Papa Hemingway Critical Essays

A. E. Hotchner


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

One of the most intriguing aspects of Papa Hemingway is its honesty. Throughout their developing friendship, Hotchner remained cognizant of Hemingway’s attempt to foster his own myth by stretching the truth and altering details to fit the occasion. In a restaurant on the Riviera, as Hotchner notes, Hemingway suddenly counted his fingers and said, “September I will have an African son. Before I left, I gave a herd of goats to my bride’s family. Most overgoated family in Africa.” It is an improbable, unbelievable story, as Hotchner implies. Several years afterward, Hemingway’s health began to decline. Hotchner does not gloss the truth in order to perpetuate the myth, but writes openly about Hemingway’s battle with mental illness and his suicide in Ketchum, Idaho, in 1961.

The object of any honest biography is to present the facts, for as Hotchner quotes Hemingway: “Every man’s life ends the same way, and it is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another.” In making distinctions about Hemingway, Hotchner furnishes young readers with supplemental information that is especially useful for understanding Hemingway’s fiction and its contribution to modern American literature.

In a public interview held at a Catholic church in 1958 near Ketchum, Hemingway answered questions from a group of teenagers. According to Hotchner, Hemingway’s aversion to public speaking ran deep, and the ensuing event caused him much dismay. Yet, the interview is included in the biography verbatim;...

(The entire section is 640 words.)