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Category: Ernest Hemingway

And don’t fall in

“Trying to write something of permanent value is a full-time job even though only a few hours a day are spent on the actual writing. A writer can be compared to a well. There are as many kinds of wells as there are writers. The important thing is to have good water in the well, and it is better to take a regular amount out than to pump the well dry and wait for it to refill.” – Ernest Hemingway (interviewed by George Plimpton in Paris Review)

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Death in the forenoon

“In the Guards Chapel at Wellington Barracks on Birdcage Walk, across from the former pig meadow and leper colony currently known as St. James’s Park, a full-throated congregation belted out the ‘Te Deum’ and prepared to take communion from the bishop of Maidstone. ‘To Thee all angels cry aloud,’ they sang, ‘the heavens and all the powers therein.’ At 11:10 a.m. [June 18, 1944] an annoying growl from those same heavens grew louder. Ernest Hemingway heard it in his Dorchester Hotel suite, where he was making pancakes with buckwheat flour and bourbon; from the window he looked for the telltale ‘white-hot bunghole’ of a jet engine. Pedestrians in Parliament Square heard it and fell flat, covering their heads. Clementine Churchill, the prime minister’s wife, heard it in Hyde Park, where she was visiting the gun battery in which her daughter Mary volunteered. The Guards Chapel congregation heard it and kept singing. Then they heard nothing—that most terrifying of all sounds—as the engine quit, the bunghole winked out, and the black cruciform [V-1 missile] fell. Through the chapel’s reinforced concrete roof it plummeted before detonating in a white blast that blew out walls, blew down support pillars, and stripped the leaves from St. James’s plane trees. A funnel of smoke curled fifteen hundred feet above the wrecked nave; rubble ten feet deep buried the pews even as six candles still guttered on the altar and the bishop stood unharmed. One hundred and twenty-one others were dead and as many more injured. Two thousand memorial plaques accumulated by Guards regiments during eons of war lay pulverized, although a mosaic donated by Queen Victoria remained intact: ‘Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

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Sit in a room and wait

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.” – Ernest Hemingway, Nobel Banquet Speech, 1954

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Never is a long time

“There was so much to write.  He had seen the world change; not just the events; although he had seen many of them and had watched the people, but he had seen the subtler change and he could remember how the people were at different times.  He had been in it and he had watched it and it was his duty to write of it; but now he never would.” – Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”


A species of leech

“When you have two people who love each other, are happy and gay and really good work is being done by one or both of them, people are drawn to them as surely as migrating birds are drawn at night to a powerful beacon.  If the two people were as solidly constructed as the beacon there would be little damage except to the birds.  Those who attract people by their happiness and their performance are usually inexperienced.  They do not know how not to be overrun and how to go away.  They do not always learn about the good, the attractive, the charming, the soon-beloved, the generous, the understanding rich who have no bad qualities and who give each day the quality of a festival and who, when they have passed and taken the nourishment they needed, leave everything deader than the roots of any grass Attila’s horses’ hooves have ever scoured.” – Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

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Keeping it up

“I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day.  That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything, I hoped; learning, I hoped; and I would read so that I would not think about my work and make myself impotent to do it.” – Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast


The orange peel method

“I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next.  That way I could be sure of going on the next day.  But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.  I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry.  You have always written before and you will write now.  All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know.’  So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.  It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.  If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.” – Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

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Are there not many fascists in your country?

The three were at the table now and the others sat close by except Pablo, who sat by himself in front of a bowl of the wine.  It was the same stew as the night before and Robert Jordan ate it hungrily.

“In your country there are mountains?  With that name [Montana] surely there are mountains,” Primitivo asked politely to make conversation.  He was embarrassed at the drunkenness of Pablo.

“Many mountains and very high.”

“And are there good pastures?”

“Excellent; high pasture in the summer in forests controlled by the government.  Then in the fall the cattle are brought down to the lower ranges.”

“Is the land there owned by the peasants?”

“Most land is owned by those who farm it.  Originally the land was owned by the state and by living on it and declaring the intention of improving it, a man could obtain title to a hundred and fifty hectares.”

“Tell me how this is done,” Agustín asked.  “That is an agrarian reform which means something.”

Robert Jordan explained the process of homesteading.  He had never thought of it before as an agrarian reform.

“That is magnificent,” Primitivo said.  “Then you have a communism in your country?”

“No.  That is done under the Republic.”

“For me,” Agustín said, “everything can be done under the Republic.  I see no need for other form of government.”

“Do you have no big proprietors?” Andrés asked.


“Then there must be abuses.”

“Certainly.  There are many abuses.”

“But you will do away with them?”

“We try to more and more.  But there are many abuses still.”

“But there are not great estates that must be broken up?”

“Yes.  But there are those who believe that taxes will break them up.”


Robert Jordan, wiping out the stew bowl with bread, explained how the income tax and inheritance tax worked.  “But the big estates remain.  Also there are taxes on the land,” he said.

“But surely the big proprietors and the rich will make a revolution against such taxes.  Such taxes appear to me to be revolutionary.  They will revolt against the government when they see that they are threatened, exactly as the fascists have done here,” Primitivo said.

“It is possible.”

“Then you will have to fight in your country as we fight here.”

“Yes, we will have to fight.”

“But are there not many fascists in your country?”

“There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes.”

“But you cannot destroy them until they rebel?”

“No,” Robert Jordan said.  “We cannot destroy them.  But we can educate the people so that they will fear fascism and recognize it as it appears and combat it.”

— Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

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