Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Notes For September 27th, 2011

This Day In Writing History

On September 27th, 1929, A Farewell To Arms, the classic novel by the legendary American writer Ernest Hemingway, was published. The autobiographical novel was based on the author's own experiences during the first world war.

After graduating high school, Hemingway decided not to go to college. Instead, he began his writing career as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star. Six months later, against his father's wishes, he left the job to join the Army and fight in World War 1. Unfortunately, he failed his physical due to his poor eyesight.

Rejected for military service, he joined the Red Cross Ambulance Corps instead and served as an ambulance driver. On his way to the Italian front, he stopped in Paris, which was being bombarded by German artillery. He tried to get as close to the combat zone as possible.

When he arrived in Italy, Hemingway witnessed firsthand the horrors of war. An ammunition factory near Milan exploded, and he was tasked with picking up the human remains. He wrote about the experience in his first short story, A Natural History Of The Dead. It left him badly shaken.

In July of 1918, Hemingway's career as an ambulance driver ended when he was badly injured while delivering supplies to soldiers. He was shot in the knee and caught shrapnel from an Austrian trench mortar shell in both legs.

While recovering in a Milan hospital, he fell in love with the nurse who tended him - an American woman named Agnes von Kurowski. She was six years his senior. They planned to return to America together, but when the time came, Agnes jilted Hemingway and ran off with an Italian officer. The end of their relationship would deeply affect both Hemingway the writer and Hemingway the man.

In her Dear John letter, Agnes addressed him as "Ernie, dear boy." At first, she scolded him for his immaturity and blamed the breakup on their age difference, but then she dropped the real bombshell: "Believe me when I say this is sudden for me, too - I expect to be married soon. And I hope & pray that after you have thought things out, you'll be able to forgive me & start a wonderful career & show what a man you really are."

A Farewell To Arms tells the story of Hemingway's protagonist and alter ego, Frederic Henry, an American soldier serving during World War 1. Henry is wounded in Italy and recovers in a Milan hospital. There, he falls in love with Catherine Barkley, the British nurse who tends him.

By the time Henry has recovered, Catherine is three months pregnant with his child. They are separated by the war, then reunited later. They flee to Switzerland by rowboat where, after a long and painful labor, Catherine gives birth to a stillborn baby, then bleeds to death.

A Farewell To Arms was originally published by Scribner's Magazine in a serialized format, which Hemingway revised before the novel was published in book form. When his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald asked to read it, he sent him a draft copy of the manuscript. Later, Fitzgerald wrote him back with nine pages of suggested revisions. At the bottom of the last page, Hemingway wrote "Kiss my ass."

Rightfully considered one of greatest novels ever penned by an American writer, A Farewell To Arms demonstrates Ernest Hemingway's power as a storyteller and the style that would mark him as one of the all time great writers. He never got to say goodbye to Agnes von Kurowski, a fate that befalls Frederic Henry in the novel, which ends with this poignant passage:

"You can't come in now," one of the nurses said.

"Yes I can," I said.

"You can't come in yet."

"You get out," I said. "The other one too."

But after I had got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn't any good. It was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.

Quote Of The Day

"All good books have one thing in common - they are truer than if they had really happened." - Ernest Hemingway

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a reading from Ernest Hemingway's classic novel, A Farewell To Arms. Enjoy!

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