Vital Signs

The Importance of Being by Ernest

The Betrayal of Hemingway

If Ernest Hemingway had any notion of what would happen to his first drafts, miscellanea, letters received and sent, and unfinished manuscripts after his death, it's likely he would have set fire to his study and all its contents before priming his shotgun and blowing his brains out on the second of July, 1961. For no sooner was he in his grave than did the supposed guardians of his legacy ransack Hemingway's literary remains, ostensibly in the lofty interests of American literary history, more transparently for the continuing royalties the remaining manuscripts would add to the trove earned by the sales of work published in Hemingway's lifetime.

From those looted papers soon came the grabbag reminiscence A Moveable Feast, a book assembled by Hemingway's widow, Mary. Using various drafts, she transposed passages and chapters and rewrote substantial portions of the text, claiming all the while that her husband had himself finished the book in 1960 before leaving Cuba. Although she edited the book well, Mary did not treat her husband's legacy with anything like restraint.

Six years later, in 1970, Islands in the Stream was issued, patched together out of drafts of a huge, unfinished cycle of stories Hemingway once had planned to call Harry Morgan. Instead, he abandoned the project. Knowing that the work was not up to his standards—and that the published books of his last years were...

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