“Fish,” he said softly, aloud. “I’ll stay with you until I am dead.” This simple sentence means more to me than a thousand words ever could. It taught me about perseverance, hope and determination. Santiago, the old fisherman, was struggling. He had gone 84 days without catching a single fish. So, when the marlin struggled, he vowed to himself that he would not give up without catching this enormous fish.
Whenever I face any difficulty in life, I always think of “The Old Man and the Sea” and of Santiago, who did not give up hope even after losing the marlin. The man who taught me not to lose hope is the same man who wrote this masterpiece, Ernest Hemingway. He is the person who inspired me to start writing.
To my dismay, I have seen that many of my friends, peers and well, people of my generation in general, do not know this Nobel laureate, Pulitzer winning writer well. So, for his 121st birthday, I would like to re-introduce this great journalist, writer and sportsman.
Like many other talented writers, Ernest Hemingway started his career as a journalist after graduating high school. He worked for the “ The Kansas City Star'' for a few months before enlisting as an ambulance driver in World War I. He was seriously wounded in the war because of which he was decorated by the Italian government. His war experiences gave him the ideas to write “A Farewell to Arms'' in 1929.
In 1921, he moved to Paris where he met another talented American writer, F Scott Fitzgerald. The two quickly bonded through writing and a very good friendship started between them. In fact, Hemingway once stated that Fitzgerald’s famous book “ The Great Gatsby'' had inspired him to write. Even after they moved in different directions, they always kept in touch through letters.
Ernest Hemingway's economical and understated lifestyle had a strong influence on 20th century fiction while his life of adventure and public image influenced later generations. His works are considered as works of the American classic. It is said that he was greatly influenced by Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, Leo Tolstoy and many others. Most of his works were produced between the mid 1920s to the mid 1950s. He is also one of the only writers to receive the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize in a span of two years.
Hemingway coined a writing technique called the Iceberg theory or the theory of omission. When Hemingway became a writer, he used a minimalist style, focusing on surface elements without explicitly discussing underlying themes. He believed that the deeper meaning of the story should not be evident on the surface, but should shine through implicit. This is evident in his famous six word story, which is also known as the shortest story ever written. The famous story is: “ For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Young writers even today try to adapt this technique.
Ernest Hemingway's style of writing is a legacy to American literature. His stories are a part of the American cultural heritage. Salinger, the author of ‘The Catcher in The Rye’, met Hemingway during World War II. The former acknowledged Hemingway as having a huge influence on him. In a letter, Salinger claimed that Hemingway gave him his only hopeful minutes in the entire war and he jokingly added that he wanted to be the national chairman of the Hemingway Fan Club.
The evidence of Hemingway’s influence is seen through various tributes to Hemingway and his works. In 1978, a minor planet discovered by Soviet astronomer Chernykh was named 3656 Hemingway. A charter in Mercury was also named in his honour. One of Ray Bradbury’s books features Hemingway transporting to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Many motion pictures were also named after him. He is also included into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.
I owe everything to him and so much to The American Center too, because they opened the doors to world literature and heritage to me. I have had the privilege of reading the works of many famous authors because of the American Center.
As I said, Ernest Hemingway is the writer who inspired me to write and convinced me to never lose hope. I wrote this article in the hope that young readers can learn about this amazing writer and appreciate his works as much as I do. He is truly a great writer and an American treasure.
Hemingway in brief
· Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on 21st July 1899.
· He received the Pulitzer in 1953 and the Nobel in 1954.
· He enlisted as an ambulance driver at the Italian front during World War I. In 1918, he was seriously injured.
· He based his book, ‘A Farewell to Arms; (1929) on his experiences in the war.
· His debut novel, ‘The Sun Also Rises’ was published in 1926 in Paris.
· In 1936, he went to the Spanish Civil War where he was a journalist. He based his book ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ (1940) on his experiences there.
· He was also present with the troops as a journalist during World War II.
· He almost died in a plane crash in 1954. The crash left him seriously injured for the rest of his life.
· He spent the last years of his life in Idaho.
· He passed away in the early hours of 2 July 1961.
Adrita Kibria is a student of class VIII in Playpen School, Bashundhara, Dhaka.