November 16, 2011

Don Ernesto: Ernest Hemingway in Spain

So I would be remiss to write a blog titled "Not Hemingway's Spain," intended to correct the "Hemingway paradigm," without occasionally saying something about Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) himself, a.k.a. "Don Ernesto." Hemingway is easily America's most famous expat in Spain. (To all my readers: Are there any other nominees? I'm going to start a series profiling past and present expats in Spain. So I welcome any thoughts!)

Here I'm going to start by just outlining a bit the periods of time that Hemingway spent in Spain… And the first thing I noticed is that I've spent more time in Spain than Hemingway ever did! So why are people reading his books anyway? Clearly they should be reading my blog!

Well, okay joking aside, I know that I am no Hemingway. I _start_ my sentences with "and", rather than stringing together clauses (and page-long sentences!) using Hemingway's favorite conjunction. I certainly haven't mastered his art of precision, his modern minimalist style. (Am I still rambling on about this point?) Still it is significant to observe one glaring fact about Hemingway's obsession with Spain: though he loved the country and the culture, he never really _lived_ here. And even a quick glance at the timeline below of his visits to Spain and the books he wrote reveals an enormous skew towards bullfights and summer vacations, Pamplona and Madrid, with the notable exception of his extended stay in Madrid as a wartime correspondent during the Civil War. This ought to be a red flag to Hemingway fans to tread lightly in drawing too many conclusions about Spain from his travels and writings on the country.

A more light-hearted image of the bull from those usually seen in connection to Hemingway

I'm only very crudely summarizing biographical highlights here, but another significant thing to bear in mind is that Hemingway was not allowed to visit Spain for 15 years of the Franco dictatorship (because of his political sympathies for the other side). This helps explain the gap below between 1938 (one year before the Civil War ended with Franco's victory) and 1953, the year when the Franco government eased up on Hemingway's restriction and he was invited to return to Pamplona to help promote the festivities and bullfighting culture. (Note the intersection of biography and history: 1953 was the same year the Franco regime more broadly eased up on Spanish-US relations, which I mentioned in my entry on the movie ¡Bienvenido Mr. Marshall!.) Though also significant was the fact that starting in 1928 Cuba would compete with Spain for Hemingway's affections.

Hemingway and his second wife Pauline on the San Sebastian beach.
Apparently I was mistaken, Don Ernesto did enjoy Spain's beaches!

And one last important observation: Hemingway's birthday was July 22nd. San Fermín, the festival Hemingway helped put on the map, happens Jul 7th through July 14th. Maybe I'm making too much of this personal fact, but this means that Hemingway spent many of his birthdays and summer holidays in Spain. In other words, Spain was always Hemingway's vacation, escape from reality, never really his home.

The joy of the spectacle, Hemingway and his fourth wife Mary at a bullfight in Zaragoza.

Timeline of Hemingway in Spain:

1921            At the end of the year, on his way to Paris to be a correspondent, he makes
                    his first stop in Spain, at the port of Vigo, but for only four hours
1923            His first visit to Pamplona for San Fermín; Visits Ronda
1924            Spends July in Spain watching bullfights; its was this particular trip that,
                    according to one biographer (Stanton), inspired the novel The Sun Also Rises;
                    he and his wife (Hadley) also visited the town Burguete in the Pyrenees
1925            Spends July in Spain watching bullfights; he and Hadley visit Madrid,  
                    Valencia, and San Sebastian; following the trip Hemingway starts
                    writing The Sun Also Rises
1926            Spends July in Spain watching bullfights
1927            Spends the summer in Spain with his new wife (Pauline); they visit Galicia
                    and in particular Santiago de Compostela
1929            Spends July in Spain watching bullfights
1930            Spends the summer in Spain watching more bullfights, including Pamplona's,
                    working on his book Death in the Afternoon
1931            From May through August, he passes the summer in Spain curious about the
                    newly proclaimed Second Republic; Arrives in Vigo; watches more bullfights
                    Pamplona's, and continuing to write his book Death in the Afternoon;
                    visits Ávila
1933            In August he travels to Spain with his wife (Pauline) and two sons to see the
                    bullfights in Extremadura
1937-1938   Hemingway was a wartime news correspondent for Collier's, covering the
                    Civil War from March 1937 to May 1938 and stationed out of Madrid. He
                    would also helped with the production of the propaganda film Tierra de 
                    España (1937) and become involved with the International Brigade, fighting
                    on behalf of the Republican forces. Hemingway also met future wife Gellhorn
                    during this period
1953            Invited back to Spain to see Pamplona's San Fermín festivities in July.
1954            Watches the San Isidro bullfights in Madrid in May and June
1956            Visited Spain in September and October: watched more bullfights; visited  
                    El Escorial; and went to a friend's (Pío Baroja) funeral in San Sebastian
1959            Went to Spain in July to documented the Pamplona San Fermín Festival for
                    a Life Magazine series; and stayed with his friend in Cónsola, Málaga
1960            Vacationed in Spain: Pamplona's San Fermín Festival; and again Málaga

NOTE: Here I've only begun to trace out his visits, as I know from many different accounts that Hemingway did manage to make trips to Barcelona, Burgos, Segovia, La Granja, and many other Spanish locales not listed here. Readers and Hemingway enthusiasts, please feel free to help me fill out the gaps and poorly specified trip itineraries.

Hemingway talking with famous matador and friend, Antonio Ordóñez.
Ordóñez would appear in The Dangerous Summer, published posthumously.

In the next entry I'll say a bit about those famous works Hemingway wrote on Spain, and the picture it paints of the country. I'll also point you to online resources about him which I've found useful to peruse. As foreshadowing, I want to do a shout out to The Hemingway Project, which is a great blog examining all things Hemingway and whose blogger strikes a nice balance between enthusiasm and respect for Don Ernesto's legacy, but also open-mindedness about his limitations and critiques of his works.

Postscript: If you're curious what Spaniards think of Hemingway, you might check out this very recent blog entry about Hemingway in El País, and especially the comments posted.

A more somber image of Hemingway in Málaga in 1959. The unavoidable
Catholic iconography that punctuated Hemingway's depictions of Spanish culture.


leftbanker said...

Excellent post and I look forward to reading more on this topic. I, too, have probably spent more time here than Papa. I guess that's what happens sometimes when you read too much Hemingway as a young man.

Mr Grumpy said...

Interesting stuff. Can't help you with the gaps though - I always was more of a Fitzgerald fan when it came to American literature.

An Expat in Spain said...

Leftbanker, judging by the expat blogging community I've discovered online, I imagine we could form a decent size club of those whose stay in Spain eclipses EH. My personal take is that Hemingway is best read as a young man.

Mr. Grumpy, I agree with you about Fitzgerald v. Hemingway, though Mark Twain (albeit of another era) easily trumps both. I wonder if Twain ever wrote on Spain... "Twain on Spain" #IdeasForNextBlogProject

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