E. Hemingway


THOUGH no one talks about them much, Ernest Hemingway wrote two plays. The first, finished in 1926, was “Today Is Friday,” a forgettable one-acter set on the evening of the original Good Friday, when three Roman centurions get together at a tavern to discuss memorable crucifixions they’ve seen, including the one that afternoon. Not surprisingly, they sound a lot like Hemingway’s Nick Adams. “He looked pretty good to me in there today,” one of them says admiring Jesus’ stoicism.

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(Photo of Ernest Hemingway, center, during the Spanish Civil War, about 1937.)

His other play, “The Fifth Column,” which the Mint Theater Company in Manhattan is presenting, beginning Feb. 26, is a full-length drama written in 1937, when Hemingway was a correspondent covering the Spanish Civil War.

The play takes its name from Franco’s remark that he had four columns advancing on Madrid and a fifth column of loyalists inside the city ready to attack from the rear.

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(Photo of Ernest Hemingway with Martha Gellhorn on their honeymoon in Honolulu in 1940, at Halehulani Hotel)

“The Fifth Column” is not about Franco sympathizers, however, but about an American war correspondent who is a secret agent for the Republicans, and Hemingway worked on it while holed up in the Hotel Florida with all the other war correspondents.

In an unpublished letter just recently discovered he explained, “In those days” Herbert Matthews of The New York Times, Henry T. Gorrell of United Press, “Sefton Delmer of the Daily Express, Martha Gellhorn of Colliers, Virginia Cowles, then for Hearst, now of the London Times, Joris Ivens, who made the ‘Spanish Earth,’ Johnny Ferno, who photographed it, Josephine Herbst for various American weeklies and for humanity in general, Sidney Franklin working for me, all International Brigade men on leave, and the greatest and most varied collection of ladies of the evening I have ever seen all lived at the Hotel Florida.”

In an introduction to “The Fifth Column” Hemingway wrote that the hotel was bombarded numerous times, adding: “So if it is not a good play perhaps that is what is the matter with it. If it is a good play, perhaps those thirty shells helped write it.”

In the letter he goes into more detail: “In the fall of 1937 when I took up playwrighting, there weren’t any top floors to the hotel anymore. Nobody that was not crazy would go up there in a bombardment.

But the two rooms where we lived were in what is called by artillerymen a dead angle. Any place else in the hotel could be hit and was. But unless the position of the batteries on Garabitas hill were changed; or unless they substituted howitzers for guns; rooms 112 and 113 could not be hit because of the position of three different houses across the street and across the square.

“I was absolutely sure of this after being in the hotel during twenty-two heavy bombardments in which other parts of it were struck. It seemed eminently more sensible to live in a part of a hotel which you knew would not be struck by shell fire, because you knew where the shells lit, than to go to some other hotel further from the lines, the angles of which you had no data to figure and where you would maybe have a shell drop through the roof.

“Well, I had great confidence in the Florida and when Franco finally entered Madrid, Rooms 112 and 113 were still intact. There was very little else that was though.”

The Mint Theater Company normally specializes in revivals of neglected plays, but its production of “The Fifth Column” is really a premier of sorts, Jonathan Bank, the company’s artistic director, said recently.

“I want to be precise about this, so maybe I should say this is the first time Hemingway’s play has been done professionally in America,” he explained. “There might have been an amateur production. There was a production in the Soviet Union in 1963. And from a reference I saw in a biography of Michael Powell, I know he directed a production in Scotland in the ’40s.”

What was billed as an “adaptation” of “The Fifth Column” by Benjamin Glazer, directed by Lee Strasberg, was put on by the Theater Guild in 1940, to mostly mixed reviews. Hemingway by that point had washed his hands of it and for good reason, according to Mr. Bank. “I would say that it’s 80 percent Glazer and 10 percent Hemingway out of context,” he said. “It’s completely restructured and, well, awful.”

* By CHARLES McGRATH (NYT/February 10, 2008)

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Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.
Ernest Hemingway

Never mistake motion for action.
Ernest Hemingway

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.
Ernest Hemingway

No weapon has ever settled a moral problem. It can impose a solution but it cannot guarantee it to be a just one.
Ernest Hemingway

Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. For defeat brings worse things than any that can ever happen in war.
Ernest Hemingway

Or don’t you like to write letters. I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something.
Ernest Hemingway

Personal columnists are jackals and no jackal has been known to live on grass once he had learned about meat – no matter who killed the meat for him.
Ernest Hemingway

Some people show evil as a great racehorse shows breeding. They have the dignity of a hard chancre.
Ernest Hemingway

That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best – make it all up – but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.
Ernest Hemingway

That terrible mood of depression of whether it’s any good or not is what is known as The Artist’s Reward.
Ernest Hemingway

The 1st panacea of a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the 2nd is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; a permanent ruin.
Ernest Hemingway

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.
Ernest Hemingway

The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.
Ernest Hemingway

The game of golf would lose a great deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green.
Ernest Hemingway

The man who has begun to live more seriously within begins to live more simply without.
Ernest Hemingway

The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.
Ernest Hemingway

The shortest answer is doing the thing.
Ernest Hemingway

The sinews of war are five – men, money, materials, maintenance (food) and morale.
Ernest Hemingway

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger at the broken places.
Ernest Hemingway

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
Ernest Hemingway

The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.
Ernest Hemingway

There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are simple things, and because it takes a man’s life to know them, the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.
Ernest Hemingway

There is no friend as loyal as a book.
Ernest Hemingway

There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it.
Ernest Hemingway

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
Ernest Hemingway

There’s no one thing that is true. They’re all true.
Ernest Hemingway

They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.
Ernest Hemingway

To be a successful father… there’s one absolute rule: when you have a kid, don’t look at it for the first two years.
Ernest Hemingway

Wars are caused by undefended wealth.
Ernest Hemingway

What is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.
Ernest Hemingway

When I have an idea, I turn down the flame, as if it were a little alcohol stove, as low as it will go. Then it explodes and that is my idea.
Ernest Hemingway

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.
Ernest Hemingway

When you have shot one bird flying you have shot all birds flying. They are all different and they fly in different ways but the sensation is the same and the last one is as good as the first.
Ernest Hemingway

Why should anybody be interested in some old man who was a failure?
Ernest Hemingway

You can wipe out your opponents. But if you do it unjustly you become eligible for being wiped out yourself.
Ernest Hemingway

You’re beautiful, like a May fly.
Ernest Hemingway

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I never had to choose a subject – my subject rather chose me.
Ernest Hemingway

I’m not going to get into the ring with Tolstoy.
Ernest Hemingway

I’ve tried to reduce profanity but I reduced so much profanity when writing the book that I’m afraid not much could come out. Perhaps we will have to consider it simply as a profane book and hope that the next book will be less profane or perhaps more sacred.
Ernest Hemingway

If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.
Ernest Hemingway

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
Ernest Hemingway

If you have a success you have it for the wrong reasons. If you become popular it is always because of the worst aspects of your work.
Ernest Hemingway

In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.
Ernest Hemingway

In modern war… you will die like a dog for no good reason.
Ernest Hemingway

It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.
Ernest Hemingway

Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.
Ernest Hemingway

Man is not made for defeat.
Ernest Hemingway

My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.
Ernest Hemingway

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An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.
Ernest Hemingway

As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.
Ernest Hemingway

But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.
Ernest Hemingway

Courage is grace under pressure.
Ernest Hemingway

Cowardice, as distinguished from panic, is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination.
Ernest Hemingway

Cowardice… is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend functioning of the imagination.
Ernest Hemingway

Decadence is a difficult word to use since it has become little more than a term of abuse applied by critics to anything they do not yet understand or which seems to differ from their moral concepts.
Ernest Hemingway

Defense is the stronger form with the negative object, and attack the weaker form with the positive object.
Ernest Hemingway

Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.
Ernest Hemingway

Fear of death increases in exact proportion to increase in wealth.
Ernest Hemingway

For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.
Ernest Hemingway

For a war to be just three conditions are necessary – public authority, just cause, right motive.
Ernest Hemingway

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* A man can be destroyed but not defeated.
 

* All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened.
 

* All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened.
 

* All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.
 

* All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.
 

* All our words from loose using have lost their edge.
 

* All things truly wicked start from an innocence.
 

* All things truly wicked start from innocence.
 

* Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.

Author: Ernest Hemingway