Ernest Hemingway, the son of Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, a doctor, was was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on 21st July, 1899. His mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, was a music teacher but had always wanted to be an opera singer. According to Carlos Baker, the author of Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story (1969), he began writing stories as a child: "Ernest loved to dramatize everything, continuing his boyhood habit of making up stories in which he was invariably the swashbuckling hero."
After being educated at the local high school, Hemingway rejected his father's idea of going to Oberlin College. Instead he accepted the offer of working for the Kansas City Star at $15 a week. He later recalled: "I covered the short-stop run which included the 15th Street police station, the Union Station, and the General Hospital. At the 15th Street station you covered crime, usually small, but you never knew when you might hit something larger. Union Station was everybody going in and out of town... some shady characters I got to know, and interviews with celebrities going through. The General Hospital was up a long hill from Union Station and there you got accidents and a double check on crimes of violence."
When the United States entered the First World War in 1917 Hemingway attempted to sign up for the army but was rejected because of a defective eye. He therefore joined the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. He later wrote: "One becomes so accustomed to all the dead being men that the sight of a dead woman is quite shocking. I first saw inversion of the usual sex of the dead after the explosion of a munition factory which had been situated in the countryside near Milan. We drove to the scene of the disaster in trucks along poplar-shaded roads. Arriving where the munition plant had been, some of us were put to patrolling about those large stocks of munitions which for some reason had not exploded, while others were put at extinguishing a fire which had gotten into the grass of an adjacent field; which task being concluded, we were ordered to search the immediate vicinity and surrounding fields for bodies. We found and carried to an improvised mortuary a good number of these and I must admit, frankly, the shock it was to find that those dead were women rather than men."
Hemingway was sent to Europe and was badly wounded on the Austro-Italian front: "There was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red. I tried to breathe but my breath would not come. The ground was torn up and in front of my head there was a splintered beam of wood. In the jolt of my head I heard somebody crying. I heard the machine guns and rifles firing across the river. I tried to move but I could not move... The Italian I had with me had bled all over my coat, and my pants looked like somebody had made currant jelly in them and then punched holes to let the pulp out... I told them in Italian that I wanted to see my legs, though I was afraid to look... So we took off my trousers and the old limbs were still there but they were a mess. They couldn't figure out how I had walked 150 yards with a load with both knees shot through and my right shoe punctured in two big places also over 200 flesh wounds."
Hemingway was hospitalized in Milan. There was talk about possible amputation but Hemingway insisted on piece-by-piece extraction of the shrapnel "no matter how long it took or how great the pain." He even pried out some of the smaller fragments as they worked their way to the surface, using the point of a penknife. One of the other patients, Henry Villard, later claimed, "we all took turns conversing with him and encouraging him to forget his wounds." He also pointed out that the nurses "liked to exhibit him to visitors as their prize specimen of a wounded hero".
In a letter to his father Hemingway wrote: "it does give you an awfully satisfactory feeling to be wounded. There are no heroes in this war... All the heroes are dead... Dying is a very simple thing. I've looked at death and really I know. If I should have died, it would have been... quite the easiest thing I ever did... And how much better to die in all the happy period of undisillusioned youth, to go out in a blaze of light, than to have your body worn out and old and illusions shattered."
While in hospital Hemingway met and fell in love with a nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky. Hemingway described her as "a bit of heaven" who was "doubly attractive so far from home, cheerful, quick, sympathetic, with an almost mischievous sense of humour - an ideal personality for a nurse". Carlos Baker has argued: "She was beginning to reciprocate, though not to the degree that he would have liked. It was his first adult love affair - there is no trustworthy indication of any before it - and he hurled himself into it with uncommon devotion. She was the night nurse most of the time through August and early September. Although she was far too careful a nurse to neglect her other charges, her duties brought her frequently into his room, and she often returned to see him after the other boys had settled down.... Agnes refused to permit the affair to progress beyond the kissing stage. She took her duties too seriously to think of getting married and settling down, as Ernest wanted to do."
After the war Hemingway returned to the United States and worked as a journalist in Chicago. He then became a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. While in Europe he associated with a group of radical American journalists that included Max Eastman and George Seldes. Eastman, the former editor of the The Masses helped Hemingway get his work published in The Liberator and the New Masses. The American author, Gertrude Stein, who was based in Paris, also promoted Hemingway's work.
One of the world's leading journalists, Lincoln Steffens, was especially impressed with Hemingway's writing. According to Justin Kaplan, the author of Lincoln Steffens: A Biography (1974): "Among the younger men Steffens saw in Paris, Ernest Hemingway appeared to him to have the surest future, the most buoyant confidence, and the best grounds for it." Steffens told his partner, Ella Winter: "He's fascinated by cablese, sees it as a new way of writing." Winter explained: "Stef loved anything new, original, or experimental, and he especially cherished young people. He was sending Hemingway's stories to American magazines, and they were coming back, but this did not alter his opinion." Steffens told anyone who would listen: "Someone will recognize that boy's genius and then they'll all rush to publish him." Hemingway also encouraged Winter to write: "It's hell. It takes it all out of you; it nearly kills you; but you can do it."
Hemingway also came under the influence of the journalist, William Bolitho . He described him as "a strange-looking man with a white lantern-jawed face... that is supposed to haunt you if seen suddenly in a London fog". They met nearly every evening for dinner. It has been claimed that this "marked the beginning of Heminway's education in international politics." He did the same for Walter Duranty of the New York Times. Duranty later commented that Bolitho taught him "nearly all about the newspaper business that is worth knowing." He added that Bolitho "possessed to a remarkable degree... the gift of making a quick and accurate summary of facts and drawing there from the right, logical and inevitable conclusions."
Hemingway met Hadley Richardson in December, 1920. Hadley was eight years older than Hemingway and hen she expressed misgivings about their age difference, he "protested that it made no difference at all." They married on 3rd September 1921 and a child, John Hemingway, was born in October, 1923. Ella Winter later recalled: "Hadley had straight hair and small teeth, and appeared somewhat bewildered and out of things. She tried hard to be a good wife, to ski, fish, shoot, and attend prize fights with her husband, run a household on very little money, as well as care for their bouncing baby, Bumbie (John). He was large, blond, good-natured, and loved by everyone."
Hemingway's first collection of stories, In Our Time, was published in 1925. His novel, The Torrents of Spring, appeared the following year. However, it was his next book, The Sun Also Rises (1926), a novel about the aftermath of the First World War, that brought him to the attention of the literary critics. The journalist John Gunther met Hemingway in 1926 at the home of Ford Madox Ford. Gunther told his friend, Helen Hahn: "Put that name down. Ernest Hemingway. He can think straight and he can write English. Heaven knows two such joined accomplishments are rare nowadays."
Other books published during this period was a collection of short stories, Men Without Women (1927) and a A Farewell to Arms (1929), a novel based on his love affair with Agnes von Kurowsky and his experiences of working with the Red Cross. He also wrote a study of bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon (1932), a collection of short-stories, Winner Take Nothing (1933) and an account of big-game hunting, The Green Hills of Africa (1935).
Hemingway reported on the Spanish Civil War, where he advocated international support for the Popular Front Government. In February 1937 Hemingway went to Spain and reported on the war in the Madrid area. He spent most of his time with the International Brigades. Hemingway also helped the Dutch film director Joris Ivens make The Spanish Earth.
Hemingway spent a lot of time with Herbert Matthews in Spain. Alvah Bessie met them at Ebro: "One was tall, thin, dressed in brown corduroy, wearing horn-shelled glasses. He had a long, ascetic face, firm lips, a gloomy look about him. The other was taller, heavy, red-faced, one of the largest men you will ever see; he wore steel-rimmed glasses and a bushy mustache. These were Herbert Matthews of The New York Times and Ernest Hemingway, and they were just as relieved to see us as we were to see them."
Hemingway returned briefly to the United States where he met President Franklin D. Roosevelt to discuss the war. He also made speeches in an attempt to raise money for the Republican Army. In March 1938 Hemingway returned to Spain and toured the areas still under the control of the Popular Front Government. He also wrote the play The Fifth Column, which promoted the Republican cause.
After the war Hemingway wrote the novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). The book, which deals with the Republican partisans in the Sierra de Guadarrama, sold over 270,000 copies in its first year. A former member of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, the writer Alvah Bessie, later complained about the book: "His (Hemingway) dedication to the cause of the Spanish Republic was never questioned, even though the VALB men attacked his novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, as a piece of romantic nonsense when it was not slanderous of many Spanish leaders we all revered, and scarcely representative of what the war was all about."
Hemingway, who married Martha Gellhorn in 1940, worked as a war correspondent during the Second World War. After the war Hemingway moved to Cuba where he wrote The Old Man and the Sea (1952), a novel that won the Pulitzer Prize. Two years later Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature.
Ernest Hemingway, depressed by failing artistic and physical powers, committed suicide on 2nd July, 1961. According to his friend, Alvah Bessie: "Ernest Hemingway committed suicide on 2 July 1961. He had apparently felt that he was through - both as a writer and a man." A Moveable Feast, a memoir of his years in Paris after the First World War, and two novels, Islands in the Stream and The Garden of Eden, were published after his death.