Chapter 10: The Literary Game

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Now Hadley looked as she looked when they had returned to Europe in 1924, a bit plump, a bit matronly. It was only after he and she separated that she slimmed down, bought new and fashionable clothes.

“Mrs. Mowrer, you and the defendant returned to Paris from Canada in January, 1924, and you took up residence in a cold-water flat across from the sawmill. Given that it was your money you and the defendant were living on, did you ever wish for more of a say in how it was to be spent?”

She considered the question. “It’s the same criticism I heard at the time. Why does Hadley let him make all the financial decisions? Whatever he wants, he buys. Why shouldn’t she? For some reason, I have never been able to get my point of view across. Ernest and I were a team! We went back to Europe with about a thousand dollars to our name, and my trust fund income. We were really staking everything so that he could become a writer. Everything else was secondary.”

“And you didn’t mind the consequent hardships?”

“Hardship is a relative word, Mr. Prosecutor. We economized on the things we didn’t care about and splurged on the things we did care about. Ernest always had a writing room he could go to; I always had access to a piano. And to help me take care of Bumby, we had Marie Cocotte – Marie Rohrbach – who loved him as we did. When we had money, we ate and drank and lived well, and we took long trips or lived in other countries where living was cheaper. When we didn’t, we waited for better times. Remember, in 1924, I was only 32 and Ernest was only 24. Our life wasn’t hardship, it was youthful adventure.”

“Mrs. Mowrer, as we understand it, during your visit to Pamplona in 1924, the defendant raised a scene, repeatedly, in front of your friends, worrying that you might be pregnant again. Was it not at about this time that you discovered that his mood swings had a rhythm of their own, and were not necessarily precipitated by external events?”

She did not react. (And he had seen that combination of expressions before. Apprehension, distress, helplessness….)

“Mrs. Mowrer?”

“You try,” she said. “You think, of course he’s depressed, it would depress anyone – whatever the particular `it’ was. Or you think, he’s so much fun, he bubbles over, aren’t we lucky. But after you’ve taken the ride twice, you can’t help see things, no matter how much you don’t want to. But even then, look what you’re dealing with. This is not an ordinary man, you can’t expect an ordinary life with him. In fact, that was one of the attractions, wasn’t it, that he wasn’t ordinary, that your life wouldn’t be ordinary? He lives so much in his head, making up stories, or finding them, and then doing the work of setting them out in the most effective way. If his highs are higher than other people’s and his lows are lower, maybe that’s just the price of genius. But then you remember his tales of his father, how his father started getting strange, and kept getting stranger, up and down, up and down, and you think, is that what we’re in for?”

Gently, the prosecutor said, “So what did you do?”

“We didn’t do anything, Mr. Prosecutor. We lived our lives and hoped for the best. I tried to give him what he needed, and still be his companion, and take care of Bumby, but as we learned, these things have their own schedule. Good news in the middle of a down cycle might alleviate things a little bit, and bad news in the middle of an up cycle, he’d try to see the bright side. But the cycles had a life of their own, and you could see it if you were willing to.”

“And he was unwilling to see a mental health professional.”

“No. And he and I went our separate ways while he was still in his twenties, so I was spared the worst of it, but he was not.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Mowrer, no further questions. Cross-examination? No? The prosecution recalls the defendant.”

.2.

“Mr. Hemingway, practically as soon as you returned to Europe, you wound up as sub-editor of Ford Madox Ford’s newly established transatlantic review. Didn’t Ford hire you on Pound’s recommendation?”

“Yes, it was the kind of thing Ezra did for people all the time, and in this case he knew I had what the transatlantic review needed. Putting out a periodical means handling a million details. Ezra knew I had I edited the Cooperative Commonwealth magazine in Chicago. Plus, every magazine has to find new writers, and Ezra knew I had a good eye for quality writing, because he’d seen what I had learned in the past couple of years. Not so easy to find someone who can do that and is willing to do it without pay.”

“If this was an unpaid position, what was in it for you?”

“Ezra knew how to play the literary game, so he knew that I would make contacts that would be worth their weight in gold. It isn’t enough to be a good writer. You need to get to know the editors of the literary magazines, and the important book reviewers, and other authors who might understand and sympathize with what you’re doing. If your stuff’s no good, publicity isn’t going to help. But if it is good, but people never hear of you, how are you ever going to sell books?”

“Very well, Mr. Hemingway, unless the defense attorney has questions, you may step down. Your honor, the prosecution calls Ford Madox Ford.”

.3.

So there was Ford again, after so much time. No sense of vanity, apparently, or else so much vanity that he was impervious to appearance even when appearance was entirely under his control. He still looked like an upended hogshead attached to a walrus mustache.

“Mr. Ford, you were the author of dozens of novels, you wrote poetry and literary criticism, you co-authored three novels with Joseph Conrad, and you assisted scores of young authors, some of whom went on to fame.” That was true: He had lavished care and assistance on young writers, perhaps as much as Ezra had done.

“Yes, and I am remembered only for one novel, The Good Soldier.” Although he had kept the same appearance, he no longer gasped and whispered. Didn’t see any reason to hold on to that, apparently.

“Tell us a bit about the transatlantic review.”

“In 1908 I had founded The English Review, which, I believe I may say without exaggeration, was an important journal. I first published Wyndham Lewis, and Norman Douglas, and D.H. Lawrence, and oh, a long list: Hardy, Conrad, Galsworthy, H.G. Wells, Henry James, W.B. Yeats. In 1924 I decided to do it again, from Paris. And there I met the most important artists working – Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Jean Rhys – and published them all.”

“As well as the work of the defendant.”

“Certainly. Early work, of course, but I saw from the first moment that he was a major talent, bound to succeed, important to the causes we espoused. As an artist, Hemingway was superb.”

“The defendant assisted you in editing the review. Was it a productive working relationship?”

Ford paused, perhaps choosing among possible reactions. “Hemingway as sub-editor of the transatlantic review was a great help in finding contributors and doing various chores, and serving as editor when I had to be absent. But I must say that working with him was an intensely charged experience. Hemingway as editor exhibited character traits that were occasionally – unpleasant.”

“Specifically?”

“He thought nothing of picking public quarrels for the least of reasons, and he seemed to have no awareness of the effect his blows might have. There was in him a streak almost of savagery, or sadism. A public and gratuitous attack on Tom Eliot, for instance, made in my absence, with no reason for it but jealousy. He could become as spiteful and malicious as any woman.” Ford’s face radiated intensity. “And there was no need! If one is given Hemingway’s talent and his opportunities, what reason does one have to give in to impulses of jealousy? And yet he did, repeatedly.”

“Mr. Ford, the defendant admits that he benefited by being associated with the transatlantic review. Can you tell the court, briefly, how the defendant later repaid you?”

Sadly: “He did what so many others did. He rewrote our history. He ridiculed me whenever he thought it would make a good story.”

He winced, not the first time.

“Thank you, Mr. Ford. No further questions.”

“The defense waives cross-examination, your honor.”

“The prosecution recalls the defendant to the stand.”

.4.

“Mr. Hemingway, you are on record as saying that you sat down one day and made a decision, `cold as a snake,’ to become a writer of fiction rather than continuing to be a journalist. Why?”

“Because I wanted to tell the truth about life, and it seemed to me I could either continue to report on events as they played out, or I could use fiction to wake people up to the way things were in the new postwar world.”

“All right, a deliberate decision. Tell the court how you went about becoming a writer of fiction.”

“In those days, your market was the magazines. They brought in the money that kept you going, and they kept your name in front of the public. The things I wrote that weren’t suited for the magazine that paid, I gave away to small literary magazines. No money, but it kept my name out there.”

“So when you returned to Paris in 1924, you began working with Mr. Ford in February you, and in April he published `Indian Camp,’ one of your first stories, and he published a review of your little book of sketches, in our time, that Bill Bird printed.”

“If you are implying favoritism, you picked poor examples. `Indian Camp’ is a classic, as you have to know. And after all, review were what the review was all about.”

“No one is implying favoritism. Would you describe for the court your literary production in the spring of 1924? Now that you were no longer in Canada, how was your writing coming along?”

“Came along great. I wrote eight good stories in our first three months, enough that I could put together my first book of short stories. And the stories kept coming, ten new stories in five months, and good ones. I split “Big Two-hearted River” into two parts, and then I had the book In Our Time, or I thought I did. But Boni and Liveright said I would have to replace `Up in Michigan,’ which they said was obscene, the gutless bastards.”

“Were you, in fact, willing to risk suppression of your first substantial book?”

Grudgingly: “I could see their point. But they were timid. They weren’t willing to take even a little chance. All they cared about was the business end. I had the same struggle with Scribner’s, later, but Scribner’s worked with me, and over the years, little by little, we did make progress.”

“In any case, the fact that you had to find a substitute for `Up in Michigan’ turned out to be a good thing for you, did it not?”

“You mean because I wrote `The Battler’? I guess you could call that a silver lining.”

“Meanwhile, you were responsible for the transatlantic review printing lengthy excerpts from Gertrude Stein’s then unpublished manuscript `The Making of Americans’. You praised her work highly, and shared in the labor of retyping the excerpts. In light of what the two of you would say about each other a few years later, it seems a little bit strange.”

He shrugged. “She changed. When I first knew her, her judgment was unerring. The same critical eye that collected geniuses in painting could see instantly what you were doing wrong, and why.”

“Like Pound.”

“Like Pound when he was right, but Ezra’s judgment was never a hundred percent. Ezra would be exactly on the mark one moment and way off the next. Gertrude, when I first knew her, never missed.”

“Can you give the court a sense of what she taught you?”

Carefully: “You can’t say she taught me, exactly. But when I read Three Lives, I could see how some of the things she did worked. I had fooled with the same things, but I didn’t have the theory behind them, and I didn’t have the example of how powerfully they could be used. Once I saw it in her work, I knew what to work toward.”

“Are you admitting to imitating Gertrude Stein?”

“You know, this trial would go smoother if you were a writer, so you’d know what you were talking about. I didn’t imitate her, any more than I imitated Ezra, or Tolstoy, or Conrad. I learned from her, the way I learned from them, and then I put the power of what I learned behind my own thoughts.”

“But –“

“Can you invent the conscious use of repetition? Can you invent the careful use of participles? Can you patent the idea of using the sounds of words, as well as the meaning? That’s what you’re suggesting, when you say I imitated her. Do you understand? Learning from somebody isn’t the same thing as imitating them. In fact, if you have to imitate them, you haven’t really learned it. Once you learn something, it’s yours, and you use it the same way you use anything else you know.”

“Very well. Defense?”

“Mr. Hemingway, the fall of 1924 was the turning-point in your career, was it not?”

“In retrospect, yes, I suppose so. But I remember it as the beginning of a long dry spell. Between November and July, I was able to write only one story, `The Battler,’ That’s a long time to go without producing anything.”

“But then after the week at Pamplona you began to write The Sun Also Rises. And in October Edmund Wilson reviewed Three Stories And Ten Poems and in our time and called your work `strikingly original.’”

“Praise from Edmund Wilson was starting out at the top. It was the first time anybody in America took official notice of anything I had been doing, and now here was Edmund Wilson praising my work. He got what I was doing, you see, the way he usually got what people were doing. So to have him say that my work had more artistic dignity than anything else that had been written by an American since the war meant something. I still hadn’t sold anything to American magazines. His praise couldn’t have come at a better time. I never forgot it.”

“So, a turning point.”

“All right. But I still had to figure out how to make my career go.”

“The prosecution mentioned your classic short story `Indian Camp.’ Would you please give the court your own understanding of the story?”

The prosecutor said, “Relevance, your honor?”

“Your honor, I suggest that the defendant’s explanation of this story will say more about the one thing he cared most about in life – his ambition to be the greatest writer he could be – than anecdotes about his behavior among others.”

“I’m willing to be instructed. You may answer the question, Mr. Hemingway.”

“I always said if a story had to be explained, either it wasn’t written right or you weren’t reading it right.”

“Yes, but in this case we are delving into the inner Hemingway by way of his literary production.”

“I see.” He thought a long moment. “The point of the story was to make the reader feel what it was like to be young Nick, to feel it as clearly and definitely as if it had happened to him. When you read my stories, remember that every element is in it for a reason, to lead you to an emotion.”

“And in this instance?”

“Nick was only a boy, and he didn’t really understand what he was seeing. He recorded, he remembered, he observed, but he didn’t really understand. The point of the story was to make the reader feel that state of observing and not understanding. Nick knew, but that didn’t mean the knowing was right. Nick went through a charged experience, one he would remember, but the clearest thing in the story is that looking, he saw not. Seeing, he understood not. It’s all right there in the final line, `Nick felt quite sure that he would never die.’

“And all the rest of it –?”

“I didn’t write stories that could be summarized in a word. Another strand to the story was good intentions going astray. The doctor saved the baby and the mother but never thought of the father. George had sympathy but never realized who needed it, and wasn’t able to do anything except help in the operation. The doctor had intended to begin Nick’s education, but he got more than he had bargained for. He was sorry he had gotten Nick involved, but he wasn’t sorry for his lack of sympathy for the mother, not his own unawareness of the effect of someone’s pain on someone else. He didn’t realize that the Indian, who couldn’t get away because of his foot, would be affected by his wife’s screams. The doctor was not a cruel man, but he had turned off his emotional response to do the job he was there to do. But the reason for the story is right there in the final line: `In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing, Nick felt quite sure that he would never die.’ He would never die, would never get involved in messy situations, would never be callous or unimaginative, would never cause pain.”

“Thank you,” said the defense attorney. “Let’s look at one more product of your early years, `The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife.’ People assumed that this was a sideways swipe at your parents, perhaps your father in particular. Was it?”

Slowly: “If you’re a writer, you take what you know and you try to render it so that it’s truer than the real thing. So you have to intensify and magnify and simplify and clarify, without distorting the subject. The real thing has to be changed, if it is going to have the effect on you that the original emotion had on the author. So how do you do that? You invent. But you invent from who you are and what you know. The plot is one thing. The story is a different thing.

“Either you start by knowing what effect you’re going to try to achieve, or you start with the material and see what kind of effect suggests itself, but either way you go from material to effect by way of invention, and the invention is bounded by what is possible. I could tell a dozen stories from my parents’ lives, and each story might express one aspect of something I’d seen or could imagine. To get to the emotional effect I wanted, starting from that same material, I might have to change the `facts’ a dozen times, to let something happen that would do what I needed. To write truly, I had to take what I knew and put it in such a structure, with such words, that made you see it too.”

“No further questions, your honor.”

Your honor, the prosecution calls Harold Loeb.”

 

Categories: Fiction

Chapter 11: Friendship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How did he respond?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He was a friend.”

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

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

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

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

“Brett Ashley, in his novel.”

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

“Different.”

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

“Surely she was in a difficult position.”

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

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

“And did it?”

A sigh. “Not really.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Cohn all his life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And what happened then?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Can you remember what the note said?”

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

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

“Did you think the note was sincere?”

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

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

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

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

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

.3.

Gerald was looking as he looked in the twenties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Was that an important difference?”

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

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

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

“Yeah. That’s it.”

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

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

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

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

He winced, hearing that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No. I’d rather not.”

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

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

“And you decline to speculate.”

“I decline to speculate, yes.”

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

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

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

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

“Defense?”

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

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

“No further questions, your honor.”

“Prosecution?”

“The prosecution calls Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway.”

 

Categories: Fiction

Chapter 12: Changing Wives

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Pauline looked a trim and elegant 30, as she had been in Paris, when he first saw her.

“Mrs. Hemingway, please tell the court how you met the defendant.”

“In 1925 I was working for Vogue magazine, in the Paris office, and one day my sister Jinny and I were visiting Kitty Cannell when Harold Loeb brought Ernest and Hadley home for a drink. Harold had been living with Kitty for several years. He was all excited because he and Ernest were both going to be published by Boni and Liveright, in the same publishing season.”

“And were you and the defendant immediately interested in each other?”

“Not at all. But I did like Hadley. In fact, that’s mainly why Jinny and I paid them a visit, so I could talk to Hadley. When we did, there was Ernest, unshaven, lazing around in the bedroom. I never dreamed I would eventually marry such an uncouth-looking man. But as time went on, I began to see more attractive sides of his character.”

“You came to Paris looking for a husband, and you began to see that I was going to be a big success, and you decided to cut yourself in on it.”

“That is most unfair, and so typical of you to put it all on me! Ask Hadley if it was all my fault that you and I fell in love!”

“Please continue, Mrs. Hemingway.”

“As you can see, Ernest can’t ever bear to be in the wrong. As soon as he knew that he had hurt Hadley, and that he was nonetheless glad to be out of a marriage to a woman who was getting to be middle-aged while he was still young, the burden of guilt became intolerable, so it had to be someone else’s fault.”

“And was I wrong, in this particular instance?”

“You were wrong to put it all on me! Certainly I had my share of the blame. I had the larger share, probably – and I paid for it. But you weren’t an innocent victim, and your need to see it that way caused us a lot of trouble.”

“Mrs. Hemingway, was the defendant abusive to you?”

“Yes, he was.”

“Frequently?”

“Not at the beginning, but yes, frequently.”

“How would you characterize the defendant’s reaction to you? We are attempting to get an accurate picture of his relationships.”

“I think that during our entire relationship, Ernest had two emotional streams flowing inside him, and sometimes he would be carried away by one and sometimes by the other. He did love me, I know that, and he did show it, in many ways. He did see my good qualities, and he valued them and profited from them. But I think another major current was a sort of a suppressed rage, and the longer we went on, the harder a job it was for him to suppress it.”

“And why would that be, do you suppose?”

And suddenly that old rage was flowing and overflowing within him. His whole life!

“Your honor, I take it that the situation is enabling the defendant to recreate the emotional condition he experienced so often in life. May I pursue the subject with him directly, leaving Mrs. Hemingway on the stand, so to speak?”

“Any objection? Very well, you may proceed.”

“Mr. Hemingway, please describe for the court what you experienced just now. As a writer, you must know that the way to get a better handle on a thing is to express it as exactly as you can.”

A pause. “I was beside myself, watching as the feelings took over. I had no control over them at all.”

“Familiar state of affairs, Mr. Hemingway?”

“Yeah.”

“And can you see how it is different here?”

“I didn’t really lose control, I don’t know why.”

“The `why’ is because when you were in the body, your brain could only hold so much in consciousness at any given time. Here, that limitation doesn’t apply. Here, there’s always room for more awareness. You understand, these are crude analogies.”

The prosecutor shifted gears. “All right, so you have observed what used to happen. The rage overflowed and, had you been in the body, would have led to consequences of some kind. We recognize that you were obliged to fight to control this rage in many areas of your life, but in the case of Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway, what was the rage all about?”

He was surrounded by the rage, and the reasons for the rage, and the results of the rage – but it was curious: He was not in a body, yet his reactions registered as if he were, yet it felt like he had taken a deep breath and he moved from agitation to calmness. Mental habits, presumably, since it couldn’t have anything to do with adrenaline levels. “Okay,” he said. “Everybody here knows all this, but you want me to say it. Okay.”

He looked over at Pauline.

“Our little affair broke my life in two, Pauline. Smashed it. There I was, I wasn’t even thirty, and it was gone.”

“Oh, come on, Ernest. You stayed married to me twice as long as you did to Hadley, and we had two children, not just one. You did some of your best work while you were married to me. Broke your life!”

He shook his head stubbornly. “No. You did. We did, I suppose, but it was you set it in motion.”

“Mr. Hemingway, perhaps you would explain to the court just what you mean.”

“The thing with Agnes hurt, but at least she broke with me. It wasn’t my fault. Finding Hadley was the true happy ending. We were damn happy together. And then came the snake in the garden.”

“Still none of it your responsibility, Ernest. You were just the innocent victim of feminine wiles.”

“Dammit, Pauline, you know what you were doing, and you knew why. You set out to detach me from Hadley, and you succeeded, and then I’d lost my wife, and my son, and my whole life model. I never set out to be a divorced man, let alone a remarried one.”

“But you didn’t mind having sex with another woman.”

He groaned. “No, I didn’t. Of course I didn’t. But that was just me wanting to have my cake and eat it too.”

“You didn’t think life would present a bill.”

“The thinking part of me did, but I wasn’t listening. But you knew, damn you, and you wanted it to happen!”

“Mr. Hemingway, if I understand you, you had an image of what your life was going to be, and suddenly that image was shattered, and you couldn’t go back.”

Quietly, almost mumbling: “That’s right.”

“Your honor, I should like to recall Mrs. Mowrer as well for a moment.” When Hadley appeared, he said, “Mrs. Mowrer, you are aware of the defendant’s testimony. Do you think his break with you did shatter his image of what his life was going to be?”

“I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but yes, maybe so. I remember him in the streets of Paris, just after we broke apart, wheeling a handcart, carrying some of our household goods to me, crying as he walked along, pushing the cart. I thought then it was remorse and regret and maybe self-pity. But I can see it was what he just said, he was losing an image of himself”

“When I married you, I never intended to be the man who betrayed you and lost you. You know I was always sorry.”

“I did know, Tatie. I do know. But I don’t think I ever realized the bitterness it brought to your life.”

“As Pauline said, life presented the bill.”

The prosecutor said, “Thank you, Mrs. Mowrer,” and she was gone again. “So, Mr. Hemingway, would it be fair to say that when life presented the bill, you blamed Pauline Pfeiffer for running it up?”

His mind was too clear to allow him his former habits. “Yeah, I did. I blamed myself for being stupid, but I blamed her for wanting it to happen. And that way of seeing it wasn’t wrong! She did want it to happen. I was stupid. Our affair did break something that couldn’t ever be fixed up again.”

“Hence the rage.”

“Hence the rage. That wasn’t the only thing I felt, but sure, it was always there somewhere.”

To Pauline: “Mrs. Hemingway? Does this ring true to you?”

“I understand that reaction, but I don’t agree with it. I do think it explains a lot. But that is just the way Ernest dealt with guilt: `This happened, then I naturally responded, so it isn’t really my fault.’”

“Mr. Hemingway? Your judgment now?”

“About what? About lusting after Pauline and falling in love with her and realizing that I had bitched the cleanest, straightest, most dependable part of my life?”

“Your judgment about your part in it. Not Pauline’s part, not Hadley’s. Yours.”

He sighed. “This sure is fun. You know what my judgment is. Hadley was looking a little matronly, and was maybe going to have a hard time keeping up with me in physical activity. I had a sort of half-idea that maybe I had married someone too old for me, but then on the other hand we were so well suited to each other, I didn’t want to lose her. I wanted Hadley and Bumby and the life we were living, and then I started to want Pauline, too, on the side, and I didn’t let myself think about what that was going to do to my life. I was greedy, and I was stupid, and I paid for it. Paid for the rest of my life, because I cut myself off from the path I probably should have stayed on.”

“And – to bring this back to our starting place, you took it out on your second wife?”

Another sigh. “I suppose you could put it like that.”

“Cross examination?”

“No questions, your honor.”

A movement of the prosecutor’s hand, or so it seemed, and Pauline was gone, in the way that cleaner, simpler life he had expected to lead was gone.

 

Categories: Fiction

Chapter 13: Breakthrough

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The prosecutor continued. “Meanwhile, you were making your mark. You had arrived in Europe unknown and unpublished, and in a little more than two years, you had become known to important authors and publishers. Your short stories were published in the transatlantic review, an anthology of the best short stories of 1923 was dedicated to you, and by 1924 you had published first Three Stories and Ten Poems, then your little book of word sketches, in our time, which brought you to the attention of critic Edmund Wilson, then Scott Fitzgerald, and then Maxwell Perkins. Please tell the court how this all came about.”

“It came about because I worked like hell.”

“But tell us about these relationships.”

“Scott came across a copy of in our time, and he got religion on Ernest Hemingway as the man of the future. In those days, Scott could tell literature from froth. So he shows in our time to Max, and starts riding him: Contact Hemingway. Get Hemingway now, before he gets famous. He had this idea that Scribner’s ought to corral all the rising stars of our generation. Bear in mind, he and I hadn’t met yet. So Max sends me a letter asking to see any book-length manuscript I might have.”

“And what happened?”

“A comedy of errors, is what happened. Max sends the letter to Paris, but Hadley and I were in Austria, because we could live there cheaper. A few days after Max writes the letter I never get, Boni and Liveright send me a cable from New York, saying they want to publish In Our Time, using the word sketches Bill had published as frames for short stories. Naturally I cabled back, `Delighted accept.’ If I had known how much trouble this was going to cause, I’d have waited. Or if I’d seen Max’s letter. Or if I had been in Paris where communications would have been easier, instead of stuck way the hell up the mountains in the Eastern Kingdom.”

“However, you accepted.”

“Mr. Prosecutor, I didn’t dare not accept. How did I know if I was ever going to get another chance? By March, 1925, I had been trying to make a start as a writer for six years. When you’re 25, six years is your whole adult life.” Glumly: “And then I get back to Paris and I get Max’s second letter.”

“It didn’t occur to you to send Boni and Liveright another cable, you’d changed your mind?”

“I’d already said yes. How could I go back on my word? Besides—“

“Besides?”

An angry shrug of the shoulders, like the Frenchman he was for a while. “From them I had the offer of a contract. From Scribner’s, I had an expression of interest. There’s a difference.”

“So you swallowed your reservations and signed their contract. Why wasn’t this a happy ending?”

“Well, it would have been, if they had really published it! First, they wouldn’t accept `Up in Michigan,’ for fear of censorship, and I had to write `The Battler’ to replace it. Having to cut one story and substitute another played hell with the book’s logic and rhythm. And then they butchered the beginning of `Mr. and Mrs. Elliot,’ because they were afraid to print a story that said a married couple were trying to make a baby! For God’s sake, a married couple trying to make a baby, and it’s obscene? That showed me they were timid, and they weren’t going to take any chances for me. And then after that, they printed only 1300 copies, which it took them two years to sell!”

“Is that the publisher’s fault, Mr. Hemingway? Don’t sales depend on what the public wants?”

“You know what sales depend on, besides quality? Publicity. That means reviews, and it means advertising. If the publisher doesn’t advertise, he’s telling the trade he doesn’t really believe in the book. Reviewers maybe hesitate to give it good ink – they always try to be on the right bandwagon – and then maybe the booksellers hesitate to buy it. If it isn’t in the bookstores, and it isn’t reviewed, how’s the public going to know it even exists? And if they don’t know, where’s the demand going to come from? Bone and Liveright didn’t do anything for my book. They put it into print, and then they let it die.”

“Plus they published Sherwood Anderson.”

Long hesitation. “Well, yeah.”

“Your honor, the prosecution recalls Sherwood Anderson to the stand.”

.2.

And there he was again, this time looking a few years older, a little sadder. The toll the years took, apparently.

“Mr. Anderson, would you tell the court how the defendant repaid your literary advice, and the advice that got him to Paris, and the introductions that opened the right doors for him?”

Flatly: “He satirized the only bestseller I ever had. They say he did it in order to break his contract with Boni and Liveright, but I think probably also because people were saying his short stories had been influenced by mine, and Ernest couldn’t stand that.”

“And do you think the defendant’s work had been influenced by yours?”

An impatient gesture. “Of course his work was influenced by mine. Every author’s work is going to be influenced by everything he pays attention to. But if you’re meaning to ask, did his work imitate mine, the answer ought to be obvious. He didn’t imitate mine any more than he imitated Turgenev. He tried it on, and he learned from it, and he made it his own. That’s what writers do.”

“Thank you. Mr. Anderson. No further questions.”

“Defense? Cross examination? No? Carry on, Mr. Prosecutor.”

“I’d like to continue with Mr. Hemingway, your honor.”

.3.

“You want to grill me on Anderson, I suppose.”

“Since you bring it up. That satire you wrote: Did you read it to others, and did they express opinions about it?”

He sighed again. “Hadley thought it would be a terrible thing to do to Anderson, and anyway it wasn’t particularly funny. Pauline thought it was a scream and by all means I should publish it.”

“And did you write it specifically in order to get out of your contract with Boni and Liveright?”

“Well – I did and I didn’t. I figured, if they accepted it, maybe I could get them to pay enough for it that they would have to get behind it more, not just let it die the way they did In Our Time. I figured to get more attention out of them than I had had so far.”

“You were counting on Scribner’s picking up the book if Boni and Liveright passed on it.”

“I was hoping for Scribner’s, sure. But Harcourt had expressed an interest, and so had Knopf. It wasn’t like I didn’t have options.”

“Mr. Hemingway, did it bother you at all that in order to break that contract, you wrote a brutal satire of Mr. Anderson’s book, the only best-seller he ever wrote?”

A long, long silence, that seemed even longer than however long it was.

“Yeah, I suppose so. I tried not to know it, though.”

“Thank you, Mr. Hemingway, that was an honest answer.”

“Yeah. Wonderful.”

“So you sent the manuscript to Boni and Liveright, and they turned it down.”

“Huh. I kind of figured you’d want to rub my nose in it, about Anderson.”

“Once you become aware of those feelings, we need not discuss them. In any event, they did turn it down.”

“They sent me a cable December 30th saying they were turning it down but they still wanted the novel. I told them to give the manuscript to Don Stewart to hold for me, and I told Stewart to give it to Perkins to look at. And then I decided I’d better go to New York, see what I could do in person.”

“And so you travelled alone, leaving your wife in Austria?”

“Had to. Two tickets to America would have cost too much, and we had sub-let our Paris apartment.”

“All right. And did your journey to New York include a stop in Paris?”

“It did, and yes, Pauline was there. She was busy all day reporting on fashion shows for Vogue, but we made the most of the little time we had.”

“She wasn’t reporting at night, I take it.”

“Your honor—“

“Withdrawn. In any case, Mr. Hemingway, from Paris you made your way to New York in February, and there your professional life changed irrevocably.”

“I’ll say it did. I showed Horace Liveright that by the terms of our contract we were finished, and he was very decent about it. Of course, there’s not much point in a publishing house trying to keep an author who doesn’t want to be with them, but still, he didn’t put any obstacles in my way. In just a few days, I accomplished what I needed to do. I was free of Boni and Liveright, I met Max Perkins, I got a two-book contract with Scribner’s, I had their advance in my pocket, and I had approved Scribner’s mock-up of The Torrents of Spring. Then it was just a matter of getting The Sun Also Rises right, and by March I finisher revising it and submitted it to Max.”

The Sun Also Rises, that made your name a household word: A photograph of the rottenness of postwar society?”

“It was a snapshot of a dark hour in time, not a prediction of a permanent eclipse of the sun. The sun sets, yes, but it also rises! Somehow people didn’t seem to get that. The war had exposed a lot of rotten foundations, and naturally it affected most the people with the shallowest roots, like the Americans and Europeans I described.”

“So, these people that you describe. What ails them? The war?”

“They’re living useless lives, and they feel it even when they don’t know it. Other than Jake and Bill, nobody works. Mike had been a soldier, but now there was no war. Cohn had written a novel, but he wasn’t forced to make a living, and he didn’t have enough self-discipline to make himself work. Brett’s life had no anchor. Maybe if there hadn’t have been a war, Jake wouldn’t have been wounded, but maybe the others wouldn’t have been what they became.”

“Bearing in mind that this trial is always about you as an individual, rather than you as an author, how does all this reflect on you and the life you were leading?”

“Well you know, the whole basis of my life was work. I worked all the time, unless I was giving myself time off. I had Jake say that you had to pay for everything in life, and you paid in different ways. As long as I could work, I could enjoy life as it came to me.”

“Plus, the things you did provided raw material.”

“Well, yes, but don’t carry that too far. I ate breakfast for its own sake, not because someday I might need to describe somebody enjoying breakfast.”

“Let’s talk about Robert Cohn. What was so bad about Robert Cohn?”

He considered how to explain it. “Cohn didn’t follow a man’s code. He was devastated to find that his time with Brent Ashley hadn’t meant anything to her, but he didn’t keep a stiff upper lip. Instead, he remained around the others, and they despised him for letting him see his suffering. He wasn’t a coward, because he could defend himself physically, but he wasn’t acting like a man. He knew he was acting badly, but he couldn’t help himself.”

“But surely Brett Ashley was as bad, with her lack of self-control, and her habitual using of the men who were infatuated with her, and her incessant drinking.”

“But she was a woman, and women weren’t expected to act like a man. And you aren’t giving her much of a break. She cares about somebody she can’t have, which is maybe as close as she ever gets to love. Sure she drinks. What else does she have? Without lust and drink, what’s in it for her? Sightseeing? Using her 35 words to become a writer?”

“All right, she’s unhappy, but she doesn’t go off by herself to be unhappy any more than Robert Cohn does, and nobody blames her for it.”

“Don’t they? Ask the toreros who watch her take up with Romero. Ask Montoya. Among the Spanish, real values prevailed – at least, until a certain point in the festival! That’s another contrast, you see, the healthy responses of the Spanish as opposed to the diseased responses of the others.”

“And Jake cuts himself off from them by pimping her to Romero.”

“Yes he does. It’s an irretrievable step, that it costs him something infinitely precious to him. And that’s the novel, you see. Jake lost, Cohn lost, and Brett lost. Mike didn’t lose because he didn’t have much farther to fall. Bill didn’t lose because he wasn’t all that involved. But they’re all are sort of unsound.”

“Cross-examination? No? Your honor, the prosecution recalls Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway to the stand.”

.4.

“Mrs. Hemingway, it is public knowledge that you and the defendant saw each other in the days before he left for New York City, and again after he returned, before he continued on to Austria to rejoin his wife and child.”

“Which gave me the last bit of guilt I needed, Pauline. I’ve always wondered if you had that in mind.”

“You need not answer that, Mrs. Hemingway. This proceeding centers on the defendant. The prosecution would like to discuss the period between the time that you and he fell in love and the time his wife initiated divorce proceedings.”

“That’s painful to remember, for I did like Hadley too, very much. Until I became fixated on Ernest, I looked on her as a sister. If Ernest hadn’t come between us, we would have been friends for life, maybe. She had a sweet disposition, a wicked sense of humor, and she could be a lot of fun.”

“If I hadn’t come between you? If it hadn’t been for me, you never even would have met her.”

“Your honor?”

“Yes, I agree. Please, Mr. Hemingway, allow the questioning to proceed. Before this trial is over, you will have had all the time you require to say anything and everything you wish.”

“All right, your honor. Just so it’s understood that I’m not necessarily agreeing with what she says.”

“I think we have assimilated that fact. Proceed, counselor.”

“Mrs. Hemingway, after Mrs. Mowrer – Mrs. Hemingway, then – returned from Austria, you and your sister invited her to join you on a motoring trip to the south of France. Why did you do that?”

“As I said, Ginny and I liked her. We thought it would be fun.”

“You thought it would be fun to go on a trip with the wife of a man you had secretly slept with, a man you wanted for yourself. Was that really your expectation, that the trip would be fun? Did you have no other motivation, perhaps beneath the level of consciousness?”

“If you can’t figure it out, I’ll be glad to help.”

Angrily: “Always the innocent party!” To the defense attorney: “All right, yes. The deception, the stealth, it was all getting to be too much and I wanted to end the strain of it. But I don’t know what I was thinking. Clear thinking wasn’t very easy at the time. I tried to keep things on the same basis they’d always been, but I couldn’t. I started snapping at her, and she got her feelings hurt. Finally she asked Ginny if there was something going on between Ernest and me, and Ginny told her she thought he and I were very fond of each other. Hadley was no dope, and I suppose she spent the rest of the trip readjusting. She certainly didn’t have much more to say.”

“And after Hadley Hemingway presented you and the defendant with an ultimatum, you returned to your family’s home in Arkansas. Why?”

“I wanted to convince my mother that I wasn’t making a hideous mistake. She thought it was terrible that I was breaking up a marriage –and she didn’t want me involved in a mixed marriage. She thought Ernest was a Protestant, you see.”

“We need to discuss this, the defendant’s religious faith as you experienced it. If he considered himself a Catholic before it came time to marry you, none of his friends knew it. Many people who knew your husband regarded his religious conversion as a gesture of convenience, an easy way to accommodate your family. In light of your years of experience as his wife and as his ex-wife, how would you judge the sincerity and depth of his religious convictions?”

Reflecting: “I think Ernest was a Catholic soul born into a Protestant family. I often saw him moved by a Catholic ceremony, or a Catholic cathedral, or Catholic art, and I never saw him moved by Protestant ceremonies, or churches, or art. If you look at the countries he loved, other than the United States, they were all Catholic countries: Italy, France, Austria, Spain, Cuba. All his ancestors were English, but England didn’t seem to move him, nor Canada. Culturally, he was always Catholic. During the time he and I were married, he went to Mass, he made his Easter duty, he kept the external forms.”

“But afterwards, apparently he didn’t.”

“Emotionally, culturally, spiritually, Ernest was always a Catholic. That doesn’t mean he followed the rules.”

“Defense? No? Thank you, Mrs. Hemingway. The prosecution recalls the defendant.”

.5.

“You lost Hadley just about the same time that you were accepted by Scribner’s. The conjunction of the two must have been particularly bitter.”

He said nothing, then felt the words well up within him. “Yes, and I could feel the flagstones breaking under my feet. In Oak Park, when I grew up, people did not get divorced. They might spend their lives in unhappy marriages, even desperately unhappy marriages, but divorce was beyond the pale.”

“But you were in active rebellion against Oak Park’s ways. Was your divorce perhaps a liberation from your own expectations?”

“Maybe it was. Besides Hadley, I was divorcing the romantic image of myself making my way alongside my one true love. No wonder I felt like I was being torn to pieces.”

“I was thinking more of your announcement that you were going to become a Catholic, or rather, already considered yourself a Catholic.”

“It’s true, if Pauline had been one more Protestant, she wouldn’t have represented such a break away from my story about myself, and toward what I really was inside.”

“That’s what we would like you to discuss. Can you tell the court the difference between Catholicism and the Protestant world you had been born into and raised up in?”

“I’m not much good on rheological definitions.”

“This court doesn’t care about definitions. We want to know what drew you to Catholicism.”

A pause. “I was a Catholic emotionally somehow, and that was very real. It isn’t exactly belief, and it isn’t the ritual, although I did like ritual. The fact is, I was exposed to a simple Catholic country at my most impressionable age, and it took, I don’t know why. When it came to theory, to dogma, I was always a very dumb Catholic, as I said. It’s connected with so many things, but I can’t seem to sort them out. It isn’t much clearer to me here than it was in life. It helped me express things I already felt. Or maybe I should say, it helped me feel things I couldn’t feel otherwise.”

He made a gesture, a sort of brushing-back-the-shrubbery gesture, clearing space to think. “It wasn’t the rules, and it wasn’t like I thought the church was God’s perfect instrument on earth. Any institution is going to have internal politics, and if you’ve got politics, you’ve got corruption. And you could see that the upper clergy nearly all came out of the nobility, which meant that you had two churches, really. When I saw what the church was in Spain, I saw why so many people hated it, but the church was also more than that, and I could see it, even if I couldn’t say it.”

“Mr. Hemingway, when you married Pauline Pfeiffer in a Catholic ceremony that implied that your first marriage was invalid, and your son illegitimate, did you really consider yourself a Catholic?”

“Or was I lying about it, you mean? I said I was a Catholic, and I meant it.”

“You told people that in Italy, in 1918, a priest had come among the wounded and dying men, baptizing them, and from that moment you considered yourself a Catholic. But did you ever mention it? In 1918 or 1919?”

“Not directly, I suppose.”

“You suppose. You returned to live in the States for nearly three years. Did you ever mention it to your parents, or your sisters, or Hadley Richardson?”

“There wasn’t any reason to, Mr. Prosecutor.”

“Not even to your fiancée? You didn’t think of this as something she should know? And you were okay with being married in a Protestant church?”

He gave the question some honest thought, then shook his head. “I don’t know if I can explain it to you. I suppose I considered myself a Catholic privately, and it didn’t affect the rest of my life. And when I took up with Pauline, it was just more public.”

“Mr. Hemingway, consider if your draw toward Catholicism has a connection to your fear of death, and your attraction to death.”

He weighed the idea. “Well, I suppose that’s part of it, sure. There’s something in the Catholic way of seeing things that never takes its eyes off the fact that you’re going to die and then what. And yet, Protestants take death seriously. They are certainly aware that there’s going to be a day of reckoning. So, I don’t know.”

“Could your near-death experience in 1918 have something to do with it?”

He considered. “I don’t know. I mean, it showed me that we are souls in bodies, and the people who thought we were nothing more than meat were wrong. And I know I said I considered myself a Catholic from the moment the priest baptized the row of wounded men that included me, but that was just me simplifying things after the fact. Somehow, I felt closer to the Italians than to the people I had grown up among. What I felt in Italy in those few months was very different from the sense of hollowness I experienced in in Protestant America.”

“So might you say your becoming Catholic was your way of reaching out for wholeness?”

He felt for it. “Yes. I think that’s a pretty good way to put it.”

“What about the question of guilt, Mr. Hemingway? What about the sense of sin that often crippled your ability to accept responsibility? What about the overwhelming, suffocating sense of guilt and unworthiness that had you in a continual state of tension, fighting it all the way. Your guilt over the war between your parents, and your father’s distance, and the things that happened with your friends, your father’s suicide, and your relations with various women, and your children’s problems and failures. Did the church help you to bear all that?”

He was surprised that his attorney hadn’t interrupted, but instead said to him, quietly, “Think about what he’s saying, Mr. Hemingway. Find a true response. It isn’t any harder than writing one true sentence.”

So, he thought about it, or rather he sat receptively, waiting for the answer to well up within him.

“I don’t know. Pauline always thought I should take more advantage of confession, but you’d have to be a different kind of Catholic than I was to get much good from it. You’d have to be able to admit to things that I just couldn’t. I can feel a lot of things, all connected, and I don’t know how they all sort out: my near-death experience and my fear of death and yet the lure of death. My connection to something beyond this world, even though I was so alive, that came out in stories. Even my superstitious nature is part of it. I don’t mean the church is a superstition, but somehow Catholicism and superstition and intuition are tied together, somehow.” Another pause. “You know, I felt like something was hollow within me, and I didn’t know how to get at it and fix it.”

“Thank you, Mr. Hemingway. Your honor, the prosecution recalls Mrs. Mowrer.”

 

Categories: Fiction

Chapter 14: A Farewell to Europe

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Hadley’s expression had something of that steely resolution he had found so unexpectedly.

“Mrs. Mowrer, in the Summer of 1926, when you discovered that your husband and Pauline Pfeiffer had been having an affair, you asked him if it was true. And did he admit it?”

“Oh yes. Ernest would tell all manner of tall stories, and he would lie fluently to cover his tracks or to re-write what he had done, but when he was asked a direct question, he would tell the truth. And as usual, having to tell the truth about something he had been lying about made him angry. He said if I hadn’t brought it up, it wouldn’t have become a problem. I suppose he was hoping that things would have sorted themselves out.”

“But in any case, it was your fault.”

“Well, that’s how I knew he felt guilty about it, you know. That’s how I knew he still loved me. I said, if he and she would go a hundred days without seeing each other, and at the end of that time they still wanted each other, I would give him a divorce. In the meantime, he would have to clear out of the apartment, because I couldn’t live with him as his jailor. This is when he went to live in Gerald Murphy’s studio.”

“The Murphys supported him in the argument.”

“Many of his friends appear to have decided that Pauline would make him a more appropriate wife than I did.”

“Which left you isolated, with a dependent child, in a foreign country.”

She smiled at him. “That’s a very dramatic description of the situation, Mr. Prosecutor, but in fact, I was quite comfortable. The country wasn’t strange any more. I still had Marie Cocotte to help with Bumby. I knew my way around, and not all our friends sided with Ernest.”

“So you did not find the separation devastating?”

“It was much harder on Ernest than on me, I believe. I did not have to deal with guilt, nor with the need to choose. And as a little time passed, I began to remember life at a more normal pace. I had been keyed up to Ernest’s level of intensity, and at first, after all those cloistered years in my mother’s house, it was exhilarating. Ernest lit up anything he touched! But I was not meant to live at Ernest’s level of intensity, and I saw that I couldn’t go back to that life. So I told him that I was withdrawing my ultimatum, and would begin divorce proceedings.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Mowrer. Cross examination? No? Your honor, the prosecution recalls the defendant to the stand.”

.2.

“Mr. Hemingway, you heard Mrs. Mowrer’s testimony just now. Did any part of it surprise you?”

“If you mean, was that the first time I realized that Hadley got tired of keeping up with me, you must think I’m pretty oblivious.”

“Did you realize it at the time?”

“In 1926? No, of course not. It took years.”

“Why do you suppose that was, Mr. Hemingway? You were notably perceptive, sensitive to atmosphere. Why did it take years for you to realize that your first wife discovered that she couldn’t keep up with you?”

“Hell, I don’t know. Some things take as long as they take.”

“As simple as that? No way to know, no need to look?”

“What do you want from me?”

“Ideally, we want you to look at your life and compare it to the view you had at the time.”

“Yes, well, I can’t.”

“Oh, but you can. You have already done so, repeatedly, not only here but sometimes while you were in the 3D world. It is merely a matter of allowing your perceptions to connect with your emotions, and looking honestly at what comes up. That’s the value of these proceedings. Why did it take you years to realize that your first wife couldn’t keep up with you?”

He let the question reverberate, having to make the effort to not clutch at the first idea that floated by. The prosecutor, seeing him making the effort, waited. At last he said, “I wasn’t paying attention.”

“Would you elaborate for the court, please?”

“I had all this stuff going on in my mind. Places I wanted to go, and friends all over the place, and Boni and Liveright and Scott and Scribner’s, and stuff I’d been reading and things I hoped to experience, and story ideas I wanted to develop. I always had things going on, inside.”

“Among them, lust for Pauline Pfeiffer?”

“I admit it.  I couldn’t keep my mind off her, even when I wanted to.”

“Did the things going on inside your head include thoughts of your wife and child?”

“Of course. But I guess they weren’t front and center unless something came up.”

“In other words, you were taking them for granted.”

“I was taking them for granted that way you take breathing for granted. That doesn’t mean they weren’t important to me, they just weren’t the only thing in my life.” An insight struck, and he added, “They weren’t like my internal life, you know. If I didn’t pay attention to a story idea, maybe it would go away and I’d lose it forever. External life wasn’t like that.”

“Did your wife and child not go away, and did you not lose them forever?”

Once again, blind-sided.

The defense attorney stood up. “Your honor, may I briefly cross-examine for the purposes of clarity?”

“Without objection, proceed.”

“Mr. Hemingway, were you doing full justice to yourself when you said you weren’t paying attention? Is that a full and fair description of the life you were leading?”

He felt for the thought underlying the question, and let the answer well up within.

Slowly: “A writer watches what happens around him, and tries to figure out what people are thinking, and what moves them to do what they do. Even when he makes something up out of the air, he has to know what makes them tick if he’s going to show it. So you’d think a writer, of all people, would understand the people around him. but I see now, I didn’t. I couldn’t see that they were different from me. It wasn’t just that they were making different choices, or had different values and ambitions. Most of them were different. It’s as if they were asleep inside.”

The defense attorney nodded. “Yes, this is a difference between yourself and, for instance, your first wife, isn’t it?”

In a long lifetime, the thought had never struck him. “I suppose that’s true. That’s another difference between us. It wasn’t just her level of energy as opposed to mine. Her inner life wasn’t as brightly lit as mine, I suppose. She lived with her focus on her life in the world. I guess she didn’t live much in the world I lived in.”

“Did anyone?”

“Some.” Wonderingly, surprised that it had not been obvious. “Writers and painters, mostly. Artists.”

“No further questions, your honor.”

“The prosecution may resume.”

.3.

“During your last months in Paris, in March, 1928, you suffered a freak accident that had major consequences. Tell us about it, if you will.”

“In those days, in France, toilet tanks were suspended a few feet above the floor, and you pulled a chain to flush. In the middle of the night, I accidentally pulled the chain to the skylight instead. Somebody else must have done the same thing earlier and loosened it, because the whole damn thing came crashing down on me. It opened a big gash in my head, and we couldn’t get it to stop bleeding. Finally Pauline called Archie MacLeish and he drove me to the hospital and they took some stitches.”

“And that was the genesis of A Farewell to Arms.”

“As it turned out, yes. The middle of the night, suddenly I’m hit and I’m bleeding, and we can’t get it to stop and I’m getting light-headed and there’s the smell of blood. It was like my body was reliving 1918. What I thought was going to be a short story started turning into a novel.”

“A novel, not autobiography.”

“No, not autobiography. A Farewell to Arms goes from the summer of 1915 to the retreat from Caporetto in late 1917. In 1915 I was in high school. 1917 I was working at the Kansas City Star. I reconstructed the war out of what I had learned from reading the histories and examining the photos and maps, learning the details of what had happened in the various battles and campaigns.”

“So a hospital visit in Paris gave you a beginning and, to anticipate, another one, in Kansas City, when Pauline gave birth to your second son, gave you the ending.”

“That’s right, but Pauline and the baby lived, while Catherine and her baby died, because that’s what the story required.”

A Farewell to Arms solidified your reputation as a novelist. Why?”

“Why? Because next to all the other novels of the time, mine was revolutionary.”

“In your description of war?”

“More in way it dealt with the romance. Catherine didn’t feel guilty! They didn’t bother with legal forms, or religious forms. In fact, they scarcely noticed them. Their relationship proceeded without reference to society’s expectations except from time to time, when Ferguson would remind them (and remind the reader). Catherine did feel it acutely for a few minutes in the transit hotel when she said it was the first time she felt like a whore – but mostly they proceeded innocently without reference even to legalities. And the narrator took it all for granted, you see, rather than moralizing about it. And Catherine died not because she had sinned, but because life handed out meaningless death – to her, to Aymo, to how many millions of soldiers, animals, civilians, trees, buildings, everything.”

“I see. And what of the criticism that the romance and the war don’t really mix? You must admit, as soon as they escape into Switzerland, the war disappears from the book.”

“I don’t have to admit it, I did it deliberately. Frederic Henry’s story begins with him living in emotional isolation. He doesn’t know anything about love. He is used to getting sexual satisfaction by paying for it, either with money or by telling the necessary lies. Then he finds that he can feel love, and give love, and in this sense live in love. That changes him. It makes him vulnerable in a way that he has to learn to live with. Until then he had been floating, cut off emotionally from his family at home and soldiering in another country’s army, with no friends, only acquaintances, other than Rinaldi and the priest. His wound separated him from them and brought him to Catherine, and by the time he returned from the hospital, he belonged to her, not to them.”

“But Catherine as drawn lives only for Frederic Henry. Some people have criticized her as an unrealistic fantasy, with no will of her own.”

“Then they don’t understand what they are reading. Henry knows, right from the beginning, when she is so suddenly in love with him, that there is something wrong with her. Eventually he found out she really was a little bit crazy at the time, for reasons stemming from her own romantic history. She had behaved conventionally and bitterly regretted it. And so she was adrift, and had to make up her own rules as she went along. When he was almost shot as a coward he wound up in the same predicament she was in: He had followed the rules and it had worked out badly. He loses Army, and country and friends, and it’s down to just him and her, and she too is taken.”

“As is the baby.”

“Yes, but the baby was never anything to him but the danger of childbirth, and a potential wedge between him and her in the life they would have afterward.”

He paused. “You see? The story expresses one state of mind, that sooner or later, life takes everything away. If I had remembered being dead, maybe it would’ve had a different tone! But the war was never the point.”

“Yes, that’s very clear.” The prosecutor paused, visibly changed gears. “While you were in the middle of writing it, you relocated to the southernmost town in the United States. Lets talk about Key West.”

 

 

Categories: Fiction