Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) presented by Margaret Sparkes

Photo Ernest Hemingway

1st Edition dust jacket: For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) by Lloyd Arnold (Wikimedia Commons)

Another detailed and sweeping analysis of the life, times and literary genius of a Nobel Prize winner was given at the Calgary Women’s Literary Club, this time by Margaret Sparkes.

Ernest Miller Hemingway is generally regarded one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 for his body of work, most of which he produced between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s. The previous year, 1953, he had received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Old Man and the Sea.

A significant change in modern writing style is often attributed to his books and short stories. Perhaps because of his work as a journalist, he writes in short, declarative sentences, using carefully chosen language readily understood by the majority of readers.

Several key events greatly influenced Hemingway and his writing: his active participation in World War I at a very young age, his first love, his first marriage and early life in Paris with other expatriates of the so-called “lost generation,” and the Spanish Civil War. Certainly his writing reflects these important events in his life.

Hemingway is as well known for his lifestyle and exploits as he is for his writing. He married four times and fathered three sons. As a young man, he excelled at sports and loved the outdoors. He was fascinated by bullfighting, and loved big-game hunting, fishing, and skiing. Hemingway travelled extensively and, outside of the United States, is most closely associated with Spain and Cuba. Some of his most successful novels are informed by his wartime experiences. He was awarded the Italian Silver Medal for Bravery in the First World War, and a Bronze Star for his bravery in World War II.

Throughout his life, Hemingway was plagued by injuries and ill health. For a great many years he was a barely controlled alcoholic and, particularly towards the end, he suffered from depression. Mental illness runs in his family and eventually, like his father, he committed suicide.

Notwithstanding a tragic end, Hemingway left the world a legacy of magnificent writing. He was clearly a perfectionist, constantly rewriting his novels and stories to such an extent that several of them were published posthumously, even unfinished. He was a worthy recipient of the Nobel Prize.

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