, and finally Ernest told Toby Bruce to drive me and the boys back to Key West, by way of my family home in Arkansas. And that was the end.”

“Defense, cross-examination?”

“Mrs. Hemingway, in this final phase of your marriage, did you think it was all about Martha Gellhorn?”

“Really the problem was that Ernest was no longer content with our marriage or our life, and he was terrible about accepting the responsibility for endings. But Catholics who were party to a civil divorce could not remarry, so breaking up the marriage was an absolutely monumental step for me, and I hesitated a long time. We found ourselves in a sort of death spiral. It did not happen all at once. It was prolonged. Prolonged and painful.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Hemingway, no further questions.”

“Your honor, the prosecution recalls the defendant.”


“You heard your second wife’s testimony, Mr. Hemingway. Were you, in fact, acting crazy sometimes?”

“It’s an interesting thing, sitting here, watching what happens inside me while I’m hearing all this. Back in the physical world, I would have been boiling. So why not now? Even when I’m being criticized for the wrong reasons, it doesn’t seem to get to me here. Why is that?”

“Don’t ask the question rhetorically, Mr. Hemingway. Here, when you want to know, ask.”

“I thought I just did.”

“You don’t really need to ask others. Just – ask.”

The defense attorney leaned over to him. (Or, at least, that’s one way to describe it. That’s what would have happened in 3D reality.) “One of the things that happens here is that as you acclimate yourself, gradually the training wheels come off. So, it’s going to look to you like the rules keep changing. Remember how at first we pretended to speak, because you assumed that speech was necessary? You have been receiving your answers from others because that’s how you expected it to work. But really, you don’t need somebody else to tell you the answers.”

“Then why are you having to tell me this?”

“Because you still think you don’t know. It’s easy. Do the same thing you learned to do to relive your past. Remember. Sink into the question. When the answer emerges, you’ll know, the same way you remembered what it was to be 18 years old and unwounded. So ask why your reaction to criticism is different here than when you were in the physical world.”

Well, okay, he knew how to do the sinking-into trick now. He let his mind center on his question, and dropped into it. The defense attorney – and the entire court – knew when he returned.

“You see, Mr. Hemingway, how easy it really is to get information?”

“Yeah, I do. I’m starting to feel like Robert Jordan, when he said `I was learning fast there, at the end.’ In some ways this isn’t any different from the way it worked in life, is it?”

The equivalent of a smile. “This is life, Mr. Hemingway, in somewhat different conditions. But yes, in material life, it works the same way, only you don’t always realize it. Before you return to the prosecutor’s question, what did you learn? Why do you react differently here than in life?”

“Because here I’m awake, and there sometimes I was and sometimes I wasn’t.”

“Close enough. Another way to say it is that while you were in the body, you could erect screens and filters to protect yourself from knowing things you didn’t want to know, and here you can’t. Here, you have no defense against the truth, because your consciousness extends to your entire being.”

“Yeah, I’m noticing.”

“Everybody here knows what you’re going through. The more open you become to learning how you really experienced life, the faster and less painful the process. I can assure you of that.”

“I sure hope so.”

“Thank you, counselor. Mr. Hemingway, to return to my question? In your last years living with Pauline, were you, in fact, sometimes acting crazy?”

“Hell, I wasn’t just acting crazy. I was crazy sometimes. I’ve got to agree with Pauline, it’s a miracle nobody got killed. I was drawn so tight! You know how, when a fish pulls the line tight enough, the water pops off the line? That was me.” He paused. “It’s complicated. There were a lot of strands to it.”

“Pick it apart, Mr. Hemingway. Nobody here is pressed for time.”

“Well, there was Marty. She was young, beautiful, and uninhibited, which was quite a bit different from Pauline. After Pauline’s second Caesarian, the doctors said she couldn’t risk becoming pregnant again, and she was Catholic enough not to use artificial birth control, so for years we had had to use coitus interruptus, which isn’t the best way to preserve intimacy. Plus, Marty was like me in some ways that Pauline wasn’t. She was a writer, and she knew what it was to be in a war, and she cared for the Republic. But I couldn’t have Marty and Pauline both, and if I went to live with Marty, I’d be giving up my home, and my Key West friends, and I’d lose my boys, too, before they became old enough to be interesting.

“But the decisive thing was that I needed home to be a place for me to refill my wells, not just a place to work. I needed peace and quiet, not an armed truce. We used to have people eat with us, because we liked to enjoy meals the way they do in Europe, or Cuba, sitting around the table for hours. You can’t do that when the two of you are so much at odds that it’s all you can do to keep up appearances. If you can’t relax, you can’t enjoy it, and if you don’t enjoy it, why do it?

“And I guess there was the guilt, too. People in Spain were hungry, and they were being bombed and shelled, and I was sitting safely in my big house, doing what? The new Spanish story that was emerging was a big one, I could feel that, like when you got a big fish on the line and you hadn’t had a look at him yet, but you could feel the drag. But how was I supposed to land it if I was living in chaos? You have to have a still place to write from, and I no longer had it! I was still writing – that was the last thing I was going to give up in life – but to write under those circumstances pulled me even tighter, and finally something had to give.”

“So you left.”

“Mr. Prosecutor, the Germans have an expression, `flug nach vorn,’ you know what it means? It’s like saying, the only way to retreat is to go straight ahead. That’s the situation I was in. I couldn’t stay where I was, Somehow Pauline’s crying over the damned buttons crystallized in me that I had to get out of the situation. I fled forward.”

“Understood. Does the defense have any questions?”

“No questions.”

“Your honor, the prosecution recalls Martha Gellhorn.”


“Miss Gellhorn, when you came home from Spain for the final time, what were your plans?”

“I wanted to be with Ernest, and I wanted to continue to write. Spain made me into a war correspondent, and clearly the world was going to need plenty of war correspondents.”

“Had you and the defendant come to an understanding by the end of 1938?”

“Let’s say that at some point it became inevitable that he was going to leave Pauline and take up with me. But, as I came to learn, bringing things to a conclusion was something he wouldn’t do if he could avoid it. Toward the end of the year, he all but moved over to Havana, living in the Sevilla-Biltmore, supposedly so he could get enough peace and quiet to keep writing. By then he was defining `peace and quiet’ as not just freedom from visitors but freedom from Pauline.”

“So you went to be with him. Were you intending to be with him permanently?”

“Oh, I don’t know. This was 1939, we could see that war was coming, it wasn’t a time to think about permanence. You were led by events. But I was there, and we liked being together, I was willing to see what would happen.”

“And you were responsible for his buying the Finca.”

“His room in the Sevilla-Biltmore was a dump, as bad as the Hotel Florida in Madrid, but he was so far into the book, I think he didn’t even notice. He didn’t have time and attention to spend looking for another place, but I couldn’t stand living like that, so I took it on myself to do the looking. That should have taught me something, too. Ernest was always happy to let someone else do the uninteresting things in life. But I found a big house on 15 acres with a great view, a few miles outside of Havana: Finca Vigia, which means lookout farm. It wasn’t in great shape, and he wasn’t much impressed by it when I took him out to see it, but I could see its possibilities. I arranged to rent it, and I spent my own money fixing it up, and in mid-May we moved in.”

“Best thing you ever did for me Marty, and I appreciated it.”

“You had a damn funny way of showing it, sometimes. Anyway, we settled in.”

“Miss Gellhorn, as I understand it, you and the defendant shared expenses.”

“Except for his booze bill, yes. If you want to keep your independence, you have to pay your own way. So Ernest kept working on his novel, and I continued on mine, my second novel, I don’t think I mentioned that. He and Paula kept edging closer to divorce, but they were keeping up appearances. He continued to get his mail at the Ambos Mundos for propriety’s sake, but he moved into the finca with me. Then in September he packed Pauline off to Key West and called me and asked me to fly to Billings to meet him.”

“Which you did.”

“Which I did, yes, and we drove to the Sun Valley Lodge. They were just getting started, and they were comping celebrities in return for them letting themselves be used to publicize the lodge.”

“In your experience, was that typical of the defendant, to let himself be used for publicity purposes?”

“He was working on his manuscript; it was coming along well, but he needed a good place to work. He wasn’t rich yet, and obviously he could no longer rely on Pauline’s family money. Free lodgings at Sun Valley helped, and it was a beautiful setting that provided wonderful hunting.”

“And then?”

“And then Charles Colebough of Collier’s asked me to go to Finland, because it looked Finland and Russia might go to war.”

“What was the defendant’s reaction to the idea?”

“Initially Ernest was quite supportive. He said I ought to be able to do it in a few weeks and then meet him in Cuba. He said the assignment would give me a nest egg, and then I could afford to write my short stories without having to resort to journalism to keep body and soul together. So of course as soon as I had things arranged, Ernest started going around telling everybody I was abandoning him. But that was Ernest. He got over it, after a while.”

“So you went.”

“I went. It took nearly three weeks in a Dutch freighter – a neutral vessel, you know — to get to Belgium by way of England and a heavily mined sea. Then a flight to Helsinki, and within hours after my arrival, late in November, the Russians started dropping bombs. It didn’t take long. By Christmas Eve I was in Sweden, writing my articles for Colliers, and then I was marking time in Lisbon, waiting for the weather to improve enough for the Yankee Clipper to take me back to America. By the time I got home, Ernest had packed up his things from Key West and he was in Cuba for good.”

“Questions from the defense?”

“Miss Gellhorn, you said the defendant `got over’ the fact that you were going to Finland. What was he like after he got over it?”

“These were still early days between us. He was sweet, actually. He praised me to my face and behind my back, saying how brave I was. And when I was in Finland he sent me cables saying how proud of me he was, which made me miss him terribly.”

“And when you returned to him, in Cuba?”

“He was very glad to have me back, and he wanted me to never leave him again. At the moment, that’s what I wanted too. I did have offers to cover the war, but I turned them down. I was tired, and  I was happy just to be with him, and to be with his friends from Spain who partied with him at the Finca every Sunday. And of course I was waiting for A Stricken Field, my novel, to come out in March.”

“Had the defendant helped you write it?”

“He was plenty busy with For Whom the Bell Tolls! Where he helped me most was with the legal aspects of the publishing contract. He had Max Perkins send him a copy of the most stringent Scribner’s contract so he could compare and negotiate with my publishers, and he was able to get the terms improved considerably.”

“Thank you, Miss Gellhorn. No further questions at this time.”

“Your honor, the prosecution recalls the defendant to the stand.”


“Mr. Hemingway, all during the time your second marriage was disintegrating, no matter where you were, you kept writing For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

“Seventeen months, all told.”

“Yes. Seventeen months. During that time, would you say you were living more in your mind than in the external physical world?”

“Let’s not forget, I’m the guy who had to deal with Pauline and Marty and Max and everybody. In December of ’39, when I went down to Key West I found that she had discharged all the house servants and taken herself and the kids to New York, and it was up to me to pack my manuscripts and my clothes and gear. Some of it I stored at Sloppy Joe’s, and the rest of it I packed in the big Buick, and then I put it in the car and took the ferry to Havana. You think that got done by remote control?”

“My question really is, did you sometimes find your inner world overwhelming the outer world? Clearly, seventeen months devoted to visualizing and writing one story is an intense prolonged effort. It seems reasonable to ask if you found it harder to concentrate on the outer world during that period.”

“You ever try catching marlin while you’re thinking about something else? When I finished working for the day, I turned it all off. I had to, or I couldn’t work the next day. That’s one way I used drinking, to retune the radio in my mind.”

“I see. While we’re on the subject, let’s finish with For Whom the Bell Tolls. You wrote it with unwavering foreknowledge of defeat.”

“Everybody who read the book in 1940 knew the Republic’s fate. It didn’t die in the dark. Spain was betrayed by everybody: by its own army, by England, by France by the United States, by the Soviet Union in a different way. It was betrayed by just about everybody except Mexico and the International Brigade. So where was the opportunity for a happy ending? It wasn’t that kind of story. I wasn’t out to make people feel good. I was telling the truth, as best I could.”

“Did you not experience some internal conflict about including some things? The massacres by the people, for instance?”

“I wasn’t writing propaganda. I wrote it as true as I could write. This was an elegy, and I wasn’t going to spoil it by writing things that time would reveal as false, or by leaving out anything that ought to be in it. I’ll tell you what surprised me, though. Very few people seemed to realize that the book less about Spain than about an idealistic American who loved Spain.

“Robert Jordan was modeled on Robert Merriman, who got killed over there. He was a product of an America the Spaniards could never be brought to understand, living in a sort of no-man’s-land of his own, living among people who called him ingles even after he corrected them. He spoke their language, and could think inside their heads, but he wasn’t one of them. He was tied to untrustworthy allies because they were fighting the same enemies. By the time the book came out, that was America’s situation, too, and people were beginning to realize it. That’s what the book was really about.”

“Yes. It was a remarkable achievement. And Spain led indirectly to your trip to Chine in 1941, which had equally major consequences for you. Let’s look at that experience. The prosecution recalls Martha Gellhorn.”


Chapter 18: Spain

“Mr. Dos Passos, in the Spring of 1937 you and the defendant were among the foreigners observing the Spanish Civil War from the side of the elected government. You both loved Spain, you were both committed anti-fascists, you had been friends for more than fifteen years. Would you please tell this court what happened in Spain, in 1937, to end your friendship?”

“As I said earlier, Katy and I had watched Hem change under the pressure of fame and money. You need to keep this in mind. He was starting to believe his own press releases, as they say.”

Dos glanced over at him, held his eyes for a long moment. He squirmed, and saw them register the fact that he’d recognized the portrait that was being painted.

“Jose Robles and I had been friends ever since a long night in 1916 in a third-class compartment on a train from Toledo to Madrid. He and I were both fluent in English and Spanish, and we were both studying art and architecture at the Centro de Estudios Historicos, in Madrid. Like me, Pepe was a radical in a conservative family. My father was a wealthy corporate lawyer, his family were aristocrats, friends of royalty. I became part of his circle of friends, then my father died and I had to go home. After the war I stayed in Europe to escape America. Meanwhile, Pepe went to America to escape Spain, and wound up teaching Spanish at Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore. It was just Pepe’s bad luck that he was visiting Spain at the time of Franco’s revolt. He let them make him a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, and because he spoke not only English but Russian, they made him translator to an NKVD officer named Aleksandr Orlov.”

“Please tell the court what the NKVD was and what an NKVD officer was doing in Spain.”

“The NKVD was the Soviet secret police organization, the equivalent of the German Gestapo. It came to Spain as a condition of Soviet military aid, and Orlov was doing what the NKVD always did – he was organizing purges of `unreliable elements,’ which meant anyone who wouldn’t follow orders. Purges meant shootings, you understand.”

Dos Passos hardened, reliving it. “Pepe’s job guaranteed that he would learn too much. Maybe they started to worry that he couldn’t be trusted to keep his mouth shut. One night they took him from his home. His wife didn’t know what had happened to him, and neither did his teenage son, who was working as a translator in a government office.”

“And that’s where you came in.”

“That’s where I came in. Until now, I’ve been welcome, because the Loyalists know I am a good friend to the republic. But when I land in Valencia, right away I sense this coolness toward me in the government, from top to bottom. Mostly, it’s because I’m known to be a close friend of Pepe Robles. When I ask, nobody will tell me where he is. They hardly admit to knowing who he is! Here is one of the top men in the government, and people aren’t admitting that they know him, and I’m making people nervous, asking about him. Why? I finally find his wife and children, terrified, with no one to trust, still with no idea who took him or why, or if he’s still alive. I figure that maybe I can find out. I’m a best-selling author; I’ve been on the cover of Time magazine. It would be embarrassing all around if I were to disappear. So, I think I’m fairly safe. But I don’t learn anything in Valencia, so I go to Madrid.”

“And there you found the defendant.”

“Yes, and well ensconced. I can see right away, he’s being courted. He may think it’s his genius for scrounging that keeps him in food and gasoline, but it’s the government, or rather the power behind the government, doing everything it can to rope him in. He can feel his influence, or what he thinks is influence, and it’s changing him.”

“Did the defendant help you find out what happened to your friend Pepe?”

“You know he didn’t. Or, well, he did, but –“

“Tell it your own way.”

“He and I had a mutual friend, Josie Herbst, sort of a literary hanger-on. What we didn’t know is that she was a communist, following orders. She told Ernest that Robles had been killed because he was a fascist spy. Ernest believed her, and he picked a very public occasion to tell me that Pepe had been tried and condemned, and there wasn’t any doubt about his guilt. Almost crowed over the fact that Pepe was my friend, and he was a spy, and he was dead. He was crowing over his having inside information, you see, and exercising his tough-guy persona.”

It was all true. He writhed.

“Mr. Dos Passos, you have given a very lucid description of yourself and the defendant at cross-purposes. Let me ask you how you construe his motivations.”

“I think the elements just all came together in the wrong way, and he wasn’t reflective enough to see it. I mean, here he was, the man with the inside dope, the man who knew. He was well-connected, and apparently trusted. He loved that, always did. I think he was telling himself that he was tough and politically sophisticated. `These things happen in war, get used to it,’ that kind of thing. I think otherwise he would have reacted the way I did. I went home with my vision cleared.

“The NKVD was spreading terror in Spain, the show trials were going on in Moscow, and you could watch the zigs and zags of the party loyalists, always scurrying to approve any new thing that happened. I started to see what was really happening, as opposed to what we were being told was happening, what we had wanted to believe was happening. I didn’t come to a clear understanding right away, but it started then, and that’s when people said I moved to the right. I didn’t. I was just as anti-fascist as I had ever been. But I saw that the communists weren’t any better than the fascists, which, of course, left me between the two sides, undefended. But that was the price I had to pay, if I was going to stick with the truth.”

“And another part of the price was severing your relations with the defendant?”

“Oh, even before I sailed for home, I knew the best days of our friendship were over. I knew that Ernest knew what he had done, and I knew he would find it intolerable to remember, and I knew that he would have to re-write it as a morality play, and the villain wasn’t going to be him. Sure enough, when we met that fall at the Murphy’s place in New York, he was so outrageous that I walked out. The next spring he wrote me an absolutely savage letter, the kind of letter you’d write an enemy, and that was the end of it.”

“Because you couldn’t forgive him?”

“No, It wasn’t my choice. I knew there would be no going back, because Ernest never went back.”

No, he never went back. He just kept burning bridges.

“Cross examination? No? Your honor, the prosecution recalls the defendant.”


“All right, I’ll say right off, I was wrong about Dos, and it was wrong what I said about him. He was as honest a man as I ever knew.”

“So do you now see it as Dos Passos being loyal to his friend and you being wrong to attack him for it?”

“Yes. It’s clear enough, now.”

“And when you were no longer friends, you missed him,”


“But you weren’t able to tell him this in life. Why was that? Pride?”

It puzzled him. “I don’t know any more. Somehow there was a wall and he was on the other side, and the wall didn’t have any doors I ever found.”

“Very well, let us pass on to the war itself. First, please tell the court how often during the war you visited Spain, and for how long.”

“Let’s see. In 1937 I was there from mid-March to May and from September to December, and then in 1938, from April to mid-May and a few weeks in November. Four visits, all told.”

“Wasted time, Mr. Hemingway?”

“Certainly not. But it did cost me.”

“Professionally? Personally?”


“Mr. Hemingway, everybody knows you loved Spain and despised fascism. But we also know how little you thought of governments. So what makes a non-political man into a partisan, risking his life reporting a war on the other side of the ocean?”

“If the Republic won, we might not have to fight another world war. The Spanish government was fighting our fight against fascism. It was clear enough.”

“Not clear to everyone, not then and perhaps not now. Tell the court, please, how did you see it?”

“The army’s coup didn’t come off, and the workers rose up and took over a lot of the cities, including Madrid. So the Spanish fascists were going to lose, and with them the landowners and the church, and, by extension, Mussolini and Hitler, who up to this point had been casting an illusion of invincibility. They couldn’t afford that, so Mussolini sent in troops and Hitler sent his Air Force ‘volunteers’ to get practice in actual war conditions. The Western governments got scared by the workers’ uprisings, and by the Soviet involvement, so they refused to sell arms to the Spanish government. But the Spaniards refused to quit. You see?”

“Not quite. Why was this important?”

“Spanish resistance put the fascist intervention on the world’s front pages, month after month, and slowly conservatives came to realize that Germany was more of an immediate threat than Russia, and liberals decided that fighting fascism trumped fighting militarism. That took time, and the time was bought with Spanish blood.”

“And yet the Spanish republic accepted arms and equipment and officers and commissars from Russia, so there was excuse for fears that Spain might become a Soviet republic, at the gates of the Mediterranean.”

“True. But it’s hard to see what choice the Spanish government had, with all the western governments refusing to let it buy arms.”

“Mr. Hemingway, the politics of the Spanish conflict are a bit beside the point here, but as a matter of interest, do you think that in more fortunate circumstances it could have been avoided?”

He felt for it. “No, I can’t say I do. The whole tragedy was lying there waiting. That’s what happens when you try to keep your country isolated. Everything the outside world brings in is disruptive: the telegraph, the radio, the airplane, the automobile, banking, foreign ideas, even tourism. The result was something that nobody liked – not the peasants, not the landlords, not the workers, not the factory owners, not the church or the Army or the bureaucracy or the intelligentsia. The republic was a bunch of pieces moving in different directions at different speeds. So the loudmouths and the know-it-alls and the impractical visionaries all started to fight one another for center stage. Politics is stupid and dishonest at best, but when fanatics take charge, watch out.”

“Your honor, the prosecution calls Martha Gellhorn.”


“Miss Gellhorn, before you went to Key West in 1936, you held the defendant in high regard as a writer. When you met him, were you disappointed?”

“Not at all. He was smart, quick, knowledgeable. The things he knew, like writing, he really knew. He wasn’t much interested in politics, though. Until he met me, the defendant hardly had any politics!”

“None that you would recognize, you mean.” But the prosecutor and Martha ignored him.

“By all accounts, before the defendant met you, he was more or less apolitical. Yet when you and he return from your first trip to Spain in 1937, the man who hates making speeches makes a speech promoting the film `The Spanish Earth’ and raises money for the Loyalist cause. Seemingly, he has moved considerably to the left in a very short time. Would you agree that your influence is very largely responsible for this shift?

“Well, I hope so. But if so, it looks like the influence wore off about the same time I did.”

“Miss Gellhorn, you have been a committed leftist throughout your life, have you not?”

“I have been, I am, and I expect to continue to be. Those are my beliefs.”

“You have not become more conservative as the years have passed and, I gather, you have little patience with those who have.”

“None at all.”

“You have been quoted as saying that the ideal of objectivity in journalism is nonsense.”

“We all have beliefs, and they shape how we see things. It’s stupid or dishonest to pretend otherwise.”

“So you would not be offended if someone accused you of using your journalism to promote your political views.”

“Of course not. What should I do? Support those I disagree with? Make excuses for Hitler?”

“You were an early and consistent opponent of fascism. However, you were not equally critical of Stalin and Communism. Is that not so?”

“In the 1930s, you had to choose between Hitler and Stalin, and I chose Stalin. So did Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt.”

“And after the war?”

“After the war the issue did not arise in the same way.”

“Not even in the case of the treason trial of Alger Hiss?”

“The whole thing, including Joe McCarthy and his committee, was nothing but a witch-hunt. They said Hiss was a communist and a traitor, and I didn’t believe Whittaker Chambers then and I don’t now. And I am always happy to disbelieve anything that Richard Nixon believes.”

“Was the subject of politics a point of contention between you and the defendant?”

Somehow everybody in the courtroom knew more or less what she would say before she opened her mouth. “Everything was a point of contention between us!”

The prosecutor was smiling. “Yes, I think we understand that, but talk to us about politics.”

“Ernest was never on the side of reaction, but that didn’t mean you could count on him being on the liberal side of the issues. Mostly he didn’t seem to care.”

“Yeah? I had Mussolini’s number before you were 15 years old.”

“Miss Gellhorn, I take it that the defendant is indicating that he doesn’t consider himself politically naïve.”

“If you had lived with him, that wouldn’t surprise you any.”

“Well, let’s ask him. Remain on the stand, if you please. Mr. Hemingway, you were aware of Miss Gellhorn’s politics?”

He snorted. “Anybody who ever met Marty was aware of her politics.”

“Initially you didn’t share her ideas. In one of your `letters’ for Esquire, you had warned that the dictators needed another European war, and it was on its way, and you hoped that the United States would stay out of this one. Yet you became so deeply involved in the Spanish civil war that you changed the novel you were working on. You narrated a film by a leftist movie producer, even wound up fund-raising for the Spanish republic among the Hollywood crowd. You broke with your long-time friend John Dos Passos. What happened, Mr. Hemingway? Can it all be blamed on your involvement with Miss Gellhorn?”

He seemed to feel the time passing as he sat there pondering. “Enough of it can be,” he said after a while. “She turned out to be very expensive. Getting involved with the war in Spain moved me into an intensely political orbit for a while, and getting too involved with a cause always costs you your clarity of perception. You lose the ability to see things you don’t want to see. A part of you gets hard and cynical, willing to do things or approve of things that you know are wrong, but you tell yourself you’re being realistic. A writer can’t afford to lie to himself like that. That’s what cost me my friendship with Dos.”

“And I suppose that’s all my fault? How about the fact that you getting involved with Spain resulted in For Whom The Bell Tolls? Wouldn’t you say it was worthwhile, looking at it now?”

He hesitated, and again felt the moment stretch out around him.

“Marty, I have to say, I don’t know. If I hadn’t gone to Spain, who knows what I would have written? Maybe I would have made To Have And Have Not the great revolutionary novel that it should have been. Maybe I would have written other things, better things.”

“And just left the Spanish people to their own devices.”

“We’ve had this argument, how many times? My job wasn’t to tilt at windmills, it was  to write as truly as I could.”

“You can’t write if you don’t experience!”

“But not every experience leaves you better able to write. From the time I finished For Whom the Bell Tolls until I came home from Europe in 1945, I didn’t get to write a thing except an introduction to a book of other people’s war stories. You think that experience helped me write better?”

“It was damned inconsiderate of them to have a world war when you wanted to write, wasn’t it? But –”

“Please, Miss Gellhorn, Mr. Hemingway, let’s concentrate on the prewar years. Miss Gellhorn, would you say that you influenced the defendant to go to Spain?”

“You never could tell what made Ernest come to his decisions, finally, but I certainly pushed him hard enough. He wanted to stay down there and fish and write his books, and I kept telling him he was a voice, he could be heard, he had a duty to show the world what he knew. It had to have helped, but maybe he would have gone anyway.”

“And in the event, he arrived there before you did.”

“Well, sure, he was the big-shot writer, he got a contract to report for the North American Newspaper Alliance, he wangled his way into Spain, where they already knew him, he got there in the middle of March. I didn’t get there for another two weeks, because I had to do everything the hard way, including getting a letter from Collier’s pretending I was a correspondent. And then when I do get there, after all that, I find him presiding over a feast and he looks up and says that he knew I’d get there because he had arranged it! I set him straight on that! Ernest wasn’t used to people talking back to him, especially women, but he took it. Maybe it helped that we hadn’t been to bed yet, I don’t know.”

“But you say you had a letter `pretending’ you were a correspondent for Collier’s. Isn’t Spain where you became one?”

A hesitation. “I owe that to Ernest, actually. After a while, he saw I wasn’t writing, and asked why, so I sat down and wrote a piece and sent it to Collier’s. I didn’t think they’d publish it, but they did, and from then on I was a real war correspondent, not just someone who had used a fake letter to get into the country.”

“So, if you would, describe the defendant as you observed him in Spain.”

Ever so slightly, the tense features softened. “That’s when I fell in love with Ernest, you know. I had admired him as a writer, and I liked him as a man, I loved hearing his stories and getting a sense of all the things he’d done, and that he knew, but in Spain I saw him in another light. I expected he would be resourceful and skillful, but what surprised me was the depth of his commitment to the Spanish people, and his absolute courage. I never saw him to better advantage than in Spain, not even years later, in China.”

“No reservations?”

“Oh hell yes, tons of reservations. He was bossy, and arrogant, and presumptuous. He kept trying to take over my life. He could be quarrelsome and petty and lots of other things. But when you come down to it, he was courageous and he was committed, and that made up for a lot.”

He was moved, which surprised him. It had been a long time since Marty had thought of him in those terms. Or maybe she always had, and had kept it to herself. Or maybe she had kept that image of him in a separate compartment.

“After you and the defendant returned from your first wartime visit to Spain, you were beside him on the platform when he was one of those who spoke to the American Writers Conference. What kind of an impression did he make there?”

“The house was packed – 3,500 people – and when MacLeish introduced him, I thought they’d never stop applauding. He hated public speaking, and he only spoke for a few minutes, but what he said was just what needed to be said, `Fascism is a lie told by bullies.’ When he finished, the crowd was on its feet, but Ernest took himself offstage as soon as he was finished, and he sure wasn’t coming back for a curtain call. This wasn’t about him, it was about the cause, and everybody in that hall knew that he was absolutely sincere, and absolutely right. I was very proud of him, that night.”

“And a few weeks later, after he recorded the film’s narrative track, you and he and the filmmaker were invited to the White House for a special filming.”

“Eleanor Roosevelt and I had been friends for years, and of course she approved of the cause.”

“And was the defendant excited to be the guest of the President of the United States?”

“If he was, he sure didn’t show it. He wasn’t a big Roosevelt fan.”

“Well, Mr. Hemingway, were you excited?”

“Hardly! The food was as bad as Marty had warned us it would be, and the dinner conversation wasn’t any better. And he didn’t impress me either. I didn’t trust him. He and Eleanor said they liked the film, and they said we should make it stronger, and all that – but who signed the proclamation of so-called neutrality that made it impossible for the Spanish republic to defend itself? If America hadn’t gone along with England and France, the embargo would have collapsed. Did he think we didn’t know that?”

“Eleanor said he didn’t have any choice, Ernest.”

“Yeah, I know that’s what she said.”


“No cross-examination, your honor. Miss Gellhorn seems to have presented a very fair and balanced portrait.”

“Then, Mr. Prosecutor?”

“Your honor, the prosecution recalls Pauline Hemingway.”


“Mrs. Hemingway, the years 1937 and 1938 must have been difficult for you.”

“They were. It isn’t easy to see your husband slipping away from you, and nothing you can do.”

“Those who live by the sword die by the sword, Pauline. I told you that.”

“You needn’t respond to that, Mrs. Hemingway. This proceeding centers on the defendant, not on you or anyone else.”

“It doesn’t matter. The accusation isn’t even wrong, but it certainly isn’t the whole truth. For one thing, I didn’t really lose him to Martha, I lost him to Spain, and his boyhood dreams, and his restlessness. He was becoming ever-more involved in international affairs, and I was associated with the responsibilities of home and children. It was hard not to be bitter. But in time I realized that he left me, and left our life, for the same reason he left Hadley.”

“So, do I understand you to say that this reconciled you to the breakup of your marriage?”

“Reconciled? No, not at all. And it didn’t reconcile me to him, either. Even years after we were divorced, sometimes we fought as bitterly as when we were still tied together. In fact, the strain of our last long-distance shouting match brought me here to the non-physical, as you may know. But I did come to realize, the same thing that made him a literary genius made his home life impossible. Ernest needed a wife and a home, but he needed to be free of the responsibilities of everyday life. He went from sitting at home writing To Have and Have Not to being at war again, and he was reminded what it was like to be a boy, free of wife and children and house and career and even Pilar. We were all things he loved that nevertheless weighed him down.”

“That’s true. That’s exactly how it felt, at first, those couple of weeks when I was alone, before Martha got there.”

“Yes, but Ernest, you can’t have it both ways, no matter how talented you are, or how much money you make, or how willing your wife is to go on safari with you. Day-to-day responsibilities bored you, and you avoided them as much as possible. But it isn’t enough to write the book, you have to check the galleys, you know that.”

“Yeah, but the walls were closing in.”

“You wanted incompatible things, I understand. But life isn’t like that!”

“I did say I was tempted to make a colossal mistake.”

“Yes, and you said it in print, too, which was very nice for me to have to read and pretend to not understand.”

“But, Mrs. Hemingway, you did understand.”

“Of course I did, I wasn’t blind and I wasn’t naïve. Martha wasn’t the first. Jane Mason had been a problem, too, but we had gotten through that. We could have gotten through Martha, too, even if they had had an affair. In fact, that might have been the fastest way to bring him back to his senses.”

“Boy, that’s the truth!”

“But how was I to compete with Spain, and all the new friends and experiences, and the dangers of war, and the glamour of having a cause, especially when I didn’t believe in the cause? Nothing I could say was getting through to him. All I could do was keep the home fires burning, and hope for the best. In December, 1937, I tried to join him in Spain, so I could understand what was drawing him there. Maybe if I could have gotten to Madrid, it would have helped Ernest to see me in a different context. But the fates were against me. Before I could get a visa to enter Spain, Ernest came out on his way home.”

“It probably wouldn’t have helped even if you had gotten there, Pauline. You weren’t born to get involved in a war.”

“Neither were the Spanish women, but they had to deal with it. Maybe you would have been surprised to see how I coped. And maybe having me and Martha in the same hotel would have cramped your style.”

“In any case, Mrs. Hemingway, your attempt at joining the defendant in Madrid failed.”

“It did, and we spent a very unhappy Christmas season in Paris and on the boat home, quarreling. And sometime in 1938 there came a point when I realized that it no longer mattered what I was willing to do; he had turned his face from his old life and he was going to make his colossal mistake.”

“Your honor, the prosecution recalls the defendant.”


“You were potentially quite valuable to the Republic. Besides being an experienced journalist, you were a world-famous author. Whatever you chose to write would reach millions, and might influence your government’s action. Did this not open doors for you that perhaps remained closed to others?”

“Sure, but that applied to anybody with a wide enough readership. Herb Matthews, Tom Delmer, Bob Capa, lots of them. Dos, before he fell out of favor.”

“Were you perhaps particularly favored, as John Dos Passos suggested?”

“Well, maybe. But I wasn’t one of those guys who would just rewrite official press releases. I traveled plenty, sometimes with Marty and sometimes with Herb Matthews or Bob Capa and sometimes without any of them. I went to the fronts, I talked to the officers and men; I saw how things really were. In a war, you have to have to see for yourself. I learned that we were in for years of war, maybe decades of it, and I learned not to trust the Russians any more than the British or French or my own government. I learned that I still liked living on the edge, and that I was still good in emergencies. And eventually, when it was too late, I learned that anybody who fought for the Republic came to the attention of the FBI as a possible communist sympathizer.”

“Let’s stick to what you learned in those four trips to the war.”

He dug into his past, examining. “It wasn’t like when I went to Italy as a kid, believing what I was told. I knew Spain. I knew the language. I had Spanish friends. I knew the Spanish mind. I had traveled all over the country, many times. And by this time I knew how to read through official lies to figure out the truth they were trying to conceal. I understood strategy and tactics and the use of terrain. I had spent a dozen years preparing to understand the situation. But Marty saw the Spanish war as part of the great crusade against fascism. She wasn’t able to see that maybe for me it was also about Spain itself. Maybe if she had realized that, she would have understood, a few years later, why I wasn’t particularly anxious to report on the war in France. But then, Marty wasn’t ever very good at seeing another point of view.”

“The two of you were able to cooperate in Spain.”

“Yeah, as long as I was the one who knew the language and the situation and how to be a war correspondent and she didn’t. Once she figured out all that, or thought she did, she was back to being Marty until the next new situation. Often wrong, never in doubt.”

“And from Spain, you returned to your stateside life.”

“What was left of it, yes.”

“Your honor, the prosecution wishes to return Pauline Hemingway to the stand.”


Chapter 17: Key West –Middle Years

“So, Mr. Hemingway, when you returned from Africa in 1934 did your life in Key West seem too small, too domesticated?”

“Maybe it would have, but now I had the Pilar. The minute we got off the boat in New York, we went straight to Wheeler Shipwrights in Brooklyn and placed an order, modified to my specifications. And when it arrived and I learned how to run it, I h ad my own boat.”

“Yes. Your escape from civilization.”

Startled: “You understand!”

“Tell us what you think we understand. Mr. Hemingway.”

“Go out a few miles, out of sight of land, and you’re back in the world the way it always was. Sea and sky and you yourself, and all the creatures that live in the sea, and on it, and over it. Even the weather, and the way things smell, and the way the clouds change, and the different feel of the sea in different circumstances: It was all part of it. Going fishing wasn’t just about catching fish.”

“And if you hadn’t had Pilar? If you had had to go back to fishing from other men’s boats?”

“It was fine before, why wouldn’t it have still been fine? You don’t miss what you’ve never experienced.”

“Perhaps not. Mr. Hemingway, we haven’t talked about your role as father. In your Key West years, besides being the father of a teenager who mostly lived with his mother, you were the father of two very young children. Would you say you gave them enough of your time?”

“Listen, I was freer than most people, the way I made my living, but if I was going to succeed, it would be on the back of my own work. It doesn’t make it easy to concentrate on family. I couldn’t very well include them in my working life. Writing is done alone. Mr. Bumby – Jack – got a good deal of my time and attention when he was little, but I didn’t have the responsibilities and pressures I did by the time Pat and Gigi came along. By then, too, we had enough money to pay others to take care of them, and of course that tended to shut them out of our lives.”

“So do you think they suffered neglect, being your sons?”

“It’s too late to do anything about it, but yes, I suppose they did. They weren’t first in my mind except when I was doing something with them. Kids need a lot of attention, and the more sensitive they are, the more attention they need. And if they don’t get what they need, that has consequences. But I think they’re usually pretty philosophical about it, in the way kids accept whatever life dishes out to them. Anyway, did you feel a part of your father’s inner world? Plus, when I was with them, I was very much with them. I taught them how to do the things I knew, like hunting and fishing. And maybe I taught them by example to enjoy what they were doing, and to make their own fun by planning it. When I could concentrate on the kids, I really concentrated.”

A hesitation. “Every child wants to be the center of the world for the parents, but it can’t happen, and wouldn’t be healthy if it did happen. We all have to make our own way in this world.”

“Very good. Your honor, the prosecution calls John Dos Passos.”


Dos! Who would have thought that Dos would outlive him? (They were asking him to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Useless ritual anyway, but particularly in this case. Who had ever known Dos to lie to anybody?)

Dos sat there beaming at him with his usual overflowing goodwill, looking like he had in the twenties. He had sent a get-well note, just days ago, on earth, which was just like him. It was gall and wormwood, seeing that familiar face with its affection unimpaired.

“Mr. Dos Passos, you and the defendant knew each other much of his adult life, is that correct?”

“That’s right.”

“You had both been ambulance drivers in the war.”

“Yes, but not at the same place and time. I was three years older than he was, and I had had more than a year of the war, in France and Italy. When we met in 1922, we realized that we had met in Italy, in May, 1918. At least, we were pretty sure we had. There was this tall handsome kid who had just arrived while I was on my way out. I had retained a vivid impression of a long talk, but I hadn’t caught his name.”

“By 1922 you had already had some success as a novelist.”

“Yes, and it came as quite a surprise. I had been all the way to Persia, and I came back to Europe by camel across the Middle East, and when I got to Paris, I was broke, but I found that Three Soldiers, a novel I had written before I left, was selling all over the place.”

“So how did you experience the defendant when you met again after the lapse of four years?”

“We took to each other right away. We had the same interests, the same ideas. Ernest didn’t sketch, the way I did, but already he knew how to read a painting. And he and I had had vivid experiences, but different kinds of experience, so we could learn from each other. And of course, we were both writers.”

“So, you got along.”

“Ernest lived in a bubble of active vigorous enjoyment, and he could bring you into it. You somehow got sucked into his enthusiasms, even things you didn’t really care about, like six-day bicycle races. And he could bring things out of you that you didn’t even realize you knew. He had that tremendous gift for listening. He was stimulating, he was receptive, he was serious about his craft. He was fun. He and Hadley were still in the first year of their marriage, and they were lovely to be with.”

“Could you sketch for the court how your relationship to the defendant changed over the years?”

He got a vivid image of Dos walking on uncertain terrain, picking his way carefully.

“I suppose friendships go through phases, like love affairs. They change as the people change. Sometimes they change in ways that strengthens the friendship. Sometimes not.” The prosecutor out-waited him. Reluctantly, but sticking to the truth, rejecting half-measures as usual. “The more Ernest succeeded, the harder it got to be his friend.”

“Success went to his head.”

“I’d have to say it did, more so as the years went on. His own opinion became more and more important to him, and other people’s less and less. As his literary star rose, he started expecting a certain deference, even from old friends. He didn’t get it from me, and things between us started to fray a little. Also, he got so either he couldn’t hear criticism, or it enraged him.”

“Why do you think that was?”

“It’s a heady feeling, succeeding while you’re still very young. It had happened to me when I was about the same age. You’re afraid to believe that the success is real, because until then it has been out of reach and it seems you’ve been pursuing it so long! And yet you also have this feeling of inevitability.”

“Would you say that success changed you in the same way it did him?”

“No, because I had other things I wanted to do. Writing a successful book was a pleasant experience, but I hadn’t been staking my life on it. Ernest was going to be a writer of fiction and that was all there was to it. So to him, quick success was a promise and a validation, in a way it wasn’t for me.”

Well, it was true. He hadn’t seen it that way, struggling with his fears and insecurities.

“You and the defendant parted ways in Spain.”

“That’s true, we did, but don’t forget, we had many good years together. And Ernest was the reason I met Katy. He and Pauline invited me to Key West, thinking to fix me up with his sister Sunny, but I didn’t interest her and she didn’t interest me. The one who did interest me was his old friend Katherine Smith, and the minute I saw Katy’s green eyes, that was it for me.”

“We will discuss what happened in Spain, but first I should like you to describe for the court your own political views at the time.”

“Why? Is this my trial?”

“Let us say, the court would value your view of the writer and society in the 1930s.”

“As a corrective to Hem’s?”

“To help us triangulate, let’s say.”

“All right.”

“You are often described as moved to the right after having been radical in your youth. Would you agree with that assessment?”

“Not really. It’s true, that is a common pattern. People learn that it isn’t safe to judge things before you watch them and think about them. And after you’ve been betrayed by fine words a couple of times, you learn to question people’s motivations. But I started out as a libertarian, and I remain a libertarian. That’s one of the things Ernest and I had in common, by the way, to the extent that he had any politics at all.”

“I was more of an anarchist, really.”

“Well, Hem, I know that’s how you saw yourself, in some moods. But he asked me how I saw your politics. When I first knew you, politics and ideology didn’t interest you. They were too abstract for you.”

Fair enough.

“Proceed, Mr. Dos Passos.”

“In the 1920s, the cultural left loved me. Three Soldiers, Manhattan Transfer, The 42nd Parallel, 1919: The literary establishment praised my work as artistically innovative, which it was. It took me a while to realize that I was being praised mostly because what I was doing was supported by the official party line.”

“Figuratively speaking, I take it?”

“No. I mean the official Communist Party line. I found that out when they turned on me, and I watched the whole school of fish turn in formation.”

“Are you saying that your literary success prior to 1934 rested on the approval of the Comintern?”

“More the other way around. I was a modernist, and as long as the party line officially supported modernism in art, I automatically benefited.”

“Mr. Dos Passos, this is an important point, because both you and the defendant have been described as fellow travelers in the 1930s. Please give the court your understanding of what it meant to be a fellow traveler, and tell us whether you think that characterization is accurate.”

“If you mean, did we trim our views to conform to the party line, then no, obviously not. Not me, not Ernest. But if you mean did the party claim us as long as it found our views useful, then yes.”

He paused. “Here’s how it worked. The Soviet government  — Stalin, Karl Radek, a few others – decided what public opinion they wanted to foster in the West, for the sake of Soviet foreign policy. That became what they called the party line, which was aimed at left intellectuals and literary critics in the West.”

“Not designed to control Soviet writers?”

“They were already under control. It was about making the Soviet Union look like the home of a new culture that favored forward-looking art and literature.

“So, the left intellectuals praised my books, right up until the party line swerved. Karl Radek made a speech to the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934, denouncing modernism as western decadence, and just like that, modernism was out, and the new `in’ thing was what Radek called socialist realism. And since he had attacked James Joyce and me by name, it wasn’t long before my work was being attacked by `progressive’ critics in the West.”

“Did this damage your career?”

“Not right away. At first it just looked like I was bucking one of those literary trends that put a given writer out of fashion for a while. The Soviets still wanted to use me if they could, you see.”

“So please describe the working of this mechanism with regard to the defendant.”

“In 1934, he was so popular, the left would have loved to gather him into the fold, but they couldn’t. His short stories and his novels were never political, and of course books about bullfighting or safari hunting were impossible. He seemed to have no interest in larger social issues. Then in 1936, he fell in love with Martha Gellhorn and his politics changed.”

“Boy that’s the truth!” The prosecutor and the judge and Dos were all looking at him, but by now he was tired of apologizing for his thoughts being overheard. “Well, it is the truth. Of all the bars in all the joints in all the world, she had to walk into Sloppy Joe’s.”

The prosecutor: “Do you wish to testify to this?

“I’m willing to.”

“Very well.” The prosecutor looked at the judge, who nodded assent. Dos Passos remained in the witness chair, observing.


“Mr. Hemingway, how did the man who went on a safari in the middle of the depression become the symbol of the anti-fascist intellectual?”

He sighed. “Franco’s rebellion. And, as Dos just said, Marty Gellhorn.”

“Please explain that for the court.”

“In July, 1936, the Falangists tried to overthrow the Spanish Republic in a coup, and when the coup failed, Mussolini sent thousands of Italian conscripts to fight against the Republic, at the Falangists’ invitation. I didn’t like it, because I supported the Spanish Republic, and because I had seen that Mussolini was a baboon when I interviewed him in the early twenties. But I was 3,000 miles away, and I was working hard on my novel about Harry Morgan, and I hadn’t solved all its problems. I was hoping we could stay out of more European wars.”

“So you did not plan to participate?”

“No, of course not. I knew better than to go off on another crusade.”

“And yet, in the event, you did go to Spain.”

“Well, everybody knows what happened. I’m sitting in Sloppy Joe’s drinking, and this young woman comes in looking for the famous author who was one of her literary heroes. She’s a published author herself, and she’s beautiful, and she admires my work. You must know how political Marty is, she’s a lefty to the core. All the time I’m getting involved with her, she’s saying it’s our duty to go to Spain and do our best for the Republic. So I got to imagining a fast trip to Spain, as much as an excuse to have an affair as anything else, sort of planning it behind my own back. And of course once I got over there, I got more and more deeply involved.”

The prosecutor stopped him. “Mr. Hemingway, it is obvious that you told yourself this story for a long time. I ask you to return to the memory of the actual events.”

There was a silence that extended for several moments, and then he said, “I guess I got interested in going to Spain earlier than I thought. It was September when I told Max that I’d hate to miss the show, and it was November when the North American Newspaper Alliance approached me about reporting on the war. I didn’t meet Marty until December.”

“So for whatever reason, once you started daydreaming about going to Spain, you got tired of working on your book and you let it go, relying on your reputation to carry it.”

“That isn’t really what happened. The way I had planned it, Harry dabbles in revolution and fails, and winds up laughing at his attempts to change the world. Once I got involved on the Republican side, I didn’t want to put this message into print, so I threw all that out and changed it. It’s too bad, too, because I still think that book that might’ve been a classic. I had been thinking about the problem for years, waiting until I knew enough. It was my answer to the boys who thought government was the answer to everything. Harry Morgan’s story would have expressed it.

“Harry Morgan was an ordinary guy trying to make a living for his family and finding it harder and harder every year. In the old days, he had been able to function alone, in a sort of tribal way, just him and his family and community. They didn’t get anything special from the government and they didn’t owe anything special to the government. They lived their lives without paying much attention to the law one way or another. But everything had gotten too big and interconnected. Technical advances keep tying the world tighter. Where sailing ships could go where they wanted, coal-fired ships had to have coaling stations, and then motor ships had to have refueling docks. Or, take radio. Radio let you set up stations to help navigation and lifesaving, but then you had to have some sort of regulation of radio, or it becomes chaotic. And one thing keeps leading to another, and it’s regulation on regulation. And so government keeps getting bigger, and people like Harry Morgan keep getting squeezed.

“You know, Max Perkins said he liked Harry Morgan `even though he was a bad man — almost because he was a bad man.’ But he liked Morgan because Harry wasn’t a bad man, he was a good, responsible, reliable, well-intentioned competent man, and the times made his virtues look like vices. If Harry had been a cowboy in the old West, nobody would have thought him a bad man. He was a self-sufficient man providing for his family. He did what he thought was right and necessary.

“I know the lefties thought the answer to ` big and complicated’ was more government, but I didn’t. As far as I could see, government is a protection racket. You have to have it, because without it you’d be in the position of a man alone, surrounded by gangs. And how are you going to win a war, say, without a government? But you can’t trust it, and you don’t have to like it.”

“So what was your answer to the problem?”

“I didn’t have an answer any more than Harry did. The best a man could do was stay the hell away from it all, if he could.”

“Did this not leave you pretty much isolated in your social thinking?”

“You bet. But if you don’t choose your own values, you’ll live by somebody else’s. Now maybe you look at Harry Morgan and you say, he wasn’t wise enough, or flexible enough or even smart enough, and that all misses the point. He didn’t just drift with the tide. He planted his feet.”

“And so did you.”

“And so did I. As a writer, I had to. Writing is a solitary occupation. It means seeing, judging, understanding, weighing, balancing –  and how are you going to do that as part of a committee? It means expressing whatever you can find of the truth, and how are you going to do that if you have to try to remain a member in good standing as part of a `movement’? Writing is hard enough, without trying to stay within somebody else’s fixed limits. Groups mean compromise, and when did compromise ever produce great literature? Find a group of writers who define themselves as part of a group, and you’ll find a group of very mediocre writers.”

“You mean like the writers of the lost generation?”

“That’s different and you know it. I’m not talking about groups that get defined by what other people call them, I’m talking about people who are careful to stay within bounds other people set for them. In the 1930s, ‘serious’ literature came to mean stories that were calling for some form of revolution, and there I was, writing about bullfighting or safari hunting, subjects that the political-literary establishment despised. I was never going to be the literary establishment’s fair-haired boy. Fortunately, they couldn’t make me conform or starve. I could go my own way.”

“Nonetheless, many people, looking at To Have and Have Not, concluded that you were attempting to jump onto the liberal bandwagon.”

“Yeah, they did, but that’s because they only saw what they wanted to see. Take what Harry was thinking while he was talking to that student revolutionary, for instance. You wouldn’t catch the party faithful thinking that. Or when I was talking about the people in the yachts in the harbor. One of them had a family that made money honestly. The pleasant, dull and upright family. I said, `There are no suicides when money’s made that way,’ That was Gus Pfeiffer, a man leading a quiet prosperous life that did no one any harm. I wasn’t against people having money; I was against all the phoniness and stupidity that so often goes with rich people leading their bored and boring lives.”

“Very good. So let us return to Mr. Dos Passos. We come to the events of 1937.”


Chapter 16: Africa

“Fulfillment of an old dream, Mr. Hemingway?”

“Yes it was. I had dreamed of going to Africa ever since I was a kid looking at the photographs of Roosevelt’s safari.”

“Yes, we know that Roosevelt was your hero. But in 1918 your ‘industrial accident’ showed you the difference between war as Roosevelt had portrayed it, and war as it actually was. Didn’t you worry that Roosevelt’s description of Africa might be similarly – at variance with the facts?”

“You want to portray him as a fake, too?”

A moment’s silence while the words echoed in his mind.

“Is that your impression of the portrait we are revealing, Mr. Hemingway? That you were a fake?”

“It’s an accusation I’ve heard often enough.”

“Often enough to half-believe it?” The prosecutor paused a beat, to let it sink in. “Let’s press on. As it happened, your own expedition was smaller than you had hoped for.”

“As fast as I made plans, they kept getting undone. I had a few of the mob more or less committed to go in the fall of 1931, and then after that car accident, I needed time for my arm to recover its strength. So then we planned for 1932, but Uncle Gus was going to finance it for us by selling $25,000 worth of stock, and 1932 was not the time to sell stock, so he asked us to put off the expedition one more year. By the fall of 1933, the only guy who could still come was Karl – Charles Thompson. Pauline wanted to come too, and after all it was her uncle’s money, so it was the three of us.”

“You had to settle for a mob of three, so to speak. Not quite the men-only crowd you liked.”

“No. But what you draw is what you get.”

And how did Africa affect you?”

An  overwhelming remembered feeling of sadness. “It was already half lost by the time we got there. Civilization was destroying the natural world there, like everywhere else. That’s why my book starts with the hunt being spoiled by the noise of a motorcar driven by somebody who knew my work from another world. Africa in 1933 was under siege already, and I could see that it wasn’t going to last long.”

“And is it possible that what you saw in the outside world was also playing out within you?”

He sighed, or the equivalent. “I suppose you’re going to show me.”

“Do we need to bring your parents back to the stand?”

“No, I get it. The war between them became a war inside me, so I saw it outside of me, too.”

“You could take sides in your mind, but your heart was going to remain divided. Should that be surprising to a novelist?”

“No, you couldn’t write it that way. Even if all your sympathy was with one character, you’d have to understand the point of view of the other characters, if you were going to make them act believably.”

“So, spell it out for us.”

He waited until it surfaced. “Inside me, I had one person living my father’s values and another living my mother’s, and they were always fighting for the steering wheel. One part took up for my mother and led me to art museums and libraries, and the other part followed dad, and wanted wildness and adventure and a release from all the obligations people were always putting on you.”

“So, when you observed civilization overtaking the last good country?”

“It was mother defeating dad, all over again, sure. Except, it wasn’t that simple.”

“No, not that simple. But does this give you insight into certain emotions you experienced in the wild?”

“Yes it does. Yes. Thank you.”

And that “thank you” was also a first, but it would take him a while to realize it.

“Mr. Hemingway, about your wife accompanying you on the safari. Did you begrudge her being there?”

“No, I was glad to have her. She was someone else from my world to talk to, and to share reading books with, and to share a bed with.”

“But –“

“But it doesn’t matter who’s involved, men in the presence of women are different than men without women.”

“The male band of hunters, an old archetype.”

“Well, it’s true. And there’s something else. A woman on a safari, even if she is just as good a shot, just as strong, just as experienced, you’re going to have the instinct to protect her, it’s biological. It’s a complication. And if she doesn’t want you to protect her, you have to figure out how to do it without her quite knowing.”

“And was that the case with Pauline?”

“Pauline was brave and she had great endurance. But she was not as good a shot, and not as strong, and sometimes she would get bull-headed about something she didn’t know enough about. Also, she was short, which meant she was in greater danger in tall grass. Like I say, It was complicated.”

“The prosecution recalls Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway.”


“Mrs. Hemingway, you have heard the defendant’s testimony just now. Please tell the court your experience of the defendant on safari. What did you see, watching him?”

“I saw a man who was an obsessive hunter, and a keen observer, and a literary genius, and a mercurial story-teller, and a man who had his own demons to wrestle, and not so incidentally my husband, all rolled up into one.”

“Do you see Green Hills of Africa  as your husband prettying up his self-portrait?”

“Mr. Prosecutor, have you actually read that book? If anything, he may have been a little too hard on himself, for artistic reasons. If you look closely at that book, you will see that it was Ernest portraying himself, using everything else as explanatory background. The jungle, the animals, his reading, his conversations, his memories and day-dreaming, the details of the hunt, the texture of the evenings, civilization intruding – he was setting out his internal and external experience together.”

“So, the book was true but the facts were – fluid, shall we say?”

“That’s a good description of Ernest’s whole life!”

“Did his stories of that trip remain consistent over time?”

“Oh no, they kept changing. He would run things over and over in his mind, and they would look different according to what he associated them with. Then when he would talk about them, the details would get rearranged to fit the new context, and the same facts would add up to an entirely different story. He would tell a story the way it ought to have happened, and I think he sometimes forgot which set of facts was actual and which was made up. He was always dealing in fiction, written or not.”

“In order to participate in this expedition, you had to leave your home and children for several months. Were you really as taken with the idea as was your husband?”

“I didn’t marry Ernest on a whim. I put him first in everything. If he wanted me to join him on safari, I was willing. I wish I had been a better shot, but that couldn’t be helped.”

“So why, in your opinion, were you characterized in the book as Poor Old Mama?”

“I was P.O.M in the camp, too, not just in the book. It was his way of reminding the others that I was his woman, plus thinking of me as P.O.M. made it easier for the men to deal with me. They didn’t want to treat me as a lady, nor did I want them to, and they couldn’t quite treat me as one of the boys. So P.O.M gave me my own special niche. It served its purpose. I had no reason to complain.”

“In functioning as a stand-in for your husband’s usual mob, did you experience yourself as something of a Greek chorus?”

She laughed. “Everyone in Ernest’s life experienced themselves as something of a Greek chorus.”

“Your honor, the prosecution calls Charles Thompson, known as Carl.”


“Mr. Thompson, at the time of the safari, you and the defendant were friends. Good enough friends that you weren’t concerned about spending several months together, him picking up the tab?”

“It wouldn’t have been any fun for him, going alone. It was barely enough that he had Pauline and Percival and me. And even if he had assembled his usual mob, I would have been included. I got along good with them. When the rest of them couldn’t make it, he wanted me along even more.”

“You didn’t feel like a poor relation, along on sufferance?”

“That isn’t how it was. We were friends. At home, when he and Pauline needed something we could do for them, they asked, and we were happy to do it. That’s what friends do. This was something he could do for me, and I could do it for him because I could take the time.”

“And how well do you think it worked out, looking back?”

“I had a good time when we were there, but the more time went by, the more amazing it got, thinking about it. You know, my life afterwards stayed about what it was, but Ernest kept getting more and more famous. And after a while I would tell myself, `I spent months in Africa with the Hemingways,’ and it got harder and harder to believe.”

“In Green Hills of Africa, the defendant described his own struggle against feelings of jealousy as you continuously out-shot him and brought back better trophy heads. Do you think this was one reason why your paths later diverged?”

“No, our lives just went in different directions. The fact that I was having better luck never became personal, and it didn’t have any lasting effect on us.”

“If it had, I wouldn’t have been able to put it into the book, Karl.”

“That’s what I thought, too, Ernest. And at the end you got over it.”

“But while the hunt was going on, were you not concerned about the possibility of a breach between you if you continued to excel?”

“That’s the second time you said I was shooting better than he was, and that just isn’t true. I wasn’t out-shooting him, I was getting better heads. That kind of thing isn’t under anybody’s control.”

“I see. Nonetheless, the defendant himself conceded in print that he found it hard to deal with repeatedly coming up short in this de facto competition. Weren’t you concerned, as well?”

“Of course I was, we all were. But you have to let somebody fight that kind of thing out with himself, there isn’t much you can do about it.”

“Were you ever tempted to come back empty-handed, just to keep peace in the family?”

Thompson just looked at him in disbelief. “If you wanted to find the one surest way to turn Ernest from a friend into a mortal enemy, that would be it. That would be that same as telling him, `I’m a better hunter than you are, and I can afford to try to spare your feelings.’ He’d be furious, and he would have a right to be.”

“So, when you eventually read Green Hills of Africa, did it strike you as a fair rendering of the experience?

“He saw stuff I didn’t see, and he thought about things I never thought about, and he wrote about stuff that was beyond me, really, but he didn’t write it in a way to make himself the big hero. I didn’t have any complaints. And, like I said, the longer time went on, the bigger it all seemed to me.”

“No further questions, your honor.”

And he was gone, with all the memories he brought back. It was strange how life took you away from friends, from people you genuinely liked being around, and missed when you thought about them.


“Your honor, the prosecution calls Philip Percival.”

By now he had become accustomed to people appearing as they had looked when he knew them, but it was still a pleasant shock to see Percival as he had been in the 1930s, instead of as he had last seen him, 20 years later.

“Mr. Percival, as a professional hunter in British East Africa you had accompanied former president Roosevelt on his safari. No doubt you and the defendant discussed that expedition?”

“To be sure. Hemingway wanted to know everything about it: what Roosevelt liked to eat, the differences in the number and variety of game in 1909 as opposed to then, changes in the relations of Europeans and natives since the war – everything and anything. As I think back upon it, the only person I ever knew who had a comparable curiosity was Roosevelt himself. Hemingway was very like Col. Roosevelt. He was a whole man, active in mind and body, immensely competitive. He was impulsive, energetic, had great stamina. He shot intelligently and well, having to overcome the defects in his vision that required him to wear eyeglasses – again like Roosevelt, in fact. Also like Roosevelt, he was extraordinarily interesting, a good story-teller and again a good listener, and he was in love with Africa. He loved its size, and emptiness, and the fact that it remained untamed. For a time, I believe he fantasized about coming out and living among us.”

“Mr. Percival, what would you say were Mr. Hemingway’s chief shortcomings?”

“I don’t know about shortcomings, but his greatest challenge seemed to be to control his drive to excel. That drive made him what he was, of course, but he seemed to find it almost unbearably painful to himself against others, and come up short. I cannot say whether that challenge may rightly be described as a shortcoming. However, one ought to notice the lines toward the end of the book, showing that he as author was aware of it.”

“Thank you, Mr. Percival. The prosecution recalls the defendant to the stand.”


“Mr. Hemingway, discussing your African safari offers as good a time as any to look at the role that hunting played in your life, and fishing. You hunted and fished extensively. Why is this?”

“Why? Hell, I don’t know. Does there have to be a why? I grew up hunting and fishing. My father taught me to fish from the time I could walk, practically. My grandfather gave me a shotgun when I was ten. These were things I enjoyed. They offered a chance to test yourself against the animals and against other hunters or fishers. They kept you outdoors in all weather, helped you keep fit. And of course if you acquired a skill, you had to practice, if you wanted to keep it and develop it.”

“Did it ever bother you, killing things just for fun?”

“In my family we were taught never to kill something we didn’t intend to eat. The meat wasn’t wasted. In Wyoming, what we didn’t eat, Nordquist smoked, and it helped get his family through the winter. In Havana, when we would come in with fish we couldn’t sell, we would give it away, and the poor were always plenty glad to get it.”

“Understand, I am asking, beyond the skill involved in tracking an animal or out-thinking it, why the enjoyment in killing it?”

He sank into his feelings, came back out again.

“Hunting and fishing are like bullfighting, in a way. They go back way before our civilization. They put us into contact with parts of ourselves we might never know otherwise. They carry us back to the old days when it was us against the physical world.”

“When cave men used a 30.06 to hunt saber-tooth tigers, you mean?”

He grinned. “You can bet the cave man would have used a 30.06 if he could have gotten his hands on one! But I see your point. You always use the latest thing, and every year you wind up carrying more things from the same civilization you’re trying to escape. My dad used to camp out with a blanket and a pup tent and a sack of food, and by the time Pauline and Carl and I went to Africa, we had to have boxes of books, and plenty of liquor, and gaslight, and baths. But even so, hunting and fishing stop you from losing your last link with what we used to be.”

“Mr. Hemingway, how would you answer those who say that you engaged in hunting and fishing mainly because they were socially acceptable excuses for inflicting pain and death?”

“You aren’t out to inflict pain. You try to kill the animal, not hurt it.”

“But the rest of it?”

“I’ll say it again. Hunting puts us in touch with the most primitive thing in us – and that primitive part of us has its rights! It’s going to come out someplace. If you hold it down in one place, it’s going to break out somewhere else, whether you like it or not. Maybe if we had more hunters and fewer office-workers, we’d have less piled-up tension that leads to crazy wars and senseless violence.

“Maybe people need for life to have an edge on it. I certainly did. Take bullfighting. The torero isn’t exactly taking advantage of the bull! The man doesn’t go in there with a rifle. He goes in there with his skill and his courage and his sword and cape, and at any given time, he is not likely to die, but it is damn near certain that sooner or later he’s going to get wounded, and then he will have to go back into the ring the next time, with his body knowing full well what could happen. And that’s the edge, you see. That’s living right in that moment.”

“But not everybody can be a bullfighter.”

“No. But there are other ways. Betting more money than you can afford to lose, that’s one way. Or, boxing. Boxing is great fun, pretty harmless. There’s nothing wrong with trading a bloody nose, or bruises, or something, as long as you’re taking the same risk and it’s a fair fight. It’s good exercise, and it’s not likely to really hurt anybody, if it’s a friendly match.”

“And with respect to competition?”

“Well, that enters into it, sure. You’re competing against your friends, and against the record. It adds interest. And if you don’t understand competition, you don’t understand me. What else do you have, but competition, to show you how you’re doing?”

“Is this why you discussed your career as if you were prize-fighting against various great writers?”


“So even the thing you cared about most passionately in your life had to become a competition for you?”

“I can see that maybe it seems silly to you. But if you don’t care how you’re doing relative to the best, you aren’t ever going to be champion. If you want to be the champ, you’re going to have to compete – against others, against your own best, against the record books, against the clock.”

“Some might argue that this need to compete indicates insecurity.”

“Let ’em. I’d argue back that maybe it’s insecurity if you are unwilling to measure yourself against others. If you don’t compete, you’ll never know.”

“You couldn’t ever switch that competitive instinct off, could you?”

“I couldn’t ever switch my temper off either, not reliably. I didn’t pretend to be perfect. But I was what I was. And how did you like what I was in 1960, when they had burned the competition out of me?”

“Mr. Hemingway, it is clear that this expedition was a treasured memory. But is it possible that this safari was the origin of the Hemingway myth that later plagued your life?”

“I was famous for the books I wrote, not the animals I hunted.”

“But perhaps the safari helped convince the intellectuals that you were merely one of the idle rich.”

He laughed. “Idle!”

“But that is how they thought of  you, you see.”

“Listen, the intellectuals were never going to understand me, and they were never going to support me, especially the leftists. They saw everything through the framework of politics and ideology, and they believed in panaceas, where I didn’t even believe in governments, really. Besides, they envied my success. None of that would have changed if I had never gone on safari. To me, the difference between deep-sea fishing and the safari was mainly that I could fish any time, but to go to Africa required a lot of planning.”

He thought about it.

“It’s true that once that glamorizing process began, it became profitable for people to feed it, and feed off of it. They made me `news.’ The Hollywood image machine used me, relentlessly and ruthlessly. The image grew, and it grew, and it had nothing to do with my work, which means it had nothing to do with me. It went on grinding for its own purposes. They created the Hemingway Myth, and whatever fed the myth got magnified and anything that didn’t fit got ignored, or attacked as phony. Maybe it started because of the safari, I don’t know.”