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Finding ones own identity in a farewell to arms a novel by ernest hemingway

Hemingway was 19 and before he sailed for home early the next year he had his first romance, was wounded by mortar and machine gun and collected the experience he would use in much of his fiction. Just how heavily the romance affected his writing became a bit clearer this month when Hemingway scholars made public the diary of the woman he fell in love with: With the diary came a powerful document: Hemingway scholar and literary detective James Nagel, an English professor at Northeastern University in Boston, unearthed the diary and the letter, previously thought destroyed, that Von Kurowsky wrote Hemingway breaking off the affair.

The question that has split scholars and is of most interest to a contemporary audience as well is whether Hemingway and Von Kurowsky were sexually involved. Although Hemingway would later take pride in his ability to sway women, he had virtually no experience then. Nothing in the diary, Nagel says, mentions sex.

And when Hemingway and Von Kurowsky, coming in from a date, see another nurse and patient sexually cavorting, they both are indignant.

Finding ones own identity in a farewell to arms a novel by ernest hemingway

Scholars previously thought Hemingway wrote to work out neuroses following shell-shock from his wounds. More likely, Nagel says, Hemingway wrote out his rejection by Von Kurowsky. What she goes on to say would have upset any suitor.

Almost immediatly after Hemingway left Italy, Von Kurowsky had taken up with the heir to an Italian dukedom and thought she would marry him. But his parents blocked the marriage, calling Von Kurowsky an adventuress.

Von Kurowsky had been involved with a sucession of men since leaving the States. She was having a serious liaison with an American doctor before she left for Europe. Aboard ship, she met a Belgian man she spoke seriously of, and before she met Hemingway she was involved with another Italian.

A Clean Well-Lighted Place

She was in search of her own identity, Nagel says. Hemingway was vague to his friends about the breakup and never showed anyone the letter.

Modern American Short Story: Ernest Hemingway

Nagel suggests Hemingway transformed the experience into a theme of loss that runs through his early novels. The nurse heroine Catherine Barkley in ''For Whom the Bell Tolls'' dies in childbirth, leaving the soldier-father to grieve. How Nagel learned of the diary and letters is a fascinating story itself. She wrote to Henry Villard, who had been a patient in Italy with Hemingway and had become an American diplomat.

Villard got her into Arlington, and she wrote him that one day he would receive something interesting. After her death, the diary arrived in the mail, and Villard asked Nagel to help with its publication.


She personally delivered a bundle to Von Kurowsky in Key West. Nagel, a past president of the Hemingway Society, heard of the letters through an antiquarian book dealer. He and Villard, who is still alive, will publish the diary and letters in the fall.

  • The publishing history of the story provides a fascinating instance of textual "authority;
  • The objectivism of Hemingway's fiction is consciously safeguarded, but there is more to this than mannerism;
  • Source Citation Bond, Adrian;
  • A long, long time" 357.