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200 × 130 × 16 mm
224 pages
27 illustrations
01 Mar 2016
Critical Lives

Ernest Hemingway Verna Kale

Ernest Hemingway has enjoyed a rich legacy as the progenitor of modern fiction, an oversized character in literary lore who wrote some of the most honest and moving accounts of the twentieth century, set against such grand backdrops as the bullrings of Spain, the savannahs of Africa and the rivers of the American Midwest. Verna Kale challenges many of the long-standing assumptions Hemingway’s legacy has created. She offers a real-life portrait of the historical figure as he really was: a writer, a sportsman and a celebrity with a long and turbulent career.

Ernest Hemingway follows Hemingway’s adventures as a Red Cross volunteer in the First World War, an expatriate ‘Lost Generation’ poet in 1920s Paris, a young novelist navigating the burgeoning middlebrow fiction market, and a seasoned writer trying to craft his masterpiece – a novel that would blow open the boundaries of American fiction. Exploring his four marriages, his struggles with his celebrity and craft and the steep decline of his health in later life, this concise biography offers an insightful portrait of one of the most important figures of American arts and letters.

‘Rather than dismiss the romanticism of Hemingway’s sensibility, Kale embraces it, and the result is a refreshingly positive spin on the subject. Without denying Hemingway’s many failures, the author places the focus on the accomplishments, reminding us in the first place why so many readers remain enamored with him long after his image has been thoroughly dissected as a facade . . . ultimately the sheer fluidity of the presentation is what one appreciates most . . . Kale’s biography glides by rather than grinds on. In its compactness, it flows forward with an assured pace that never feels rushed . . . Given Hemingway’s own celebrated devotion to concision, the format suits its subject. This biography is a happy reminder that brief can be beautiful.’ — The Hemingway Review

‘Sifting out the larger-than-life Hemingway in search of a faithful history of the Nobel Prize–winning novelist, Kale uses Hemingway’s life to illuminate his writings, examining them within the context of his critics.’ — American Literature

‘A beautifully researched and critically balanced biography that covers Hemingways life, works, and the array of critical response to both with exceptional thoroughness and exacting subtlety. Kale delivers a fresh, contemporary statement on a subject too long blurred by unexamined bias. A must-own volume for serious readers, students, and anyone interested in Hemingway and the complex relationships amongst his life, works, and 20th-century American culture.’ — Hilary K. Justice, author of The Bones of the Others: The Hemingway Text from the Lost Manuscripts to the Posthumous Novels

‘Verna Kales Ernest Hemingway is a formidable counter argument to those who erroneously believe the Hemingway oeuvre is memoir masquerading as fiction.’ — PopMatters

‘Brief biographies of already familiar, intensely studied figures sometimes shine new light on their subjects by discerning patterns and themes that may become lost amid more detailed accounts. This is certainly the case with Verna Kale’s superb Ernest Hemingway . . . Contrary to Hemingway’s hale and hearty public persona (over which he ultimately lost control), his life was essentially tragic – pitiful and heartbreaking, really – and through her conciseness Kale makes the reader feel this bitter truth with particular intensity. This is a sad book, even among studies of Hemingway. And a hard book to put down . . . A welcome addition to the Critical Lives series, this short biography packs an incredible amount of information and insight into a small package and would be impossible to improve upon.’ — Cercles

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Verna Kale is Visiting Assistant Professor in Rhetoric at Hampden-Sydney College, Virginia, and has contributed essays to the Hemingway Review. She is the editor of Teaching Hemingway and Gender (forthcoming).

Note on the Text


1. The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife, 1899-1919

2. The Age Demanded, 1919-22

3. In Another Country, 1922-5

4. The End of Something, 1925-6

5. The Light of the World, 1926-9

6. Shootism versus Sport, 1929-35

7. The Soul of Spain, 1935-9

8. Notes on the Next War, 1939-44

9. The Battler, 1944-7

10. The Tradesman’s Return, 1947-51

11. The Undefeated, 1951-4

12. The Last Good Country, 1954-61



Further Reading


Photo Acknowledgments