Cuba and U.S. group collaborate on preserving newly uncovered
The Associated Press
November 12, 2002
By ALEXANDRA OLSON
A rejected epilogue for Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls," a 1941
letter from Ingrid Bergman and more than 20 letters from the 19-year-old Italian
contessa he was in love with are among thousands of the author's documents Cuba
is making available to outside scholars.
President Fidel Castro and an American group led by U.S. Rep. James McGovern
signed an agreement Monday to collaborate on the restoration and preservation of
2,000 letters, 3,000 personal photographs and some draft fragments of novels and
stories that were kept in the humid basement of Finca de Vigia, the villa
outside Havana where Hemingway lived from 1939-1960.
"I personally have much for which to thank Hemingway," said the gray-bearded
Castro, who wore his olive fatigues during the ceremony at Finca de Vigia. "The
honor that he gave us by choosing our country in which to live and write some of
his best work."
Also at the ceremony were Hemingway's grandson Sean, his niece Hillary and
Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the joint effort by the New York-based
Social Science Research Council and the Cuban National Council of Patrimony will
produce mircofilm copies of the material, restore some documents damaged by the
Caribbean climate, and help conserve the house, including a 9,000-volume library
and Hemingway's fishing boat, El Pilar.
The microfilm copies will be stored at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston,
but originals will stay at the Hemingway Museum at Finca de Vigia, long a source
of pride for Cuba.
Hemingway's fourth and last wife, Mary Welsh Hemingway, donated the estate to
the Cuban government in 1961, just after the author committed suicide in his
Ketchum, Idaho, home. Cuban curators preserved the home exactly how the
Hemingways left it, looking like the writer "just stepped down the driveway to
pickup his mail," said Jenny Phillips, granddaughter of Maxwell Perkins,
Hemingway's editor. Phillips' January 2001 visit to the villa set in motion the
events that led to the project.
Visitors can see the writer's collection of moccasins lined against a wall,
reading material, and bottles of liquor on the table next to Hemingway's
favorite reading chair. The estate includes the graves of four of Hemingway's
Curators prohibit visitors from entering the house - tourists peer through
windows - a decision U.S. scholars and researchers say has protected the
collection from deterioration and pilfering.
But the Americans will provide badly needed funds and equipment to help
rescue the collection from disintegration in the Caribbean climate. Much
material already has been damaged from sunlight and heat.
After negotiations brokered by McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, Phillips
returned to Finca de Vigia with Hemingway scholars Sandra Spanier and Scott
Berg. Amid stuffed game heads and rifles, they found letters and manuscripts
revealing intimate details of the Hemingways' daily life.
There are written instructions to servants on preparation of favorite foods
and requests that Hemingway not be bothered while writing. Letters to Mary and
notes to himself illuminate their marriage's troubles. On a copy of "Wuthering
Heights," Hemingway routinely recorded his weight, blood pressure and pulse.
Handwritten and typewritten drafts offer a glimpse into the writing process
of an author known to have rewritten the ending of "A Farewell to Arms" 39
times, said Spanier.
"This is material that forms the missing piece of a puzzle that makes up the
life and creative mind Ernest Hemingway," said Spanier, professor of English at
Pennsylvania State University and editor of the Hemingway Letters Project. "As a
scholar I'm interested in what the letters and manuscripts that may be here
reveal about his creative process."
She said researchers were unlikely to find new fiction by Hemingway. "Islands
in the Stream" and "A Moveable Feast" were among material Mary Welsh Hemingway
retrieved during a hurried trip to Havana in 1961, she said. The two works were
Hemingway's life in Cuba inspired the Nobel-prize winning "The Old Man and
the Sea." Yet outside scholars know less about his long stay in Cuba than his
earlier years in Paris.
"Hemingway had great taste in places," Spanier said. "I think he came to Cuba
partly to get away from the fame that chased him everywhere. Cuba was a real
refuge to him. A place where he could write in the mornings in his very
disciplined fashion and go fishing in the afternoon."