This Day In Writing History
On March 4th, 1952, the legendary American writer Ernest Hemingway completed the manuscript for his classic novella, The Old Man and the Sea. The novella would first be published in Life magazine that same year.
Written while Hemingway was living in Cuba, The Old Man and the Sea was his favorite work, and with good reason. His previous novel, Across the River and Into the Trees (1950) was savaged by the critics.
They said that Hemingway was washed up as a writer - he had become a parody of himself. The Old Man and the Sea proved them wrong. It was the comeback novel of the decade, a success he desperately needed.
Hemingway's thrilling tale of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman far out in the Gulf Stream, who struggles to reel in a giant marlin, won him tremendous praise by critics, who compared his novella with Melville's Moby Dick and Faulkner's The Bear.
The Old Man and the Sea also won Hemingway the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature. I first read it when I was thirteen and in the eighth grade. My English teacher assigned the class to read this amazing book. I loved it and became a big Hemingway fan. I still am.
The Old Man and the Sea was first adapted as a feature film in 1958, starring Spencer Tracy as Santiago. Although Tracy was nominated for an Oscar for his performance, the film was a disappointment to Ernest Hemingway, who believed that Tracy was miscast - he looked like a rich old white actor, not a poor, aging Cuban fisherman.
A 1990 TV movie adaptation, starring Anthony Quinn as Santiago, proved to be even worse, with Quinn's solid performance undermined by a bad script and a low budget.
The Old Man and the Sea would prove to be Ernest Hemingway's last great work of literature. Nine years after it was published, in July of 1961, Hemingway committed suicide with his hunting rifle after suffering from health problems and mental illness.
Ironically, even though he had previously voiced the Catholic belief that all suicides go to Hell, the Catholic Church ruled that Hemingway was not responsible for his suicide due to mental illness. He was therefore allowed to be buried in a Catholic cemetery.
Hemingway's father and two of his siblings had also committed suicide, and years later, his granddaughter, actress Margaux Hemingway, would take her life. Some believe that haemochromatosis, which ran in Hemingway's father's family, may have been the cause.
Haemochromatosis is a genetic disease that causes an excessive level of iron in the blood, resulting in damage to the pancreas and instability in the cerebrum - which can lead to depression and mental illness.
Quote Of The Day
"My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way." - Ernest Hemingway
Today's video features a lecture by writer Paul Hendrickson on Ernest Hemingway's passions for fishing and boating, which led him to write The Old Man and The Sea.. Enjoy!