Hemingway, Gellhorn, Spain

Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls was published on this day in 1940. It had been over a decade since A Farewell to Arms, and though there had been a handful of books since, the critics had not thought much of them. The new book was praised by many -- "Hemingway the artist is with us again, and it is like having an old friend back," said Edmund Wilson -- and sold a half million copies in the first six months.

There were dissenting voices, some of them raised at Hemingway's politics, some of them at his lovemaking prose. This is the famous moment in chapter 13 when everything goes "red, orange, gold-red" for Maria and, coining a phrase, Hemingway makes the earth move for Robert Jordan:

For him it was a dark passage which led to nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere, heavy on the elbows in the earth to nowhere, dark, never any end to nowhere, hung on all time always to unknowing nowhere, this time and again for always to nowhere, now not to be borne once again always and to nowhere, now beyond all bearing up, up, up and into nowhere, suddenly scaldingly, holdingly all nowhere gone and time absolutely still and they were both there, time having stopped and he felt the earth move out and away from under them.

Hemingway said that the writing of For Whom the Bell Tolls cost him his second marriage, to Pauline Pfeiffer. The biographies and memoirs concur, though perhaps it was the research rather than the writing that led to the breakup. In Paul Preston's We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War (2010), British journalist Sefton Delmer's describes this fallout from an early-morning bombing of Madrid's legendary Hotel Florida: "All kinds of liaisons were revealed as people poured from their bedrooms to seek shelter in the basement, among them Ernest [Hemingway] and Martha [Gellhorn]." The two war correspondents first met in the Florida's bar; the meeting and the hotel are recreated in the upcoming HBO film Hemingway & Gellhorn, starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman and scheduled to air next spring.


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."