Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview
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Going Back

Michael S. Reynolds

So we walked along through the street where I saw my very good friend killed, ... and it all seemed a very sad business. I had tried to recreate something for my wife and had failed utterly. The past was as dead as a busted victrola record. Chasing yesterdays is a bum show—and if you have to prove it go back to your old front.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, "A Veteran Visits Old Front" ( Toronto Star, 22 July 1922)

When Frederic Henry, hero of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, lived in the house "that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains," it was the late summer of 1915. Italy had just entered the European War, and Ernest Hemingway had just turned sixteen in upper Michigan.In the spring of 1918, Catherine Barkley died in childbirth in Lausanne, Switzerland; in April 1918, Ernest Hemingway drew his last paycheck from the Kansas City Star and left for his own war experience in northern Italy.

When he reached Italy in 1918 for his shortlived tour as a Red Cross ambulance driver, the Italian front bore no resemblance to the front at which Frederic had served for two years as an ambulance driver in the Italian army. In June 1918, American Red Cross Ambulance Section Four, to which Hemingway was assigned, was stationed at Schio in the Dolomite foothills.Although there was a major Austrian offensive in June, there was little action at Schio. Hemingway drove Section Four ambulances for only three weeks. In July he asked to be transferred to the canteen operation along the more active Piave river front. At Fossalta di Piave, on July 8, 1918, he was blown up by an Austrian trench mortar.

From Hemingway's First War: The Making of A Farewell to Arms. © 1976 by Princeton University Press.


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