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Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park on July 21, 1899. He began working as a journalist with the Kansas City Star after high school. During World War I, he was an ambulance driver for the Italian Red CrossHe was injured early in his service and went home in 1919. Hemingway’s traumatic experience in the war and his subsequent search for meaning in the world find expression in many of his works of fiction, including The Sun Also Rises. Although it contains no descriptions of World War I and scarcely even alludes to it directly, Hemingway’s 1926 novel is haunted by the specter of “The Great War,” also known as “The War to End All Wars.”

As a European correspondent for The Toronto Daily Star, Hemingway lived in Paris beginning in 1921. He belonged to the historic artistic circle surrounding the American author Gertrude Stein, which included other important modernists such as Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Pablo Picasso. Hemingway achieved great fame as a writer of both journalism and fiction during his lifetime, ultimately winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Gertrude Stein was a writing mentor for him during his time in Paris, and she is responsible for one of the quotations in the epigraph of The Sun Also Rises: “You are all a Lost Generation.”

Hemingway’s writing style is noteworthy for its sparse simplicity and directness, which was innovative in its day and became an important influence on the trajectory of American literature. Hemingway is also known for immersing himself in the unique experiences which he describes in his novels—inlcuding Spanish bullfighting, deep sea fishing and hunting for big game—and conveying the details of these pursuits with depth and richness. He was an adventurous, larger-than-life figure in many ways, and his fiction is, in part, the product of a life filled with diverse experiences. His first novel,A Farewell to Arms (1929), tells the semi-autobiographical story of the love affair between an Army nurse and a wounded American recovering in an Italian hospital. For Whom the Bell Tolls, published in 1940, is derived from Hemingway’s experience as an American correspondent in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway’s time in Cuba no doubt inspired The Old Man and the Sea (1952), which tells the tale of a Cuban fisherman’s battle with a massive, elusive marlin. This novella, the last of Hemingway’s works published during his lifetime, garnered him the 1953 Pulitzer Prize.

During the late 1950s, Hemingway’s heavy drinking began to complicate his physical health. He also struggled with depression and unpredictable mood swings. On July 2, 1961, he committed suicide. A Moveable Feast, the vivid memoir in which Hemingway describes his years in 1920s Paris with other famous expatriates, was published three years after his death. The end of Hemingway’s life did not dim his popularity, and several more of his novels and short stories have been published posthumously over the years.

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