Ernest Hemingway escapes to Key West, settles in Havana

The original escape artist, Ernest Hemingway inspires writers and creatives to this day. He embodied a life of adventure and as an artist better than anyone else.

Most people don’t realize that Ernest was a WWI veteran, a Parisian ex-patriot, a bullfighting journalist in Pamplona, and a father married twice whilst writing some of the worlds most influential literary works, including The Sun Also Rises, before the age of 30.

pr08341When Hemingway looked south, he likely felt a connection to the monumental effort to build a 100 mile railroad connecting Miami with the 7 square mile island known as Key West.

The dream that he could escape to a tropical paradise and raise his three children was too much to resist.  His wife’s uncle made this a reality by purchasing a home for them at 907 Whitehead in Key West. The home had a carriage house with an upper floor that Hemingway turned into a writing studio.

Once settled into Key West, Hemingway brought friends like Waldo Peirce and Max Perkins to join him on fishing trips to the Dry Tortugas and general revelry.  Although these were fun times, he wrote in 1933 “We have a fine house here, and kids are all well.” Clearly Key West was plainly satisfying, but Ernest had another love brewing. A love for Cuba, and for his boat Pilar.

In 1939 Hemingway separated from Pauline and started a new chapter with Martha Gellhorn. Together they rented “Lookout Farm”, a 15 acre property 15mi outside of Havana.  Here he would finish his most famous novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls by 1940.

EH 5702P not dated Ernest and Pauline Hemingway at the Hemingway's Key West home. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
EH 5702P not dated Ernest and Pauline Hemingway at the Hemingway’s Key West home. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

In the early 1940s, Hemingway convinced the Cuban government to help him refit the Pilar, which he intended to use to ambush German submarines off the coast of Cuba.  Desperate times required him to make trips to China, and ultimately cost him his third marriage.

After getting married for the fourth time to Mary Welsh, things would become much worse for Ernest in 1946. A string of accidents and battles with depression lead him headfirst into chronic health problems and illness. In 1960 Hemingway left Cuba, never to return.

Now that Cuba and US relations are slowing being mended, you may have an opportunity to visit Havana and witness the enchantment that inspired Hemingway so many years ago.

 

 

Here is a brief timeline of Hemingway publications:

Novels
(1926) The Torrents of Spring
(1926) The Sun Also Rises
(1929) A Farewell to Arms
(1937) To Have and Have Not
(1940) For Whom the Bell Tolls
(1950) Across the River and into the Trees
(1952) The Old Man and the Sea
(1970) Islands in the Stream
(1986) The Garden of Eden

Nonfiction
(1932) Death in the Afternoon
(1935) Green Hills of Africa
(1962) Hemingway, The Wild Years
(1964) A Moveable Feast
(1967) By-Line: Ernest Hemingway
(1985) The Dangerous Summer
(1985) Dateline: Toronto
(1999) True at First Light
(2005) Under Kilimanjaro

Letters
(1981) Ernest Hemingway Selected Letters 1917–1961
(2011–) The Cambridge Edition of the Letters of Ernest Hemingway
(2011) The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 1, 1907-1922
(2013) The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 2, 1923-1925
(2015) The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 3, 1926-1929

Collections
(1923) Three Stories and Ten Poems
(1925) In Our Time
(1927) Men Without Women
(1933) Winner Take Nothing
(1938) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories (This collection include the one in “In Our Time” and “Men Without Women”)
(1947) The Essential Hemingway
(1961) The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories
(1969) The Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War
(1972) The Nick Adams Stories
(1979) 88 Poems
(1979) Complete Poems
(1984) The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
(1987) The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
(1995) The Collected Stories (Everyman’s Library)
(1999) Hemingway on Writing
(2000) Hemingway on Fishing
(2003) Hemingway on Hunting
(2003) Hemingway on War
(2008) Hemingway on Paris