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Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway has enjoyed a rich legacy as the progenitor of modern fiction, as an outsized character in literary lore who wrote some of the most honest and moving accounts of the twentieth century, set against such grand backdrops as the bullrings of Spain, the savannahs of Africa, and the rivers and lakes of the American Midwest. In this portrait of the Nobel-prize winner, Verna Kale challenges many of the long-standing assumptions Hemingway’s legacy has created. Drawing on numerous sources, she reexamines him, offering a real-life portrait of the historical figure as he really was: a writer, a sportsman, and a celebrity with a long and turbulent career.
Kale follows Hemingway around the world and through his many roles—as a young Red Cross volunteer in World War I, as an expatriate poet in 1920s Paris, as a career novelist navigating the burgeoning middlebrow fiction market, and as a seasoned but struggling writer still trying to draft his masterpiece. She takes readers through his four marriages, his joyous big game expeditions in Africa, and his struggles with celebrity and craft, especially his decades-long attempt at a novel that was supposed to blow open the boundaries of American fiction and upset the very conventions he helped to create. It is this final aspect of Hemingway’s life—Kale shows—that wreaked the greatest havoc on him, taking a steep physical and mental toll that was likely exacerbated by a medical condition that science is only beginning to understand.
Concise but insightful, this book offers an acute portrait of one of the most important figures of American arts and letters. 

224 pages | 25 halftones | 5 x 7 3/4 | © 2016

Critical Lives

Biography and Letters

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“Verna Kale's Ernest Hemingway is a formidable counter argument to those who erroneously believe the Hemingway oeuvre is memoir masquerading as fiction.”


“Kale’s Ernest Hemingway reminds us that succinctness offers its own formal pleasures by resisting digression and not spinning its wheels with undue elaboration. Given Hemingway’s own celebrated devotion to concision, the format suits its subject. This biography is a happy reminder that brief can be beautiful.”

Hemingway Review

"Sifting out the larger-than-life Hemingway in search of a faithful history of the Nobel Prize–winning novelist, Kale uses Hemingway’s life to illuminate his writings, examining them within the context of his critics."

American Literature

"Brief biographies of already familiar, intensely studied figures sometimes shine new light on their subjects by discerning patterns and themes that may become lost amid more detailed accounts. This is certainly the case with Kale’s superb Ernest Hemingway. . . . Contrary to Hemingway’s hale and hearty public persona (over which he ultimately lost control), his life was essentially tragic—pitiful and heartbreaking, really—and through her conciseness Kale makes the reader feel this bitter truth with particular intensity. This is a sad book, even among studies of Hemingway. And a hard book to put down. . . . A welcome addition to the Critical Lives series, this short biography packs an incredible amount of information and insight into a small package and would be impossible to improve upon."


"A beautifully researched and critically balanced biography that covers Hemingway's life, works, and the array of critical response to both with exceptional thoroughness and exacting subtlety. Kale delivers a fresh, contemporary statement on a subject too long blurred by unexamined bias. A must-own volume for serious readers, students, and anyone interested in Hemingway and the complex relationships amongst his life, works, and twentieth-century American culture."

Hilary K. Justice, author of "The Bones of the Others: The Hemingway Text from the Lost Manuscripts to the Posthumous Novels"

Table of Contents

Note on the Text
1. The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife, 1899-1919
2. The Age Demanded, 1919-22
3. In Another Country, 1922-5
4. The End of Something, 1925-6
5. The Light of the World, 1926-9
6. Shootism versus Sport, 1929-35
7. The Soul of Spain, 1935-9
8. Notes on the Next War, 1939-44
9. The Battler, 1944-7
10. The Tradesman’s Return, 1947-51
11. The Undefeated, 1951-4
12. The Last Good Country, 1954-61

Further Reading
Photo Acknowledgments

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