Hemingway was born in Illinois and spent his childhood hunting, fishing, playing rugby or boxing. He soon became interested in literature and contributed to his high school newspaper and magazine. He graduated in 1917 and became a reporter of the Kansas City Star. This activity contributed to refining his prose. He showed special interest in stories of violence, despair and emotional unrest, themes that will dominate his fictional production.
He participated in World War I as a Red Cross ambulance driver in Italy and was wounded. Once in hospital, he fell in love with the nurse who took care of him, but she abruptly left him. This experience will be the background and inspiration of his novel A Farewell to Arms. From 1921 to 1928 he resided in Paris, where he got in touch with writers like James Joyce and F. S. Fitzgerald
The Lost Generation
This group of expatriates was known as “The Lost Generation” which included those men in their thirties who had gone through World War I. “Lost” means disoriented, directionless, and it’s a recognition of the confusion and feeling of aimlessness common in the early post-war years. The term is said to have been invented by Gertrude Stein, the patron of the group of artists living in Paris. It was popularized by E. Hemingway, who used it as an epigraph to his novel The Sun Also Rises (1926), whose protagonist is a veteran of the War working as a journalist in Paris. During his stay in Paris, Hemingway started writing short stories. In 1924 he published In Our Time, a collection of short stories, first in France and a year later in the U.S.A. They mainly recall his childhood experiences. In 1926 he published The Sun Also Rises, which already focused on the qualities Hemingway considered the most valuable in men: courage, comradeship and endurance when faced with violence. In 1929 he published A Farewell to Arms.
In 1933 he went on an African hunting safari, an experience recalled in one of his most famous short stories, The Snows of Kilimangiaro, and in the novel The Green Hills of Africa. He worked as an American correspondent during the Spanish Civil War and recalled this experience in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). Hemingway’s post-war fiction included The Old Man and the Sea, one of his most appreciated novels. In 1954 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. He started suffering from several physical troubles and entered a period of depression, which led to his suicide in 1961
During his life Hemingway was a well-known, almost mythic figure: he actually helped to promote his reputation as an American hero who sought to experience violence as well as write about it as he was an expert in war, bullfighting, deep sea fishing, boxing and hunting and also was always in the public eye and had a passion for fist-fighting and quarreling. Anyway he went through three failed marriages and developed an addiction to alcohol.
Notwithstanding the Nobel Prize, he has always been a controversial writer, criticized for his narrow range of characters and his thematic focus on violence and machismo, appraised for his understated and objective prose.