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Ernest Hemingway | Biography

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Beginnings: Journalism and World War I

Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, near Chicago, on July 21, 1899. In his career as a journalist, he often covered wartime battlefronts.

While still a teenager, Hemingway began his writing career as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. Rather than go to college, he volunteered in 1918 as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross during World War I. After being severely injured in Italy in a noncombat role, he returned to the United States and stayed at his family's home in Michigan to recover and plan a return to his life as a writer.

Early Career: The Paris Years

In 1921 Hemingway married his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and within months the couple moved to Paris. While in Paris, Hemingway joined the expatriate artistic community of American writer Gertrude Stein, who hosted a salon where writers and artists frequently met. Hemingway socialized with well-known writers and artists such as American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, Irish writer James Joyce, and American poet Ezra Pound. These modernist writers commented on the insecurities and lack of direction in a world that seemed to have lost all meaning after the brutality of the war. Stein famously referred to this group as the "Lost Generation" after the disillusionment generally felt as a result of the atrocities of World War I. The reading public often included Hemingway in this so-called generation, but he remained fiercely independent of it. Nonetheless, with these writers' encouragement, he began publishing stories and poems. He published his first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems, in Paris in 1923, and a book of short stories, In Our Time, in the United States in 1925.

In 1923 when the Hemingways learned Hadley was pregnant, they temporarily moved to Toronto, Canada, (believing the hospitals were better there), where Hemingway worked for the Toronto Star. Upon returning to Paris, Hemingway continued his work as a foreign correspondent. In 1925 he published his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, which drew heavily on what he had learned about bullfighting during frequent trips to Spain.

Midcareer: World Travel and Rise to Fame

Soon after publishing The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway and Richardson divorced in 1927. He then married Pauline Pfeiffer later that year and returned to the United States to live in Key West, Florida. In 1928 their son Patrick was born, followed by another son, Gregory, in 1931. During this marriage, Hemingway published A Farewell to Arms, a novel about World War I.

In the 1930s Hemingway engaged in adventurous outdoor activities such as hunting in Africa, bullfighting in Spain, and deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Always drawn to the sea, Hemingway bought a boat, the Pilar, in 1934. He equipped it to catch big fish and traveled extensively around the Caribbean, gathering the experiences he would later use in his novella The Old Man and the Sea. While in Key West in 1936, he met fellow journalist Martha Gellhorn.

Late Career: War Correspondence and Literary Prizes

In 1937 Hemingway covered the Spanish Civil War as a foreign correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance. In 1939 he took the Pilar to Cuba, where Gellhorn joined him. Pfeiffer then left him, and Hemingway and Gellhorn married in 1940, settling on a farm near Havana, Cuba.

Hemingway served as a war correspondent in Europe during World War II. He met his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, a Time magazine correspondent, while living in London from 1944 to 1945. Always aiming to be at the center of events, Hemingway witnessed the Normandy landing at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944; the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944; and the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. In 1946, following his divorce from Gellhorn, Hemingway and Welsh married in Cuba.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway's novel about the Spanish Civil War, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1941, but it did not win. However, in 1953, Hemingway won this prestigious award for The Old Man and the Sea. Released in 1952, the novella is the last complete work published before his death. An immediate commercial and critical success, it became an international best seller—making its author a celebrity after almost 10 years of virtual literary silence. The novella's critical acclaim helped cement Hemingway's reputation as a literary giant, and in 1954 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Death and Enduring Legacy

Hemingway sustained many injuries (automobile, hunting, airplane, and household accidents) throughout his lifetime of adventures. He was a heavy drinker who suffered from depression and several chronic ailments, among them liver disease and hypertension (high blood pressure). When Hemingway and his fourth wife bought a house and moved to Ketchum, Idaho, in 1959, his mental health continued to deteriorate. On July 2, 1961, Hemingway committed suicide, like his father, sister, and brother before him. He was 61.

A Moveable Feast, Hemingway's fictionalized memoir of his early years in Paris, was published in 1964 and is a valuable addition to the Hemingway canon. The simple, rhythmic style of Hemingway's prose has been widely imitated by writers since. Many critics and readers in the United States and abroad consider Hemingway among the century's best authors.

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