ERNEST HEMINGWAY WEN TO THE KUBA AND SETTLED IN A HOTEL IN HAVANA IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR. HE PUT INTO WORDS ON ALL OCCASIONS THAT HE SPENT HIS YEARS WHICH HE CALLED MENTALLY MOST CREATIVE YEARS IN THERE.
American novelist and journalist Ernest Hemingway fell in love with Cuba at the first step into the shore. He built his dream home there, discovered that he enjoyed fishing, wrote some of his most famous novels on the island and established an eternal bond with the Cuban people. Hemingway has left a lot of heritage after his death in this region. He immortalized his great love he had felt for The Old Man and The Sea with expressing it “I am feeding from there”.
He was not one of those who discovered himself later, he knew himself well. He knew what he wanted. Hemingway, who was born in Chicago in 1899, actually began his writing career in high school. His articles were published regularly in the school newspaper. In his writings, he used the nickname “Ring Lardner Jr.” After high school, despite all the pressure from his family, he decided to become a newspaper reporter instead of going to university. During those years when the First World War continued, he started to work as an ambulance driver in the Red Cross.
He lived the most productive period of his career between the years 1925-29 and was named among the most successful writers in the world. He wrote some of the most important works of him; In Our Time, the Sun also Rises, Men without Women, A Farewell to Arms; in this period. Then, during World War II, he went to Cuba and settled in a hotel in Havana. On every occasion, he mentioned that he spent the years that he called mentally most creative years, in there. Hemingway was a passion for danger, love, and adventure. In addition to his writings, he also left his mark on the world with these aspects. The four marriages he made, the two world wars he attended, the Spanish Civil War, his world travels in all directions, his safaris in Africa and the kinds of adventures not included in the ranking contributed him to have a lifestyle that worth documenting. The fact that he penned them all was the breeze from his own experiences. The strength of his pen brought absolute success. Everything he has experienced has strengthened the character of this man who always had a realistic, featured and deep perspective. These characteristics, with his own words; made him look more and more like Cuba. He lived in Cuba for 22 years. When they came to these soils with his whole family for the first time in 1928 as a part of his trip to Spain, he was so mesmerized and wanted to stay here for three more days, winking at his ships to go. He shared many times with his associates that he felt like he put down roots in there and he had a special connection with there. He said in a letter “I shall only try to understand Cuba for the rest of my life”.
He returned to this land in 1932 for the Marlin swordfish that he had hunted in the Cuban waters. He began to write his first chronic history writings and never left this island again. When it was asked about this issue, he talked about his loyalty with saying; “I love this country, I feel like at home. Where a man feels like a house outside his birthplace, that is his real home.”
In 1933, he bought the fishing boat Pilar to navigate the Cuban waters. He studied the taxonomy of the rare swordfish Marlin species in Cuba with his friend Charles Cadwalader, the director of the Philadelphia Academy. This trip was an important scientific activity for the scientific world.
Hemingway’s tastes were very clear. At first, the city of Havana, fish, boxing, women, and cigar… His shelter in Havana, to where he came as a resident tourist during the Marlin fish season, was the Ambos Mundos Hotel, very close to the port. The room numbered 511 on the fifth floor, where she stayed on numerous occasions, was transformed at the will of him into a home by arranging it again. This room, which currently serves as a museum, is flooded with visitors. You can easily understand how much the author felt that he belonged there as you wander in this room, where his books, typewriter, glasses and countless personal belongings are exhibited. Obviously, it was an indescribable pleasure for him to watch the city from a place that has all the beauties of Havana. We can imagine that, he was lost in the entrance of the harbor through the large window of his hotel room opening to Havana, tasting the salts from the ocean, the cathedral’s bell tower, the rooftops of buildings, the Cuban flag fluttering in El Morro; on his breaks while writing the chronicles of the newspaper. It was located very close to the harbor, which the wind used to protect its boat in the crowded city district, where it was not clear. He wrote his novels “A Farewell to Arms” and “For Whom The Bells Toes”, and bought his farm where he would spend the rest of his life with the money he earned from the novels. In the early 1940s, the region, which was exposed to a lot of people, began to tire hem out and he began to live in de Paula, San Francisco until 1961. The house is now used as a museum.
With its architecture, interior decoration, landscaping and decoration materials, it has a full characteristic of an ethnographic museum for the region. Even those who travel this place with digesting it can have detailed information about the historical and cultural structure of the region. His boat named “Pilar” is on display at the entrance of the museum house, which is allowed to visit from outside. The fact that cats and dogs are buried in a private graveyard in their own garden is a sign of how much they care about their friends…. He wrote the novel “The Old Man and the Sea” which belonged to Havana, in this house, and his drafts and notes are preserved as is. Hemingway felt that every point of Havana was his own, and he believed that there were traces of this city in his past. Every place had a different meaning to him. You can find this admiration in the sentence written by the author on the walls of La Bodeguita Restaurant; “My La Bodeguita’daMojito, my El Floridita’da Daiquiri”.
Another stopover point is the Terramar Restaurant which is now full of Hemingway memories. The picture of Ernest Hemingway, who spent all his free time sunbathing and resting in Cojimar Bay, and swordfish, was able to see on the wall of the military barracks here. The privilege of being the only foreign painting on the walls of a public institution in Cuba belongs to Ernest Hemingway.
“The Old Man and the Sea”, which deserved the Pulitzer Prize in 1954, is a Cuban chronicle in which he expresses the feeling of that land and based on a real character. It is possible to see traces from Havana in every section of the work. In the taste of a diary of a process which he has been unable to fish for eighty-four days with a Cojimar fisherman, called Anselmo Hernandez… The anecdote of the novel dedicated to him was well-known. “Man is not created for defeat, a human being can be destroyed but never be defeated”. In fact, this novel where he wrote his own war is the war of life between the sea and the old man with patience. “I tried to write a real old man, a real teenager, a real sea, a real fish and real sharks. If I’ve built them well enough, it could mean a lot. When you write something good and sincerely, then you realize that it’s a lot of other things.” says Hemingway about this book. Love for Ernest Hemingway is experienced in Cuba at the same intensity today. They speak of respect for one of the state elders, and the name “Papa” sounds magical for them. The fact that Fidel Castro built a monument in Havana after the author’s death explains it. Ernest Hemingway ended with a hunting rifle in Idaho on July 2, 1961, saying, “What we add to life from ourselves, that is what we take from life.”
- Ernest Hemingway was sent to Istanbul in 1922 as a war correspondent while he was working in the Toronto Daily News. During a month spent in our country, he reported news about Izmir Fire, Mudanya, Lausanne, Edirne and Istanbul to his newspaper.
- Immediately after he learned that he won the Nobel Prize, in an interview with journalists, Hemingway said that “I have to say that the winner of this award is the Cuban people. The details of all my works that deserve this award have been considered in Cuba have been written together with my fishermen friends from Cojimar. For me, this place has always been adopted as a homeland with this work.” and celebrated the joy of the prize with the fishermen of Cojimar. With this behavior of him, the people of Cojimar admired him and called him “Papa”.
- He did not complete the day without stopping by El Floridita in his daily life, during the period he stayed in Havana. This restaurant-bar was the haunt of seafarers, diplomats, writers, doctors, athletes, FBI agents, bank managers, where the author had the opportunity to talk with people from all over the world. As a matter of fact, he always recognized the protagonists of his writings here. This is why you can see a bronze Hemingway statue leaning on elbows on the mahogany bar counter in Floridita.
- “The principle I believe in ethics is; if you feel good after doing something, it is ethical; if you feel bad, it’s unethical.”
By: Dilek Alp
*This article was published in the March-April issue of Marmara Life.