Unseen documents Ernest Hemingway left at his Cuban estate have finally returned to America, more than 50 years after his death, as Emma Waterman reports in this article for artshub.au.
Two thousand recently digitised documents have been transferred to Boston’s John F. Kennedy Library, shedding new light into the Nobel Prize-winning novelist’s life and allowing scholars to add text to the fabric they’ve strewn together of the influential 20th-century writer. The document’s return comes after the collaboration between Boston-based, Finca Vigia Foundation, named after Hemingway’s Cuban estate, and the U.S government’s work to preserve the author’s belongings in Cuba.
The returning records include passports, personal letters and those discussing his most famous works, bar bills, grocery lists, notations of hurricane sightings and notebooks full of weather observations.
Jenny Phillips, the granddaughter of Hemingway’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, founded the Finca Vigia Foundation in 2004 after she discovered Hemingway’s Havana house falling into disrepair. Following Phillips’ visit the U.S. Treasury and State department sent conservators and archivists to Cuba to preserve the legacy of the notable author.
‘This is the flotsam and jetsam of a writer’s life. All these bits and pieces get assembled in a big puzzle,’ Phillips said.
In one of these letters, literary critic, Malcolm Cowley wrote to Hemingway of his 1954 Noble Prize-winning, The Old Man and the Sea: ‘The Old Man and the Sea is pretty marvelous. The old man is marvelous, the sea is, too, and so is the fish,’ he wrote.
In another, American poet Archibald MacLeish wrote to Hemingway praising his 1940 novel, To Whom the Bell Tolls: ‘The word great had stopped meaning anything in this language until your book. You have given it all its meaning back. I’m proud to have shared any part of your sky.’
Restoration is ongoing at the Finca Vigia estate to maintain the house and surrounding grounds. Currently a climate-controlled building is being constructed at the site to house Hemingway’s books and the original records, which now reside in a damp basement.
As a result of the strained relations between the U.S and Cuba, the process of repatriating Hemingway’s documents has been a long an arduous one. U.S. Rep. James McGovern of Massachusetts is using this recent collaboration to comment on the improvement in these relations.
‘Art, literature and culture can bring people together. This has gone on for over a decade. This is a success story. This shows we can actually engage in successful collaborations with the Cubans,’ he said.
The Kennedy Library holds a collection of more the 100,000 pages of writing and 10,000 pictures, after Jacqueline Kennedy made it her mission to find a place for them in the library’s collection.