1954 : Ernest Hemingway

1954 : Ernest Hemingway

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“for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style”



July 21, 1899

Place of birth


Oak Park, Illinois, United States



July 2, 1961

Place of death


Ketchum, Idaho, United States



Author, Novelist, Journalist




Notable award(s)


Nobel Prize in Literature 1954


Early years: Born on July 21 of 1899 in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. It was the second son of a family of three. His father, Clarence Hemingway Edmond, was a doctor and he liked hunting and fishing. His mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, had studied music and made him interested in her. Ernest’s father owned a house with land on Bear Lake. There, Ernest learned to fish (with three years was already capable of handling a cane) and hunt (with twelve grasp the carbine). He studied at the Institute of Secondary Oak Park and River Forest, where he learned to play the cello and was part of the orchestra. He was captain of the hockey team and played rugby. It was also interested in boxing and fought with his comrades in the waste area. In the studies highlighted in language, but apathy felt by the other disciplines. He showed his literary skills in the school newspaper, using the alias Ring Lardner, Jr. At the end of their studies, in 1917, did not want to go to college, as his father wanted, or wanted to improve his cello studies, as his mother wanted. He moved to Kansas in October 1917 and began working for a reporter at the Kansas City Star. The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917, and Ernest did not want to miss the opportunity to follow the American Expedition Corps, as did John Dos Passos, William Faulkner or F. Scott Fitzgerald. Due to a defect in his left eye, was removed as a combatant. Managed to draw as a driver of ambulances of the Red Cross and landed in Bordeaux in late May 1918, to march to Italy. On July 8, 1918 was seriously wounded by Austrian artillery. With the injured leg and a broken knee, was able to load to shoulder an Italian soldier to put safe. He walked 40 meters until he fainted. The heroism earned him the recognition of the Italian government with the Silver Medal at Valor. During his recovery at the hospital in Milan fell in love with a young nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, who later planted by a Neapolitan officer. He returned to the United States in January 1919, resuming his work as a journalist for the Toronto Star and as editor of the monthly “Cooperative Commonwealth.” He married Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, 8 years older than him, on Sept. 3, 1920. The couple moved to Paris in 1922. Interwar Paris and the Lost Generation:In 1923, shortly after arriving in Paris, his first born son, John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway, who called Bumby. ” In Paris he met avant-garde literary environments and relates to the members of the so-called Lost Generation: Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald among others. Hemingway’s family lived in an austere apartment, but when Ernest wrote to his family that they had lived in the best area of the Latin Quarter. His early literary were not anything easy. His early work: Three stories and ten poems (1923) and in this world (1925) went unnoticed. Ernest earned a living as a correspondent and traveled throughout Europe. It also was used as sparring for boxers and “hunted” doves in the Luxembourg gardens to stroll when they got to his son, because the savings hindered and not earning much. New phase:The year 1925 marked the discovery of Hemingway to American publishers, and the year in which he wrote his first novel, Fiesta. The new style that showed in this book, a portrait of bohemian Paris of the twenties and much of autobiographical inspiration, he left behind a dark and experimental literature, becoming more powerful and successful. Also in Death in the Afternoon, recounts his experiences in Pamplona, Spain, which was beginning to worship, and in which even today are evidence of their presence. In 1929, edit Farewell to Arms, an autobiographical novel content, because it is based on its passage through the war and their experiences on the battle front. It was followed by two editions more optimistic, trying to apasionaban two themes: the running of the bulls in Death in the Afternoon, and Africa, in The Green Hills of Africa (1935). In 1928 he returned to the United States with his second wife, but soon part toward Cuba. From that moment on, it begins a curious and final processing. Moves away from individualism, as can be seen in Be or not to have (1937), which describes the failure of an individual revolt, and is committed to the fight with humanitarian and uniting people. Undertakes his writing in this new phase with the Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, compromise of giving testimony in the script of the film documentary Spanish Earth, in the play The fifth column (1938) and of course in For Whom the bend bells, a masterpiece of world literature. World War II:Outbreak of World War II. Their destination was the sea of the Antilles and its mission, patrolling in order to capture Nazi flag vessels. In 1944 he traveled to Europe as a war correspondent, is involved in aerial reconnaissance missions in Germany and is part of the landing in Normandy, being among the first soldiers to enter Paris. Until 1950 does not return to writing. On the other side of the river and through the trees, is his first publication after those turbulent years of war. The Old Man and the Sea:In 1952 he surprised with a short story commissioned by Life magazine, The Old Man and the Sea, which receives the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. The story recounts the experiences of an old Cuban fisherman who has had a bad streak and quit fishing determined to finish it. A year later get the Nobel Prize for Literature for the whole of his work. Recent years:From then tries to write a novel about the Second World War, that ultimately never completed. And again in new stories, those years of youth in Paris and Spain (Paris was a feast), places where he was “very poor but very happy”, missed the feeling that caused him to be a young dreamer, brave and risky , Who not only wrote about events that one day would become part of history, but also was part of it. On July 2, 1961, decided that perhaps could not write more, and shot himself with a shotgun. Given the absence of a suicide note and the angle of the shot, it is difficult to determine whether his death was self or whether it was an accident. It is presumed that one possible cause was Alzheimer’s that he detected little earlier, as well as a depressive character.


Selected Works:

Short stories:

  • Three Stories & Ten Poems – Paris : Contact, 1923

  • in our time – Paris : Three Mountains Press, 1924

  • In Our Time – New York : Boni & Liveright, 1925

  • Men Without Women – New York : Scribners, 1927

  • Winner Take Nothing – New York : Scribner, 1933

  • The Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories – New York : Scribners, 1938 – Republished as The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (1954)

  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories – New York : Scribner, 1961

  • The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and Other Stories – Penguin, 1963

  • Hemingway’s African Stories : the Stories, Their Sources, Their Critics / compiled by John M. Howell – Scribner, 1969.

  • The Nick Adams Stories / preface by Philip Young – New York : Scribners, 1972

  • The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway – New York : Scribners, 1987


  • The Torrents of Spring : a Romantic Novel in Honor of the Passing of a Great Race – New York : Scribners, 1926

  • The Sun Also Rises – New York : Scribners, 1926 – Republished as Fiesta (London: Cape, 1927)

  • A Farewell to Arms – New York : Scribners, 1929

  • To Have and Have Not – New York : Scribners, 1937

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls – New York : Scribners, 1940

  • Across the River and Into the Trees – New York : Scribners, 1950

  • The Old Man and the Sea – New York : Scribners, 1952

  • Islands in the Stream – New York : Scribners, 1970

  • The Garden of Eden – New York : Scribner, 1986

  • True at First Light : a Fictional Memoir / edited with an introduction by Patrick Hemingway – New York : Simon & Schuster, 1999 – First unabridged version published as Under Kilimanjaro – Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 2005


  • Today is Friday – Englewood, N.J. : As Stable, 1926

  • Death in the Afternoon – New York : Scribner, 1932

  • God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen – New York : House of Books, 1933

  • Green Hills of Africa – New York : Scribner, 1935

  • The Spanish Earth – Cleveland : Savage, 1938

  • The Secret Agent’s Badge of Courage – Belmont Books, 1954

  • Two Christmas Tales – Hart Press, 1959.

  • A Moveable Feast – New York : Scribners, 1964

  • The Collected Poems of Ernest Hemingway – New York : Haskell House, 1970

  • Eighty-Eight Poems / edited by Nicholas Gerogiannis – New York & London : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich/ Bruccoli Clark, 1979 – Enlarged as Complete Poems (University of Nebraska Press, 1983)

  • Ernest Hemingway, Selected Letters, 1917-1961, Scribner, 1981.

  • Complete Poems, edited by Nicholas Gerogiannis, University of Nebraska Press, 1983.

  • Hemingway on Writing / edited by Larry W. Phillips – New York : Scribners, 1984

  • The Dangerous Summer / introduction by James A. Michener – New York : Scribner, 1985

  • Conversations With Ernest Hemingway – University Press of Mississippi , 1986.

  • Hemingway at Oak Park High : The High School Writings of Ernest Hemingway, 1916-1917 – Alpine Guild, 1993

  • The Only Thing That Counts : The Ernest Hemingway/Maxwell Perkins Correspondence, 1925-1947 / edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli – New York : Scribner, 1996

Literature (a selection):

  • Ernest Hemingway : the Man and His Work – Cleveland : World Publ. Co., 1950

  • Atkins, John, The Art of Ernest Hemingway : His Work and Personality – London : Nevill, 1952

  • Baker, Carlos Heard, Hemingway : the Writer As Artist – Princeton : Princeton U.P., 1952

  • Hemingway and His Critics : an International Anthology – ed., with an introd. and a checklist of Hemingway criticism by Carlos Baker – New York : Hill and Wang, 1961

  • Hemingway, Leicester, My brother, Ernest Hemingway – Cleveland : World Publ. Co., 1962

  • Young, Philip, Ernest Hemingway : a Reconsideration – University Park : Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1966

  • Baker, Carlos Heard, Ernest Hemingway : a Life Story – London : Charles Scribner’s son, 1969

  • Hemingway, Mary Welsh, How it was – New York : Knopf, 1976

  • Hemingway : the Critical Heritage – London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982

  • Meyers, Jeffrey, Hemingway : a biography – New York : Harper & Row, 1985

  • Reynolds, Michael S., The Young Hemingway – Oxford : Blackwell, 1986

  • Reynolds, Michael S., Hemingway : the Paris years – Oxford : Blackwell, 1986

  • Reynolds, Michael S., Hemingway : the American Homecoming – Oxford : Blackwell, 1992

  • Reynolds, Michael S., Hemingway : the 1930s – New York : W.W. Norton & Co, 1997

  • Reynolds, Michael S., Hemingway : the Final Years – New York : W.W. Norton & Co, 1999


1954: Nobel Prize in Literature.

1954: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.


Excerpt from The Old Man and the Sea

He is a great fish and I must convince him, he thought. I must never let him learn his strength nor what he could do if he made his run. If I were him I would put in everything now and go until something broke. But, thank God, they are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and more able.

The old man had seen many great fish. He had seen many that weighed more than a thousand pounds and he had caught two of that size in his life, but never alone. Now alone, and out of sight of land, he was fast to the biggest fish that he had ever seen and bigger than he had ever heard of, and his left hand was still as tight as the gripped claws of an eagle.

It will uncramp though, he thought. Surely it will uncramp to help my right hand. There are three things that are brothers: the fish and my two hands. It must uncramp. It is unworthy of it to be cramped. The fish had slowed again and was going at his usual pace.

I wonder why he jumped, the old man thought. He jumped almost as though to show me how big he was. I know now, anyway, he thought. I wish I could show him what sort of man I am. But then he would see the cramped hand. Let him think I am more man than I am and I will be so. I wish I was the fish, he thought, with everything he has against only my will and my intelligence.

He settled comfortably against the wood and took his suffering as it came and the fish swam steadily and the boat moved slowly through the dark water. There was a small sea rising with the wind coming up from the east and at noon the old man’s left hand was uncramped.

‘Bad news for you, fish,’ he said and shifted the line over the sacks that covered his shoulders.

He was comfortable but suffering, although he did not admit the suffering at all. ‘I am not religious,’ he said. ‘But I will say ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys that I should catch this fish, and I promise to make a pilgrimage to the Virgin de Cobre if I catch him. That is a promise.’

He commenced to say his prayers mechanically. Sometimes he would be so tired that he could not remember the prayer and then he would say them fast so that they would come automatically. Hail Marys are easier to say than Our Fathers, he thought.

‘Hail Mary full of Grace the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.’ Then he added, ‘Blessed Virgin, pray for the death of this fish. Wonderful though he is.’

With his prayers said, and feeling much better, but suffering exactly as much, and perhaps a little more, he leaned against the wood of the bow and began, mechanically, to work the fingers of his left hand.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Anders Osterling, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy.

In our modern age, American authors have set their stamp more and more strongly on the general physiognomy of literature. Our generation in particular has, during the last few decades, seen a reorientation of literary interest which implies not only a temporary change in the market but, indeed, a shifting of the mental horizon, with far-reaching consequences. All these swiftly rising new authors from the United States, whose names we now recognize as stimulating signals, had one thing in common: they took full advantage of the Americanism to which they were born. And the European public greeted them with enthusiasm; it was the general wish that Americans should write as Americans, thereby making their own contribution to the contest in the international arena.

One of these pioneers is the author who is now the focus of attention. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Ernest Hemingway, more than any of his American colleagues, makes us feel we are confronted by a still young nation which seeks and finds its exact form of expression. A dramatic tempo and sharp curves have also characterized Hemingway’s own existence, in many ways so unlike that of the average literary man. With him, this vital energy goes its own way, independent of the pessimism and the disillusionment so typical of the age. Hemingway evolved his style in the herd school of journalistic reporting. In the editorial office of the Kansas City newspaper where he served his apprenticeship, there was a kind of pressman’s catechism, the first dictum of which was: Use short sentences. Use short paragraphs. Hemingway’s purely technical training clearly led to an artistic self-discipline of uncommon strength. Rhetoric, he has said, is merely the blue sparks from the dynamo. His master in older American literature was Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn, with its rhythmical stream of direct and unconventional narrative prose.

The young journalist from Illinois was flung headlong into the First World War when he volunteered to serve as an ambulance driver in Italy, where he received his baptism of fire at the Piave front and was severely wounded by shell splinters. The nineteen-year-old’s first violent experience of war is an essential factor in Hemingway’s biography. Not that he was daunted by it; on the contrary, he found that it was a priceless asset for a writer to see war at first hand – like Tolstoy at Sevastopol – and to be able to depict it truthfully. Several years were to elapse, however, before he could bring himself to give an artistically complete account of his painfully confused impressions from the Piave front in 1918: the result was the novel A Farewell to Arms in 1929, with which he really made his name, even if two very talented books with a European post-war setting, In Our Time (1942) and The Sun Also Rises (1926), had already given proof of his individuality as a storyteller. In the following years, his instinctive predilection for harrowing scenes of action and grim spectacle drew him to Africa with its big-game hunting and to Spain with its bullfighting. When the latter country was transformed into a theatre of war, he found inspiration there for his second significant novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), in which an American champion of liberty fights for man’s dignity – a book in which the writer’s personal feelings seem more deeply involved than anywhere else.

When mentioning these principal elements in his production, one should not forget that his narrative skill often attains its highest point when cast in a smaller mould, in the laconic, drastically pruned short story, which, with a unique combination of simplicity and precision, nails its theme into our consciousness so that every blow tells. Such a masterpiece, more than any other, is The Old Man and the Sea (1952), the unforgettable story of an old Cuban fisherman’s duel with a huge swordfish in the Atlantic. Within the frame of a sporting tale, a moving perspective of man’s destiny is opened up; the story is a tribute to the fighting spirit, which does not give in even if the material gain is nil, a tribute to the moral victory in the midst of defeat. The drama is enacted before our eyes, hour by hour, allowing the robust details to accumulate and take on momentous significance. But man is not made for defeat, the book says. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.

It may be true that Hemingway’s earlier writings display brutal, cynical, and callous sides which may be considered at variance with the Nobel Prize’s requirement for a work of an ideal tendency. But on the other hand, he also possesses a heroic pathos which forms the basic element in his awareness of life, a manly love of danger and adventure with a natural admiration for every individual who fights the good fight in a world of reality overshadowed by violence and death. In any event, this is the positive side of his cult of manliness, which otherwise is apt to become demonstrative, thereby defeating its own ends. It should be remembered, however, that courage is Hemingway’s central theme – the bearing of one who is put to the test and who steels himself to meet the cold cruelty of existence, without, by so doing, repudiating the great and generous moments.

On the other hand, Hemingway is not one of those authors who write to illustrate theses and principles of one kind or another. A descriptive writer must be objective and not try to play God the Father – this he learned while still in the editorial office in Kansas City. That is why he can conceive of war as a tragic fate having a decisive effect on the whole of his generation; but he views it with a calm realism, void of illusion, which disdains all emotional comment, a disciplined objectivity, stronger because it is hard-won.

Hemingway’s significance as one of this epoch’s great moulders of style is apparent in both American and European narrative art over the past twenty-five years, chiefly in the vivid dialogue and the verbal thrust and parry, in which he has set a standard as easy to imitate as it is difficult to attain. With masterly skill he reproduces all the nuances of the spoken word, as well as those pauses in which thought stands still and the nervous mechanism is thrown out of gear. It may sometimes sound like small talk, but it is not trivial when one gets to know his method. He prefers to leave the work of psychological reflection to his readers, and this freedom is of great benefit to him in spontaneous observation.

When one surveys Hemingway’s production, definite scenes flare up in the memory – Lieutenant Henry’s flight in the rain and mud after the panic at Caporetto, the desperate blowing up of the bridge in the Spanish mountains when Jordan sacrifices his life, or the old fisherman’s solitary fight with the sharks in the nocturnal glow of lights from Havana.

Moreover, one may trace a distinctive linking thread – let us say a symbolic warp reaching back a hundred years in the loom of time – between Hemingway’s latest work, The Old Man and The Sea, and one of the classic creations of American literature, Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick, the white whale who is pursued in blind rage by his enemy, the monomaniac sea captain. Neither Melville nor Hemingway wanted to create an allegory; the salt ocean depths with all their monsters are sufficiently rewarding as a poetic element. But with different means, those of romanticism and of realism, they both attain the same theme – a man’s capacity of endurance and, if need be, of at least daring the impossible. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.

This year’s Nobel Prize in Literature has therefore been awarded to one of the great authors of our time, one of those who, honestly and undauntedly, reproduces genuine features in the hard countenance of the age. Hemingway, now fifty-six years old, is the fifth American author so far to be honoured in this way. As the Prize winner himself is unfortunately unable to be present for reasons of health, the Prize will now be handed to the United States Ambassador.


The Old Man and the Sea

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