‘A must for Hemingway enthusiasts’ – A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

In his 1948 introduction, Ernest Hemingway recalls writing his second novel, A Farewell to Arms, where a wounded American soldier finds love at the Italian front during WWI.

‘It was begun in the first winter months of 1928 and the first draft was finished in September of that year. It was rewritten in the fall and winter of 1928 in Key West and the final rewriting was finished in Paris in the spring of 1929.’

The entire introduction is included in the new ‘Special Edition’ of the novel, published this year, and includes material from those early 1928 drafts and all of the alternative endings. Hemingway had once stated that he had rewritten the ending thirty-nine times, but as his grandson, Seán Hemingway, notes in this edition, ‘depending on your definition of ending … there are as many as forty-seven different attempts’.

The draft material has been available to the public since 1979, in the Hemingway Room of the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. Those early papers, much of them handwritten or with notes scribbled across typed pages, have been transcribed and included in three appendixes, after the main text of the novel as we’ve known it since its publication in 1929. Also included are photographs of a few of the original documents

Appendix I covers the early drafts with a couple of Hemingway’s false starts. From this it looks like Hemingway originally began the story as the wounded American soldier arrived at the hospital in Milan – what is now chapter 13. His injuries were far more severe, with wounds to his feet, legs, hands and head. His name was also even more obviously close to Hemingway’s own: Emmet Hancock, instead of the now familiar Frederic Henry. The extracts also give valuable insights into how Hemingway created his famous pared-down, almost metaphor-free writing style:

‘The pain was very light thin as a spider web now.’

Appendix II gathers the various endings, and since they have been available to scholars for many years, they are grouped according to previously described themes. There is the Live Baby Ending, the Scribner Magazine Ending from when the story was first serialised, the Morning-After Ending and the Funeral Endin

‘When people die you have to bury them but you do not have to write about it.’

Then there are the various Nada Endings, such as:

‘That is all there is to the story. Catherine died and you will die and I will die and that is all I can promise you.’

Hemingway had also sent a copy of the manuscript to F. Scott Fitzgerald, who sent back his suggestions for the end. These are listed as the Fitzgerald Endings, but are also widely known as the Kiss My Ass Endings, after the note Hemingway scrawled in the corner of the returned manuscript.

A third appendix reproduces a page from the archives where Hemingway listed possible titles. These range from straightforward – Love in War; The Retreat from Italy; The Sentimental Education of Frederick Henry – to the poetic – Love is one Fervent Fire; Kindlit Without Desire; World Enough and Time – and the uninspiring – Love in Italy; They Who Get Shot; Time of War. There is even the bizarre: I have committed Fornication but that was In Another Country and Besides the wench is dead (the underline is Hemingway’s own).

With all this extra material, plus a personal foreword from Hemingway’s son, Patrick, whose difficult birth partly inspired the story, and Hemingway’s own recollections in his introduction, this new edition gives a great insight into the creative processes involved in writing one of the 20th century’s great classics. And with the front decorated with a reproduction of the original cover, it even looks good too.

Any Cop?: If you’ve never read A Farewell to Arms then you might not want to fork out quite so much money for a novel that can be found in the bargain boxes of almost any second-hand bookshop. But for the many Hemingway enthusiasts out there, this is will be an excellent addition to their collection, giving them the chance to study how the novel developed and how ‘Papa’ worked on his style, something that would previously have meant a visit to the busy archives in Boston.

Jim Dempsey


About this entry