Green Hills of Africa Critical Context
by Ernest Hemingway

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Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

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Most readers of Hemingway’s work think of him as a novelist and short-story writer. Yet he wrote a considerable body of nonfiction, including newspaper stories, magazine articles, and several sketches about his own life and the lives of men and women he had known. Green Hills of Africa is one of his three book-length nonfiction works. Along with Death in the Afternoon (1932), Green Hills of Africa serves as a complement to Hemingway’s fiction for readers who wish to examine his attitudes toward American—and modern European—life and ideas. The work provides important insights into Hemingway’s views about the art and practice of literature, containing such important literary catchphrases as “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.” The work is most valuable, then, as a document revealing the life and opinions of one of America’s premier artists. Because Hemingway consciously fictionalized the narrative, it cannot be relied on in the same way that other primary source documents may be to shape opinions about the author. Nevertheless, the book does help round out the portrait of a writer whose fiction has shaped the direction of American letters during the twentieth century, helping to explain his choice of subjects and his motives for adopting the techniques he chose to present his materials.