Few people would venture into the history of the literary world of novels and writing without coming across the name ‘Ernest Hemingway’. An author and a story writer, most people refer to him as one of the great American 20th century novelists. Regardless, Ernest Hemingway’s historic contribution to journalism as a human being and a brave citizen cannot be overlooked.
He was born on the 21st of July, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Ernest had a childhood most would call privileged. He was the second child of six and the firstborn son to Clarence and Grace Hemingway, a physician and musician respectively. Clarence and Grace were educated and had the respect of residents in Oak Park.
Ernest matured rather quickly, receiving the ‘Italian Silver Medal of Bravery’ at the young age of 18. The little boy from Oak Park would go on to become arguably the finest journalist of the 20th century.
Brace yourselves as we take you through 8 interesting facts you might not have known about the life of Ernest Hemingway.
Here we go!
Ernest Hemingway Facts
1. He had a passion for boxing
While Ernest Hemingway is known for his journalism and story writing, his passion for boxing was second to none. The man himself once said, “my writing is nothing, my boxing is everything.” Hemingway’s love for boxing was evident for all to see since his childhood. He once reportedly offered $250 to anyone who could knock him out in 3 seconds. He had a passion for the sport and a strong belief in himself.
Perhaps the biggest literary boxing feud of all time happened in 1929, Paris when Hemingway took on Canadian writer Morley Callaghan with author F. Scott Fitzgerald as the timekeeper. Hemingway lost the bout to Callaghan but blamed Fitzgerald for his inadequacy in managing time, an interesting fact about Ernest Hemingway.
2. He never went to college
In 1917, Hemingway finished high school and immediately went to work for ‘The Star’ in Kansas City as a cub reporter. It was his first job after high school and obviously, his writing still needed work. There is no doubt that the training he received there helped forge him into the legend be would eventually become.
3. He was once an ambulance driver
After six months in Kansas working for The Star, Hemingway wanted to join the First World War in Europe. He applied to serve but was turned down by the U.S Army due to his defective eyesight. Hemingway was advised to volunteer for the American Field Service as an ambulance driver by a colleague working at The Star who also had problems with his sight.
He became an ambulance driver for the Red Cross but still wanted to witness more action. Hemingway traveled to the Austro-Italian border where he got severely wounded while trying to save a soldier, an interesting Ernest Hemingway fact. Although he was rewarded with the ‘Italian Silver Medal of Bravery’, many believe this incident caused him to always feel the need to test his courage for the rest of his life.
4. He loved bullfighting
Hemingway witnessed bullfighting for the first time in 1923, Pamplona, Spain. He first wrote about it for The ‘Star weekly’ before it became one of his life’s inspirations and passion for his first novel ‘The Sun Also Rises.’
Hemingway didn’t stop there as he went on to publish a non-fiction book titled ‘Death in the Afternoon’ in 1932. The book is based on the astonishing art of Spanish bullfighting and depicts a deeper reflective thought on the true nature of fear and courage.
5. He ‘cheated death’ twice in two days
In 1954, Hemingway’s eventful life was in the works again as he suffered two plane crashes while flying over Lake Victoria on a safari in East Africa. This time Hemingway wasn’t alone. He had been accompanied by his fourth wife Mary Welsh whom he married in 1946.
The first crash happened when their pilot attempted an emergency landing that failed when he tried to avoid a flock of ibises. The second happened the next day when they boarded a small plane and were bound for home until it caught fire and crashed. Although they were badly injured, they survived, despite many media outlets reporting their deaths.
6. Rumour has it that he was a spy
In 2009, the publication of ‘Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America’ revealed Hemmingway as a potential agent working for the KGB in 1941. The book itself is based on reports from a former KGB officer named Vassiliev, who had access to Stalin-era intelligence in Moscow. The series also revealed his cover name as “Argo” and stated he was recruited in 1941 before his trip to China.
In 2010, another publication pointing Hemingway as a spy emerged by Nicholas Reynolds who published his book titled ‘Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961.’ The book depicted Ernest Hemmingway’s suspected espionage work for both the U.S and the Soviet Union, an interesting rumor about Ernest Hemingway.
7. He suffered from mental illness
According to reports, Ernest Hemingway suffered from bipolar disorder and alcoholism which eventually led to his suicide in 1961.
Some called it a genetic disease while others referred to it as a generational curse. Depression and suicide claimed at least four Hemingway’s after his father, Clarence killed himself in 1928. The list includes his sister, brother, granddaughter, and his third wife.
8. Ernest Hemingway’s novels and short stories have been adapted into over 20 films
It was never in doubt that the touching stories of Hemingway would be adapted on the big screen. His work was first adapted into filmography in the 1932 film, ‘Farewell to Arms.’ His writing was an inspiration to the literary world and by 1996, 14 films were already made based on his novels and short stories.
In 2012, Phillip Kaufman’s ‘Hemingway and Gellhorn‘ was released as a biopic movie to depict the historic life of Ernest Hemingway and his journalist wife, Martha Gellhorn.
That concludes our round-up of interesting facts about the iconic Ernest Hemingway. He was a journalist who wrote with passion and inspiration gained from the war and ensured his fictional characters depicted his values and way of thinking. He may be gone but his legacy lives on through his works.
Leaving behind an impressive list of work aged 61, Nobel prize and Pulitzer award winner Ernest Hemingway remains one of America’s greatest writers.
I hope that this article on Ernest Hemingway facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Historical Facts Page!