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Thread: In Search of Hemingway.

  1. #1
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    In Search of Hemingway.

    In Search of Hemingway.

    Chapter 1,

    If one is to believe the trite saying that “a journey is more important than arriving”, then any aspiring writer; unknown to the world and below the glossy magazine radar, should always grasp the advantages implicit therein of their seemingly low-key mortal existence.

    The case in point in this instance, was an Englishman of a classical educational upbringing seeking out Papa Hemingway in one of the main surroundings that appeared to have contributed significantly to his genius.

    Not that Arthur St Germain was not versed in the European world of literature.

    Educated back home in expensive private schools by well to do parents; his formative upbringing had imbued him with a comprehension of all the greats in English literature.

    Later he had expanded a natural inclination to explore the French, German, Italian and Russian writers as well.

    Yet time and time again, he returned to Papa Hemingway. The first reading of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was the eyeopener. “Fiesta” drew him in even more. And all the while, there was this constant question in his mind, as to what it was that shaped the man himself. Superficially, there was the: drinking, the succession of wives and the search for danger. But all this failed to either answer or satisfy.

    It was thus, at the age of forty-five that Arthur found himself for the first time in Cuba; a country and a people that seemed to encapsulate all that Papa loved and from which he derived so much.

    He arrived by plane on a Tuesday evening in September. The weather was, (as all the year round), hot and sunny. Rain had fallen during the night and there was a clean freshness in the air. A yellow 1950’s Studebaker, complete with tail fins picked him from the airport and took him to one of the poorer parts of Havana. His destination, was a “Casa Particular” (a private home), where the government now allowed Cuban families to rent out one of their extra bedrooms to tourists, and where often the family would cook for you.

    He wanted on this visit to observe, yet stay detached. To absorb a city that was falling into a kind of perverse timeworn splendour and disrepair; bereft of shop signs or neon lights; akin a time machine back in the 1950s; yet where against the magnificence of the decaying architecture there was a vibrance in the human element, unsuppressed and constant.

    The journey took them past the Malecon sea wall, a magnet for tourists and Cubans alike.

    This was the superficial outer skin of Cuba, where old Europeans from the cruise ships looked to get laid in memory of their youthful dawn, and where backpackers felt they had arrived at where it was at. Wide eyed Miami tourists with cameras, distinct in garish shorts mingled as best they could with the locals. Whilst the jinetera and their opportunistic amateur pimps viewed the implicit potential in feeding off the migrating herds.

  2. #2
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Auspicious beginning, Manichaean!
    "To absorb a city that was falling into a kind of perverse timeworn splendour and disrepair; bereft of shop signs or neon lights; akin a time machine back in the 1950s; yet where against the magnificence of the decaying architecture there was a vibrance in the human element, unsuppressed and constant." Yea!
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  3. #3
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Thank you my friend.

    This one has been brewing in my head for a long time, and getting that first chapter out of the blocks is always difficult.

    I honestly have no idea where it will go, but lets enjoy the journey anyway.

    Take care buddy.
    M.

  4. #4
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Chapter 2.

    Arriving at the destination as the sun was beginning to set, the taxi driver knocked on the door of a building reminiscent of those that the Spanish colonialists brought to Havana in the 1500s. Moorish-styled and amended to take the conditions of the New World into account. A semi-enclosed porch and windows fitted with security bars, thus allowing for said apertures be left open continuously as a nod to the humidity.

    The owner, Carlos introduced himself and ushered him in. There was an immediate sense of incongruity about the entire setup. Carlos’s family consisted of eight members, inclusive a young slim very attractive daughter who established, like a hawk from coven sprung, eye contact from the outset. Not that the mother and the rest of the brood were not wide eyed and inquisitive as to this new arrival in their midst.

    He later established that there were in the family eight members cramped into a small two-bedroom unit. Arthur on the other hand was bequeathed a whole apartment above.

    The reasoning understandably lay in the reality of the financial set up in Cuba where most families are relatively poor making about $20 to $30 a month from whoever is employed. The country has two currencies: the CUP used by locals and the CUC is for tourists equal to 1 US $. Thus, for Carlos the renting out of the apartment above was the lifeline that sustained his large family, whatever the disparity of living arrangements therein.



    Arthur unpacked his two suitcases and placed the portable typewriter on the heavy wooden desk.

    Outside, the street below the window balcony drew sustenance from an emerging vibrant night life.

    The journey over, he settled back upon the bed, viewing the slowly moving ceiling fan, whilst a gecko was engaged in push ups on the mottled plaster wall opposite.

    Ernest Hemingway sat in the corner chair adjacent the window.

    He had been in purgatory for what seemed aeons since his demise.

    Perhaps I should explain at this juncture that purgatory is normally defined, (especially to those of the Catholic persuasion), as a kind of fire, which is expiatory and purifying, not punitive like hell fire. It is a kind of intermediate state after physical death, wherby there is executed the final purification of the elect, which in itself is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.

    Whatever the dogma on this subject, what cannot be denied in this instance, was that the great man, despite being attired in cotton shirt and loose beige slacks, was still hot in that apartment chair.

    He had upon death accepted with good grace, (and even sympathy), his current status; for though not an evil man as such, he knew he had transgressed, both in his mortal life and in the act of suicide itself, which had definitely placed him beyond the Pale.

    It is worthy also to note that at the time, the Dark Gentleman himself was somewhat peeved that he had not been able to add a bit of literary class to his own establishment, situated at a lower level.

    But back to the moment, and Hemingway was surprisingly able to find himself back in present day Cuba in the company of this seeming devotee to his mortal craft.

    He settled back in his chair, legs crossed and viewed Arthur from across eternity.
    Last edited by MANICHAEAN; 10-02-2021 at 11:42 AM.

  5. #5
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Well that twist introducing Hemingway was quite unexpected!
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  6. #6
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Chapter 3.

    Arthur awoke on this hot Havana Wednesday morning in a state of still unfamiliar surroundings. He gradually achieved something like full consciousness in stages: the fan on the ceiling still listlessly turning was the first element of focus; then the dry throat, followed by an awareness that he was still fully dressed lying on the bed. The bright sunshine permeated the window shutters. Glancing at his watch and mentally adjusting for time differences, he realized it was 11am local time and that he had slept deeply for twelve hours. And as he navigated his initial unfamiliar way from the living room to the bathroom, he became increasingly aware of being hungry.

    A quick shower and shave saw him descend the stairs from his apartment. to the Carlos family living arrangements below. The latter smiled politely and offered breakfast, but Arthur made his apologies that, as it was approaching noon, that he wanted to waste no more time and get his first feel of Havana. The family, each in their turn, glanced at this new stranger in their midst; whilst the attractive daughter, similar to last night, gave him the look. She was ripe, and they both knew it.

    A quick taxi ride took him to the Hotel Ambos Mundos at Calle Obispo Esquina, in the Vieja district. It was an off-chance choice on his part, as this establishment was known mainly for Hemingway having been its most famous long-time tenant.

    As he exited the taxi, Papa loped along at his side, pleased to see his old haunt. Memories of 1932 when a room on the upper fifth floor had supplied views of Old Havana, and the harbour sea. The rent had been $1.50 per night and this interlude in his life had lasted until mid-1939.

    “Dear Lord for those early days again, when the mind thirsted for and attained the ability to place down on paper, all that buffeted his brain at its most creative.”

    It was here that he had finished his book “Death in the Afternoon” in 1932, and started his novels “New Green Hills of Africa” in 1935 and “To Have and Have Not” in 1937. Finally, there was that groundbreaker of international recognition, when he began in 1939 his novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, regarding the Spanish Civil War which he had witnessed over the previous several years.

    Men can look back; sometimes with pride, sometimes with bitterness on the most formative periods of their lives. The former lies in the attainment itself; the latter in the realization that it is unlikely to be repeated.


    The ground floor lobby was spacious with a high ceiling broken up into rectangular formations and gold coving inlays. Arthur inquired at reception if, despite the late hour of the morning, he could get breakfast? The concierge assured him that although the terrace dining facilities were still closed, that they could accommodate him at the bar around to the left.

    This proved to be a most desirable location. Backless wicker high chairs up against a well-stocked two-sided bar, officiated by a rounded bar tender of avuncular affability.

    Breakfast arrived within ten minutes and was laid out carefully on the bar top. Coffee, toast and fruit, as are traditional in Cuba. A mug of warmed milk was served alongside a small metal carafe of hot strong Cuban coffee. The bread, or “tostada” as it is called, had been grilled and buttered. Finally, being sub-tropical, there was a bowl of fresh melon, papaya, mango and mammey.



    Unusually, with the plates cleared, both men reflected on the literary work that had been accompanied on these premises.

    Papa, it must be said, was warming to his mortal companion. He seemed to be sensitive to the nuances of both basic existence and to events that would serve as sequels to more formative experiences.

    Papa also realized, that like himself, Arthur had many of his traits; namely three things: women, booze and sadness. He likewise had a mind that could ramble, and jump around all over the place.

    What came as of enormous significance was the realization by Hemingway that he could initiate and channel the flow in Arthurs current thinking.

    At this instance, it was the circumstances and creation of his novel “Death in the Afternoon.”

    It may be noted that later in his life Hemingway had written:

    “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honor.”

    Though not consciously realizing it at the time, it had reflected his conviction that bullfighting was more than mere sport and had revealed a rich source of inspiration for his art. The drama of bullfighting, with its rigorous combination of athleticism and artistry, and its requisite display of grace under pressure, had ignited Hemingway’s imagination. Seen through his eyes, bullfighting became a richly choreographed ballet, with performers who ranged from awkward amateurs to masters of great elegance. It was also a deeper contemplation of the nature of cowardice and bravery; obsessive themes to which he returned time and time again.

    Arthur was of the opinion, that it should not have been any surprise that Hemingway had chosen to write this particular work, as it had served to provide the backdrop to life’s most important element – life versus death.

    For he knew that a matador could have only have been praised if he had killed a bull honestly; the essence being in that the matador must be so close, that when he trusts his sword into the bull, the final chance to be gored is there.

    On his side of this odd duo, Hemingway understoon well enough that bullfighting meant death, and that his aim had been to try to convey how in his experience, Spaniards understood death better than in other countries.

    A bull will always die. Even if the fight is a disaster, the animal will still be slaughtered. A matador will eventually die; surely his days are numbered, and he and the spectators alike are aware of this.

    The poetry lies in that it is better to die in the ring than to die old and forgotten, away from the spectacle and understanding of death and glory.

    Hemingway as he sat there, also picked out the quality of pride, which convention often considered a sin. But he countered with his belief that it was pride that gave a matador enjoyment in what he did in the ring; as he danced with death, attempting to argue its inevitability.

  7. #7
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Interesting development with Arthur "talking" to Hemingway. I learned also that the Paulistan "chapado" or "pão com manteiga na chapa", a favorite and cheap breakfast item, is called "tostada" in Havana.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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