Hemingway's First War and the Art of Not Being There

I started re-reading Michael Reynold's Hemingway's First War, an account of the writing process behind Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. In the introduction Reynold's really captures Hemingway's genius when he discusses how so many experts on the war in Italy and the retreat from Caporetto in particular, adamantly believed Hemingway must have been an eyewitness to have written about it in such vivid detail. In reality, Hemingway hadn't been there during the time in which the novel takes place and Reynold's book is an examination of how Hemingway got everything so right and how he confirms his statement from Big Two-Hearted River that the only writing that was any good was what you made up or imagined.

More to come...

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Comment by Bill Wahler on July 6, 2010 at 9:19pm
Jimmy Buffet sings "don't try to describe the ocean if you've never seen it". Papa's genius was that he could describe something he'd never seen, such as the retreat from Caporetto. He had, of course, seen enough of that war to be able to describe what it must have been like. His wounds proved that he had been in combat, although not as a combatant. Many people think Papa was a "blowhard", embellishing facts, in order to inflate his personal image. I think, over the years, his exploits and adventures left no doubt that he was who he said he was. And there can be no doubt he knew how to write about exploits and adventures.
Comment by Peter Krynicki on August 28, 2009 at 11:44am
When I first read this I thought it was volume one of his biography. It's a good read for people who think Hemingway was writing basically autobiography. It used to be very hard to find and very expensive if you did find it.


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