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Raisonné Dérèglement

Whether all authorities agree with what is averred here—that Ernest Hemingway was one of America’s greatest writers—is uncertain.  Surely, however, his work constituted a watershed; if his chastened style and objective manner no longer seem striking, it is because subsequent American writing owes so much to him that his originality is disguised.  Prima facie evidence of his enduring appeal is offered by the amazingly vigorous Hemingway industry, which rejuvenates itself according to critical trends, now ranging—as a current publisher’s catalogue notes—from “formalist and structuralist theory to cultural and interdisciplinary explorations.”  Holdings of a library with which I am familiar indicate that, since 1990, at least 136 volumes have appeared that are devoted, in whole or considerable part, to his life and writings.

Valerie Hemingway, née Danby-Smith, author of the present memoir, married Ernest’s youngest son, Gregory, in 1966.  She had served for approximately a year as secretary and factotum to Ernest after their initial meeting, in 1959, in Spain.  After his suicide in July 1961, she became a sort of aide-de-camp to Mary, his fourth wife and widow, helping her close the house in Cuba and, despite the embargo on outgoing shipments, remove the writer’s very valuable property—manuscripts, correspondence, books,...

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