Friday, April 8, 2011

The Veneto of Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway and his fourth wife, Mary Welsh
(Venice, Italy) The force of nature named "Ernest Hemingway" conjures up all kinds of images: writer, lover, soldier, hunter, fisherman and world-class drinker, to name a few. Wherever he touched down, he left powerful images in his wake, and he touched down hard in Venice and the Veneto. Promoted by the Venice International University, sponsored by the Veneto Region, and curated by Gianni Moriani, il Veneto di Ernest Hemingway offers intimate photos of the great man in a variety of local venues, some of which made their way into his books.

I usually quote from Wikipedia, but I have discovered the article about Ernest Hemingway to be badly written and full of blatant inaccuracies; for example, it says The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in May, 1952, when in reality it won in 1953. I even attempted to edit the article myself, but my changes were not published. (Perhaps someone who is more clever at Wikipedia editing would like to give it a try.) Of particular interest to me was the information regarding Hemingway's mental state prior to his suicide. From Wikipedia:

"The first installments of The Dangerous Summer were published in Life in September 1960 to good reviews. When he left Spain, he went straight to Idaho,[143] but was worried about money and his safety.[141] As his paranoia increased, he believed the FBI was actively monitoring his movements.[144][note 7] Hemingway suffered from physical problems as well: his health declined and his eyesight was failing.[145] In November he was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota,[143] where he may have believed he was to be treated for hypertension.[146] Meyers writes that "an aura of secrecy surrounds Hemingway's treatment at the Mayo", but confirms that in December 1960 he received electroconvulsive therapy as many as 15 times, then in January 1961 he was "released in ruins".[147]"

Since there seems to be a pattern when it comes to writers, Venice, US intelligence agencies, and psychiatric hospitals, I did more research and found that Hemingway's concerns about the FBI targeting him were perfectly valid. From a March 11, 1983 article by Herbert Mitgang entitled 'Publishing F.B.I. File on Hemingway' on the New York Times website:

Aliterary scholar says he has turned up new evidence of an effort by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to discredit Ernest Hemingway in his attempt to spy on potential Nazi sympathizers in Cuba during World War II. The scholar, Jeffrey Meyers, a 43-year-old professor of English at the University of Colorado, says he learned of the F.B.I.'s activities from a previously unknown 124-page F.B.I. file on Hemingway obtained in January under the Freedom of Information Act.

Click HERE to read the entire article.

Then, in the Autumn 1985 Virginia Quarterly Review, Jeffrey Meyers himself wrote a rather tedious article entitled 'The Quest for Ernest Hemingway' which contained more riveting information:

"I made the most interesting find by using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the FBI file on Hemingway (as well as on Pound and Duran). These fascinating documents revealed that J. Edgar Hoover conducted a personal vendetta against Hemingway after the novelist had founded a rival spy network in Cuba during World War II, pursued him for the next 18 years to the doors of the Mayo Clinic—Hemingway was quite sane when he said he was being followed by the FBI—and kept the file active until 13 years after Hemingway's death."

Click HERE to read the entire article.

The Soviet Union was notorious for using "punitive psychiatry" to discredit, isolate and physically and mentally break those who were considered "troublemakers."

According to Wikipedia, "Political abuse of psychiatry is the misuse of psychiatric diagnosis, detention and treatment for the purposes of obstructing the fundamental human rights of certain groups and individuals in a society." 

Speaking from personal experience, punitive psychiatry is absolute torture. In the 21st Century, I do not think that Russia has the power to order that punitive psychiatry be used against an law-abiding American citizen who lives legally in Italy. I think the only country who would pretend to have that kind of "power" over me, award-winning author Catherine Ann "Cat" Bauer, would be the United States of America. Luckily, the country of Italy is the global champion when it comes to mental health and human rights. In 1978, Italy passed Basaglia Law (Law 180) whose principal architect was the Venetian Franco Basaglia -- and if Los Angeles "lawyers" Sara Jane Boyers and Steven R. Boyers, or William R. Gill and Megan H. Jones of the US State Department had any intelligence they would have educated themselves before attempting such a stunt. God bless Franco Basaglia! 

Credit: Will McIntyre
Science Photo Library
When it comes to Hemingway, electroshock therapy remains a controversial treatment to this day, its main side effect being loss of memory. From a Wikipedia article that seems to be properly sourced and cited:
"According to prominent ECT researcher Harold Sackeim, "despite over fifty years of clinical use and ongoing controversy", until 2007 there had "never been a large-scale, prospective study of the cognitive effects of ECT."[43] In this first-ever large-scale study (347 subjects), Sackeim and colleagues found that at least some forms (namely bilateral application and outdated sine-wave currents) of ECT "routine[ly]" lead to "adverse cognitive effects," including global cognitive deficits and memory loss, that persist for up to six months after treatment, suggesting that the induced deficits may be permanent.[43][44] 

In any event, Ernest Hemingway first arrived in the Veneto Region in 1918 during World War I, his memory firmly intact. He was a boy of eighteen, who had signed on to drive an ambulance in Italy, which, by the way, was manufactured by Fiat (and after recently hooking up with Chrysler will soon be known as... Fysler). A couple of months after Heingway's arrival, while he was stationed in Fossalta di Piave about forty miles north of Venice, he was seriously wounded by mortar fire. He spent six months recuperating in a Red Cross hospital in Milan where he famously fell in love with his nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky.

In 1923 he wintered in Cortina d'Ampezzo with his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and returned there in 1948, with his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, a Time magazine correspondent. They lived for a at time in Cortina, where Hemingway met Fernanda Pivano, who translated A Farewell to Arms into Italian, and is credited with introducing American literature to Italy. The Hemingways also spent time in Venice, staying at the Hotel Gritti Palace, where Ernest started work on Across the River and Into the Trees, a novel inspired by his real-life love affair with a young Venetian aristocrat named Adriana Ivancich. Here are some recollections from Giuseppe Cipriani, the general founder of Harry's Bar:

Mary & Ernest Hemingway with Adriana Ivancich
During the long, cold winter of 1949-50, Ernest Hemingway installed himself comfortably in the Concordia room. Hemingway practically dropped in on us that year, and divided his time between the Inn on Torcello, the Gritti, and Harry's Bar, where he had a table of his own in a corner. He was the only client with whom once during an outing to Torcello I had to drink a little myself – much, much more than a little, actually – just to keep up with him.

Hemingway was the only client, I was saying, because I have always believed that the client's place is on one side of the counter, and the barman's is on the other.  Everything in its place....but he had such an overwhelming personality that it was impossible to maintain any barriers. He was generous to a fault, and filled more pages of his check-book than those of a medium length novel. At the time, he was just finishing "Over the River and Into the Trees" in which he mentions Harry's Bar many times. Every time I hear someone say "Hemingway sure gave you a lot of free promotion!" I say: "You're all wet, Bud. It was me and my bar that promoted him. They gave him the Nobel prize afterwards, not before."

In 1954, the Hemingways went on an African safari. Ernest chartered a plane as a Christmas gift for Mary, which crashed in the wilds of Uganda. Then, 48-hours later, they boarded another plane to go to Entebbe to seek medical treatment and that plane exploded at takeoff. Several newspapers reported that the Hemingways were dead. From the New York Times archives:

January 26, 1954

Hemingway Out of the Jungle; Arm Hurt, He Says Luck Holds

Entebbe, Uganda, Jan. 25--Ernest Hemingway arrived in Entebbe today after having survived two plane crashes in the elephant country of Uganda.
His head was swathed in bandages and his arm was injured, but the novelist, who is 55 years old, quipped: "My luck, she is running very good."
He was carrying a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin. With him was his wife, the former Mary Welsh. She had two cracked ribs and was limping as Mr. Hemingway helped her from an automobile that brought them here from Butiaba, 170 miles away.

The Hemingways decided to recuperate from their injuries at the Hotel Gritti Palace in Venice. The local papers announced their arrival with headlines like: Scampi e Valpolicella cura per Hemingway or "Scampi and Valpolicella Cure for Hemingway." From the Gazzettino-Sera: "Ernest Hemingway announced he will stay in Venice to recover from the injuries incurred in the well-known African accidents, with a powerful cure based on scampi and vapolicella." As part of the Hemingway exhibit, the Hotel Gritti Palace, one of my sponsors, is displaying their Gold Book of 1948 with Hemingway's signature and inscription: "to our home in Venice," and offering a special Hemingway menu based on his famous cure, which you can find by clicking HERE.

In the 1958 edition of Writers at Work, interviews from the Paris Review, selected by Kay Dick, George Plimpton interviews Ernest Hemingway:

Fernanda Pivano & Hemingway
Dobbiaco, Oct 12, 1948
Benetton Foundation
Photo: Ettore Sottsass
Interviewer:  How complete in your own mind is the conception of a short story? Does the theme, or the plot, or a character change as you go along?

Hemingway:  Sometimes you know the story. Sometimes you make it up as you go along and have no idea how it will come out. Everything changes as it moves. That is what make the movement which makes the story. Sometimes the movement is so slow it does not seem to be moving. But there is always change and always movement.

Interviewer:  Is it the same with the novel, or do you work out the whole plan before you start and adhere to it rigorously?

Hemingway: For Whom the Bell Tolls was a problem which I carried on each day. I knew what was going to happen in principle. But I invented what happened each day I wrote.

Interviewer:  Were the Green Hills of Africa, To Have and Have Not, and Across the River and Into the Trees all started as short stories and developed into novels? If so, are the two forms so similar that the writer can pass from one to the other without completely revamping his approach?

Hemingway:  No, that is not true. The Green Hills of Africa is not a novel but was written in an attempt to write an absolutely true book to see whether the shape of a country and the pattern of a month's action could, if truly presented, compete with a work of the imagination. After I had written it I wrote two short stories, 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro' and 'The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber'. These were stories which I invented from the knowledge and experience acquired on the same long hunting trip one month of which I had tried to write a truthful account of in The Green Hills. To Have and Have Not and Across the River and Into the Trees were both started as short stories.

Interviewer:  Do you find it easy to shift from one literary project to another or do you continue through to finish what you start?

Hemingway:  The fact that I am interrupting serious work to answer these questions proves that I am so stupid that I should be penalized severely. I will be. Don't worry. 

Il Veneto di Ernest Hemingway runs from April 2 to May 15, 2011.

Ciao from Venice,

The Veneto of Ernest Hemingway
Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti
Palazzo Loredan
Campo Santo Stefano
Tues - Fri 2pm to 6pm
Sat & Sun 11am to 6pm
Closed Mondays
Admission: free

Il Veneto di Ernest Hemingway
A cura di Gianni Moriani, Rosella Mamoli Zorzi e Graziano Arici.
martedì-venerdì 14-18
sabato-domenica 11-18
chiuso il lunedì
Ingresso gratuito


  1. thanks for this. Great read.

  2. Thanks for the great read. Keep it up!

  3. Wonderful!
    So nice to find a resource on Hemingway in Venice!