Celebrating Ernest Hemingway's Century 100

By Carter, Richard | Humanities, July/August 1999 | Go to article overview
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Celebrating Ernest Hemingway's Century 100


Carter, Richard, Humanities


ERNEST HEMINGWAY, who once said all writers are liars, stode across the face of the century with simple declarative sentence and a tough attitude. He would have been a hundred years old on July 21, 1999.

In the course of an extraordinary life, he wrote books and short stories that were acclaimed for their unflinching honesty, elegance, and spare irony. Among the principal works were To Have and Have Not, For Whom the Bell Tolls, In Our time, The Sun Also Rises, Men Without Women, A Farewell to Arms, Across the River and into the Trees, and The Old Man and The Sea, In 1954 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel committee declared, "We express our admiration for the eagle eye with which he has observed, and for the accuracy with which he has interpreted the human existence of our tubulent times; and for the abmiradle restraint with which he has described their naked struggle."

Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, an upper-middle-class Chicago suburb. Clarence Hemingway, his father, was a doctor; his mother Grace had artistic and social pretensions. His childhood was idylic, filled with fishing trips and excursions with ths father, Yet Oak Park of his boyhood, he said, "was a place of wide lawns and narrow minds."

On July 2, 1961, battling manic depression, intense pain, and an army of physical ailments, Ernest Hemingway died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at this Ketchum, Idaho retreat.

The life and work of Ernest Hemingway is being honored in this his centennial year with events in his native Oak Park and in Ketchum. The Illinois Humanities Council and the Ernest Heming way Foundation in Oak Park are sponsiring an exhibition called "In Our Time: A Look at the Twentieth Century Through the Life and Work of Ernest Hemingway." It opens at hte Hemingway Museum in Oak Park and later travels to other sites across the nation. The theme of the exhibition is Hemingway as a man and writer in a historical and artistic context. In addition, an international literary conference will take place from July 19 through July 21 in Oak Park.

The Idaho Humanities Council is commemorating the centenary of Hemingway's birth with a week-long institute for teachers addressing the topic of Hemingway and the birth of modernism. Michael Reynolds, who has just completed his five-volume biography of Hemingway, will deliver the keynote lecture on the evening of July 21 in Sun Valley.

Six feet tall, 250 pounds at his heaviest, Hemingway was an American "star" who shared his cosmos with Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and Marilyn Monroe. He Was an unabashed admirer of Theodore Roosevelt and the pursuit of the "strenuous life." Like TR he had little use for "soft living." He liked the outdoors, big game hunting, fishing, bullfighting, and checkered fannel shirts. Like TR, he tested the limits of his physical and mental endurance. Not a particularly successful athlete as a boy, he took up boxing to build his strenght after he learned that TR, a sickly child, had done the same. In 1933, he booked his first safari with the same man who took TR thirty years before. And he grew a TR moustache. "He sucked all the oxygen out of a room," the poet Archibald MacLeish remembered. He was intense and driven. His marlin fishing would last ten hours every day for sixty days.

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