Big Two-Hearted River: Biography: Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, and was educated there in the public schools. Rather than attend college, however, Hemingway decided to work for the Kansas City Star newspaper. In World War I Hemingway served as a Red Cross ambulance driver until he was severely wounded in action. After recuperating in Italy, he settled in Paris, where he began his serious writing career while spending time with other American expatriates, including Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. In 1926 Hemingway published his first major novel, The Sun Also Rises, a depiction of what Stein referred to as the lost generation of young people in the 1920's. This novel not only established Hemingway as the preeminent writer of his generation, but revealed two key principles that would inform the writing of most of his career. First, he demonstrated his determination to strip language to its most essential components by omitting any word not absolutely necessary. Second, he stressed the importance of authentic experience in his work, confessing, I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action: what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced. During the following decade Hemingway traveled to Spain, Africa, and Florida, gaining material for his future works through his experiences as bullfight aficionado, big game hunter, and deep sea fisherman. He served as a war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War -- which eventually became the background for his 1939 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls -- and World War II. Hemingway's short novel The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and contributed to his winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. By the 1960's, however, Hemingway was in poor health, depressed, and losing his memory, and he committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho on July 2, 1961.

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