- [Man] I hate the myth of Hemingway.
It obscures the man.
- His talent is stunning.
- He went against the grain.
- [Man] It's hard to imagine a writer who hasn't been influenced by him.
- In order to have something new to write, he had to have something new to live.
- [Woman] And he fell in love quite a few times.
- He's complex and deeply flawed, but there he is.
- [Man] Hemingway the man is much more interesting than the myth.
- [Narrator] Hemingway starts Monday April 5th at 8/7 central, only on PBS.
- Good evening.
I'm Kliff Kuehl, president and CEO of Kansas City PBS.
I'm excited to welcome you all to Hemingway, Journalism and War, the second event in the Conversations on Hemingway Series.
Thank you to our partners at the Kansas City Star for their collaboration on tonight's event.
As you know, Hemingway lived in Kansas City and got his start in journalism at the Star.
Community partnerships are a big part of what we do at Kansas City PBS.
They help to engage our audiences and enrich our community with quality programming, services and education.
We proudly offer four television channels, two streaming services.
We provide in-depth community reporting on flatlandkc.org and we support music discovery on The Bridge, our NPR music station.
Tonight's discussion sets the stage for the April premiere of a new six-hour documentary series, "Hemingway" from award-winning filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.
We are thrilled to have them join us this evening.
Ken Burns has directed and produced some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made.
He has won 16 Emmy Awards and has had two Oscar nominations.
And in 2008, he was honored by the Emmy's with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lynn Novick has been directing and producing landmark documentary films for PBS for more than 30 years and is the recipient of Emmy, Peabody and Alfred L. DuPont Columbia Awards.
In collaboration with Ken, she has created more than 80 hours of outstanding programming.
Also with us tonight is Dr. Alex Vernon, accomplished author, Hemingway scholar, and professor of English at Hendrix College.
Moderating the conversation is Melinda Henneberger, an editorial writer and columnist for The Star.
Once again, on behalf of Kansas City PBS and the Kansas City Star, thank you for joining us.
For more information on the film and upcoming conversations on Hemingway events like this one, please visit pbs.org/hemingway.
Now, before we welcome our panelists, let's take a look at the introduction of Hemingway premiering April 5th, sixth, and seventh on your local PBS station.
(gentle music) - Hemingway was a writer who happened to be American, but his palette was incredibly wide and delicious and violent and brutal and ugly.
All of those things.
It's something every culture can basically understand.
Every culture can understand falling in love with someone, the loss of that person, of how great a meal tastes, how extraordinary this journey is.
That is not nationalistic.
And I think with all of his flaws, with all the difficulties, his personal life, whatever, he seemed to understand human beings.
- [Narrator] You see, I'm trying in all my stories to get the feeling of the actual life across, not to just depict life, or criticize it, but to actually make it alive so that when you've read something by me, you actually experience the thing.
You can't do this without putting in the bad and the ugly as well as what is beautiful because if it is all beautiful, you can't believe in it.
Things aren't that way.
It is only by showing both sides, three dimensions, and if possible, four, that you can write the way I want to.
(gentle music) (uptempo music) - [Narrator] Ernest Hemingway remade, American literature.
He pared storytelling to its essentials, changed the way characters speak, expanded the worlds a writer could legitimately explore and left an indelible record of how men and women lived during his lifetime.
Generations of writers would find their work measured against his.
Some followed the path he'd blazed.
Others rebelled against it.
None could escape it.
He made himself the most celebrated American writer since Mark Twain, read and revered around the world.
- It's hard to imagine a writer today who hasn't been in some way influenced by him.
It's like he changed all the furniture in the room, right, and we all have to sit in it to some, you know, we can kind of sit on the edge of the arm chair, on the arm, or do this, but he changed the furniture in the room.
The value of the American declarative sentence, right.
The way you build a house brick by brick out of those, within a few sentences of reading Hemingway's story, you are not in any confusion as to who had written it.
- I can't imagine how it's possible that any one writer could have so changed the language.
People have been copying him for nearly a 100 years and they haven't succeeded in equaling what he did.
- If you're a writer, you can't escape Hemingway.
He's so damn popular that you can't begin to write till you try and kill his ghost in you, or embrace it.
And I think, I identify that most about Hemingway, is that he was always questing.
The perfect line had not happened yet.
It was always a struggle trying to get it right, and you never will.
- [Narrator] For three decades, people who had not read a word he'd written thought they knew him.
Wounded veteran and battlefield correspondent, big game hunter and deep sea fishermen, bullfight aficionado, brawler and lover and man about town.
But behind the public figure was a troubled and conflicted man who belonged to a troubled and conflicted family with its own drama and darkness and closely-held secrets.
The world saw him as a man's man, but all his life he would privately be intrigued by the blurred lines between male and female, men and women.
There were so many sides to him, the first of his four wives remembered, that he defied geometry.
- He was open to life.
He was open to tragedy.
He was open to feeling.
I liked that he fell in love, and he fell in love quite a few times.
He always had the next woman before he left the existing one.
- [Narrator] He was often kind and generous to those in need of help.
And, sometimes, just as cruel and vengeful to those who had helped him.
- [Narrator] I have always had the illusion, it was more important or as important to be a good man as to be a great writer.
I may turn out to be neither, but would like to be both.
- [Narrator] Hemingway's story is a tale older even than the written word, of a young man whose ambition and imagination, energy and enormous gifts bring him wealth and fame beyond imagining, who destroys himself, trying to remain true to the character he has invented.
- One of his weaknesses, I was going to say failings, and this was a great pity, it's a great pity for any writer, he loved an audience.
He loved an audience and in front of an audience, he lost the best part of himself by trying to impress the audience.
- I hate the myth of Hemingway and the reason I hate the myth of Hemingway, it obscures the man and the man is much more interesting than the myth.
I think he was a terrific father, sometimes.
I think that he was a loving husband, sometimes.
I think he was like so many people except this enormous talent.
Hemingway is complicated.
He's very complicated.
- [Narrator] "The great thing is to last "and get your work done "and see and hear and learn and understand.
"And right when there is something that you know, "and not before, and not too damned much after."
(gentle music) - Hello, I'm Melinda, Henneberger from the Kansas City Star editorial board.
And we're here tonight with Ken Burns, who as Kliff said, has been making award-winning documentaries for more than 40 years on the civil war, Mark Twain, country music and now Hemingway.
The late historian, Stephen Ambrose, once said that more Americans get their history from Ken Burns than from any other source.
The co-director of "Hemingway", Lynn Novick, has also been directing and producing documentaries about American life and culture for decades.
Her collaborations with Ken Burns include their documentaries on Vietnam, baseball, jazz.
And her own four-part series College Behind Bars" aired on PBS in 2019.
Also with us, Alex Vernon, who is a Hemingway scholar who grew up, I should say, near Kansas City in Prairie Village.
He teaches English at Hendrix College in Arkansas.
He graduated from West Point, served in the first Gulf War and his books include "Hemingway's Second War: Bearing Witness to the Spanish Civil War".
Ken, I don't know whether to ask you what drew you to Ernest Hemingway or how you resisted him for so long?
So I guess I'll ask you both, why Hemingway right now?
- Well, right now is a pretty loaded question because it takes us so long to work on these films.
We've been thinking about and talking about the possibility of doing him for decades.
I found a scrap of paper recently that had do baseball and Hemingway and it was from the early mid-eighties.
And so we've been talking about it, and that would be Lynn and Jeff Ward, our writer on this project, for a long time.
And then it became very clear six, seven, eight years ago that we had to do him.
And six years ago or so, we began working and accumulating the necessary material to do it.
As you mentioned, I made a film on Mark Twain and, in some ways, the sort of mantle of American writer, Twain arguably the great American writer of the 19th century and Hemingway, perhaps, the great American writer of the 20th century, both kind of revolutionized and Americanized literature in a really extraordinary way.
And both had outsized lives that tended to overwhelm, threaten to capsize the actual art, the distracting aspects that Edna O'Brien is alluding to in the intro of our film.
And all of this is a compelling challenge for filmmakers, how to do justice to this extraordinary writer, how to understand the nature of who he was and his biography and how to deal with the toxicity that came along with the collision of that biography and that art.
And that's irresistible stuff.
It's really hard.
It's really complicated and it's taken us many years to do it, but he's, in some ways, irresistible.
So it's not really about now.
If you're a great artist, it's transcendent.
You're talking about, as Michael Katakis suggested in the intro, universal human experiences and that is as fundamental, as he says, ordering a meal and as sort of general as war and other things.
Lynn, what would you say is his great impact on journalism?
Here's somebody, who I think was doing new journalism before there was such a thing or before we called it then anyway and who fought in at least one of the wars he was covering, so how did he change the profession and how we see the war correspondent in our culture?
- Well, first, I would turn the question the opposite and say, how did journalism affect him?
Because he got his start as a journalist and then he took that with him into fiction writing.
And so you see very early, in some of the events he covered as a journalist, then writing fictionalized versions of those and using all this as grist for his mill in terms of telling stories, which is really interesting.
And you can put some of the copy almost side-by-side and see the same descriptions of, for example, a line of refugees after World War I in the Turk and Greco war, I believe it is, so there's different ways in which journalism affects him.
And then later on, he became, as Ken was saying, such a sort of huge personality that he sort of puts himself in the story and it goes, certainly in his coverage of World War II, where he actually participated, but even earlier, he was experimenting with sort of what we would call creative non-fiction, I guess now.
You know, Hunter Thompson putting himself in the story of covering a convention or a political campaign.
And Hemingway did that in terms of bull fighting and "Death in the Afternoon" and in "Green Hills of Africa", where he made himself a character, kind of a fictionalized version of him.
And that creates all kinds of interesting creative challenges for the reader.
And also I think just blurs the boundaries a lot between fiction, nonfiction, reality and truth.
- He puts it all out there for us to sort of think about.
- So Alex, how did Hemingway's work as a journalist influence his fiction?
- So I think we'll be talking about that in some way, shape or form this whole hour, right.
And I think when we talk about Hemingway and the early Hemingway, we tend to say he was a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star.
And maybe we show the first paragraph of the style sheet.
We say he worked for the Toronto Star when he was in Paris.
And then we dive into Gertrude Stein and Ford Madox Ford and James Joyce and all the people who knew him in Paris, and we sort of forget that he wrote some 200 pieces of journalism in those first four years of 1920.
And I'm not quite sure how he did this, but basically the Toronto Star allowed him to write about whatever he wanted to sort of however he wanted to.
And so really those years' work, he was experimenting with prose and some of those Toronto Star pieces you can look at and say, I'm not sure how different this is from a famous short story like "Cat in the Rain".
I mean, it was just this heavily dialogue-based story and I'm not sure what the difference is.
So I think those years, sometimes we use the word apprenticeship, he was experimenting in really large, profound ways.
I think it was as important as sitting at Gertrude Stein's desk, I think those years working on those journalistic dispatches were important.
- We're gonna see a clip now about his time as a cub reporter.
Lynn, would you like to tell us what we're gonna see here?
- Yeah, I think we're gonna pick up the story really pretty early in our first episode and it is a three-part series, and we've basically gotten him through his childhood.
And he's born in 1899 and grew up in Oak Park in Michigan.
And he's basically on the verge of adulthood and we're gonna just pick you up and drop you into that moment.
I think pretty much that's all we need to say.
(dramatic music) (explosion booming) - [Narrator] On April 6th, 1917, the United States entered the Great War that had been underway in Europe for nearly three years.
Millions of young men had already been slaughtered.
The world Ernest Hemingway's parents had prepared him for had disappeared.
Several of his high school classmates had already volunteered to go to war.
He hoped to go too, but he was too young at 17, and his parents would not sign the papers that would have waived that requirement.
They wanted him to go to college.
A compromise was eventually reached.
An uncle got the boy a job at a newspaper in Kansas City.
Kansas City was a tough wide open town.
And the Kansas City Star was one of the best papers in the country.
A pioneer in crisp, clear, immediate reporting.
Its style sheet set the tone.
- [Man] Use short sentences.
Use short first paragraphs.
Use vigorous English.
Be positive, not negative.
Avoid the use of adjectives.
- [Narrator] Hemingway covered shootings, stabbings, labor troubles, a smallpox scare.
He was fascinated by all of it and echoes of what he had heard and seen in Kansas City would appear again and again in his later writing.
- [Narrator] "Dear dad, we are having a laundry strike here "and I'm handling the police end, "the violent stories, wrecking trucks, "running them over cliffs.
"And yesterday, they murdered a nonunion guard.
"For over a month, I have averaged over a column a day."
- I love those brags to his parents.
And a couple of Hemingway's letters home on the Kansas City Star stationery are still very proudly displayed in the group's office.
You see them the first time you come in.
Ken, was journalism what Hemingway really hoped to do with his life or was that a more accidental path he took while he was, as the clip said, waiting to be old enough to enlist?
- Well, I think he'd be the first to say that one doesn't sort of choose your path, your path is kind of presented.
I think the important thing is to unwind a little bit and understand that he got from his mother a kind of melodramatic artistic sensibility that was drawn to music and its rhythms of repetition.
And from his father, he got a love of the outdoors.
Though, his father was also a physician and so he was faced with kind of mortality and death all the time.
So it's a kind of strange amalgam, the histrionics of his mother plus his artistic training, the access to nature, but the sense of imminent mortality and the possibility of death.
And all of that made him, as the writer Ron Powers said about Mark Twain, an enormous noticer.
And so this is going to fit in really, really well when he gets his assignment in Kansas City and then later for the Toronto paper.
And he goes to Europe and is turning out this voluminous amount of writing.
It's not yet the new journalism, but it has a kind of intimacy to it.
It has a kind of emotion and drama.
At the same time, it has very specific reporting.
It's got a sense of humor too, it's spare and it's not like the complicated writing of the other writers that he's hanging out with in Paris.
And so all of these things are going to lend itself to good journalism, but it's also he's interested in being a writer, which means writing stories and then later novels.
And I think as Lynn described really, really well, it's so interesting the way they trade off one another, the new journalistic aspect of his later nonfiction and the novels that he is now beginning to write, and that have made him his great reputation and his name.
He kept his newspaper clips all his life.
Lynn, how did he see those early years in his late teens and twenties when he was a reporter in Kansas City and Toronto, and then at such a young age, a correspondent in Paris?
- Yeah, I mean, I think it's hard to really get my head around the precocity of this young man.
I mean, he's 17 years old in the middle of working with grown men and holding his own seemingly and there's a certain bravado and there's a lot of confidence.
And then there's probably a willingness to learn and watch what's going on, like Ken was saying too.
So it's just interesting thinking about his age, what I was like at 17 and just what he took on and then how quickly, it's a really meteoric rise as a writer, as a human being and as a journalist.
So just getting the craft, I love the newsroom and the images of the camaraderie and what went on there and how quickly things turned around and just how probably interesting it was to have been there for him at the Star.
But he also had a kind of a love-hate relationship with this whole process.
And I think Alex knows a lot more better than I do, but he resented the kind of constant grind of it after a while and having to be present and churn stuff out, even if it was interesting and writing challenge, that he didn't have time to really work on the prose and rework it and try to really refine what he was doing.
So at a certain point, he actually gave it up, and I wonder, but he also kept coming back to journalism as a way to make money at certain times in his life.
But also I think because the experiences it gave him being out in the world covering things then gave him stories to write about too.
You know, so if he was just sitting at home writing all the time, and that's one of the reasons why we wanted to make this film, is that he led such an adventurous life.
So he's always doing things.
And the journalism was part of that throughout pretty much his entire life.
- And when you're accumulating all of this information, you're also wishing to transform it and to pontificate.
And this is one of the great pontificators of all times.
He's got opinions on everything.
And it's interesting to see, in some ways, the failings of the major works of non-fiction or apparent nonfiction are the way in which he has inserted himself and his opinions into it.
- Alex, did he see his role as a journalist and as an anti-fascist, and even a combatant later, as in any way in conflict or for him were these all part of the main thing he wanted to do, which as he said again and again was to tell the truth.
- Oh, Alex is muted.
Alex, it's a Zoom moment.
- Great question.
So in World War II, he certainly crossed the line.
I mean, he becomes a combatant in World War II.
He's actually court-martialed for it in Europe and France.
And he gets off the court martial by baldfaced lying, basically, right.
In the Spanish Civil War, he did not cross that line, but it is a really interesting question.
And I think one thing to maybe think about is, as I think about those years, is I think back to 2003 and the invasion of Iraq, and we had people we called embedded reporters, and those embedded reporters use the first person plural pronoun, we, when talking about the troops they were traveling with and you could not tell me that the American embedded reporters were not biased in their coverage, right.
And so there is, I think any war correspondent, there is gonna be a fine line.
I think it was fascinating, to me also, is how he then deals with that in the fiction.
So his fiction of the Spanish Civil War, for example, some of those short stories, he is very aware that the person with the camera is almost as much of a combatant as the person with the gun because the person with the camera is shaping opinion and is ginning up support for the war, perhaps.
And so he's very aware it's a slippery slope.
I mean, he totally crosses the line in World War II, but, yeah, it's a tricky issue.
I think it's an issue that we have not quite resolved with our journalism.
- So here's this man who says that the main goal of his life is to tell the truth, to write a true sentence, as many true sentences as possible, and yet in his personal life, at least, he exaggerated wildly and said some things that were just plain false.
So how literally should we take his journalism, Alex?
(chuckles) - I don't know, I mean, there's one story from The Toronto Star I was looking at the other day and it's, basically, he's walking down the street, he doesn't put himself in the story, but he sees two veterans from the war and they're watching a building come down and they're having this conversation about, well, if they just use some six-inch shell guns, this thing would come down in two hours.
And that's the whole piece, it's just conversation.
Did that conversation actually happen?
At one point, these guys were talking about Kipling and some Kipling poem gets quoted.
Did it actually happen?
I'm guessing, maybe not, but something happened.
But again, he was experimenting and he was trying to figure out what that line was and trying to figure out how do you tell truth in a limited amount of space, right.
So I think that's sort of fascinating too.
I think on Tuesday they had Tim O'Brien on the Zoom and Tim worked for the Washington Post for a few years before he got his start.
And he says what happened to the Post for him was learning that truth had to be compacted into 10 inches, but 10 inches is not truth.
I mean, 10 inches can't tell a full story.
So one of the things Hemingway's trying to do in those early works is figure out, how do I tell the full truth in a really short space?
- Ken, I was thinking that, obviously, he was drawn to covering war because the fight against fascism and then against the Nazis, were the stories not just of his day, but really any day, but he also had this lifelong fascination with death.
So I was hoping you could talk a little bit about how that drew him to-- - Well, I think people are drawn to war.
We, as filmmakers, are drawn to war, civil war, the second world war of Vietnam.
We're now working on a history of the American revolution because, in those moments when life is so vivified, you get a chance to see human experience at its most intense.
And it's extraordinarily revealing as well as horrific.
It's interesting to note that Hemingway's being drawn to the Spanish Civil War was sort of indirect sort of opposite to the way he entered the '30s.
He was being criticized by the leftist writers for not being political enough and he regaled against them.
But then something happened, a hurricane in Florida, he wrote something, a piece that was anti-Roosevelt administration and, all of a sudden, he gets caught up in something which is a cause celebre for the left.
Now, the other part of your question is the central one that all human beings face.
And one of the great gifts of Ernest Hemingway that transcends the prose, the journalism, the lying, the not lying, which is what all human beings do, is that he was willing to walk towards the thing that most of us spend our lives avoiding, which is that none of us get out of here alive.
And whether it's coming from his observations of nature, watching his father as a physician work in life and death situations, whether it's his experience in Kansas City or in World War I as an ambulance driver, nearly being killed himself, all of these things are driving him and his art to a near perpetual confronting with this notion of death.
And it's one of, I think, the great gifts of Ernest Hemingway is that he does not sugar coat any of this.
Born here, he says, die there.
That's us, all of us and there is none of us will an exception be made in our case and will escape that fate.
And so if you've got a writer on the cusp of a modernist tradition bucking not just artistic and journalistic sensibilities, but dealing with the fundamental stuff that we have a finite mortality, it's an amazing thing.
It informs everything.
Now, obviously, there's suicide in his early life.
That is a hugely influential event.
And there is his constant putting himself in that kind of harm's way.
People said, was he courting death?
And he said, no.
You'd think if I was courting it, I would have found it a long time ago.
And so what I think is, as an artist, as a human being, for all of his flaws is going as close up to it as he possibly can to inspect it and to understand its grittiness and its reality.
You're gonna find that in war.
You'll find it in bullfights.
You'll find it in nature.
You'll find it in hunting, all of these things, and he's relentlessly in pursuit of that dynamic.
And the great benefit to all of us is that some of the greatest writing about that theme has come from him.
- Lynn, what was your earliest encounter with Hemingway and what do you remember about that?
- Yeah, well maybe I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I believe that I read "The Old Man and The Sea" when I was in middle school, like many people do, and I thought it was kind of boring.
I didn't really get it.
I think that for a lot of younger people that story doesn't, it didn't hit for me.
I didn't understand, it seemed nothing happened and it was kind of sad.
And, re-reading it as an adult, it's a completely different experience, but I wasn't all that interested in Hemingway until I read "The Sun Also Rises" in high school.
And that was just transcendent experience of stepping into a world and the characters were so real and the situations were so complicated and I wanted to be them.
I wanted to live there.
I wanted to be in that world.
I didn't want the book to end and I couldn't put it down.
So he has an incredible ability, as Ken was saying, to just describe reality and make it seem real and make you feel it.
And I don't know how he does it.
It's kind of miraculous when it works.
So, for me, it was "The Sun Also Rises", got me really hooked.
- How 'bout you, Alex?
- I think I probably also did "Old Man and the Sea" in high school and it did nothing for me at the time, right.
I was too young.
I think one of the fascinating things about Hemingway is you really, the other day, Ken said, this is our most adult film.
And, to some extent, you have to be a certain age, I think, in large ways to feel Hemingway's work.
So "Old Man and The Sea" did nothing for me.
I did a little bit of Hemingway in college and I can tell you some funny stories about reading the "Farewell to Arms" at West Point, if you wanted to hear that.
(panel laughing) But probably the moment it stuck for me, I was in graduate school and was a teaching assistant and the professor I was working for was doing "Big Two-Hearted River".
And so I read Big Two-Hearted River" and did not know what to do with it at all.
And I turned to my office mate, a good friend of mine, Amy Strong, and I said, so, Amy, give me something.
And she said, oh, well, that's the story he always said was about war, but never mentioned war in it.
And so I paused and went back and re-read it, knowing that this is a veteran who has now come back from war and what does he want to do?
He wants to be by himself and fishing.
He wants to be a little boy again.
He wants to be, I mean, when you're in the military, you have no time.
Time's not yours, your body's not yours.
And this is a long story about this young person reclaiming his body, reclaiming his time.
And, of course, at the time, I was only back from war myself, maybe a year or two, and so, I mean, it sort of registered for me.
And then that made me think about his famous iceberg theory and the way in which in very subtle kinds of ways, in ways that I think teenagers just are not gonna get, he really is able to speak to a lot of us.
- How about you, Ken?
- Well, the first thing I read, it's so funny 'cause I've now come back to the short stories, the first thing I read was a short story "The Killers" and it was mind-blowing.
I was a teenager and there was so much unsaid, so much undone, so much that I wanted to know how it turned out.
But, in all of those questions, you realize that in the compact world that he had created between the diner and the boarding house room, was just this infinitely huge world.
And then I gravitated to the novels in the course of my life.
I think 'A Farewell to Arms" is my favorite but I had moments when "The Sun Also Rises" or "For Whom the Bell Tolls or even "Old Man and the Sea" really meant something to me.
But now the thing that's perpetually at the foot of my bed where my books are all stacked are the short stories and "Hills Like White Elephants" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaros" and "Big Two-Hearted River" and "Up in Michigan" and "Indian Camp" and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and many others, I think are just jewels.
And if you need something to just finish off the day, a work of art in 10, 15, 20 minutes, there's nothing better than those short stories.
- So we have another clip.
Lynn, tell us about this one.
- Yes, we're going to drop you into the Spanish Civil War.
And show what that experience was like for Hemingway.
He was by then connected with Martha Gellhorn, the writer who he had met, and they had both gone there separately.
So she's part of this experience for him as well.
So we'll just give you a little bit of a sense of some of the writing he did while covering that war as a journalist who definitely cared about which side won.
So that's some of the issues we were talking about earlier, about how he presented that story and what he chose to include and not include.
It's very interesting.
- [Narrator] "In the morning, "before your call comes from the desk, "the roaring burst of a high explosive shell wakes you.
"And you go to the window, look out to see a man, "his head down, his coat collar up, "sprinting desperately across the paved square.
"There's the acrid smell of high explosive "you hoped you'd never smell again.
"And in a bathrobe and bedroom slippers, "you hurry down the marble stairs "and almost into a middle-aged woman wounded in the abdomen "who was being helped into the hotel entrance by two men "in blue workman smocks.
"She has her two hands crossed "below her big, old-style Spanish bosom.
"And from between her fingers, "the blood is spurting in a thin stream.
"On the corner, 20 yards away is a heap of rubble, "smashed cement and thrown up dirt.
"A single dead man, his torn clothes dusty.
"And a great hole in the sidewalk from which the gas "from a broken main is rising "looking like a heat mirage in the cold morning air."
- [Narrator] The new lovers occupied a suite on the third floor of the Hotel Florida.
(explosion booming) The hotel was sometimes hit by enemy shells intended for a nearby loyalist communication center, but it remained headquarters for a host of correspondents and celebrities eager for a firsthand look at the fighting.
Andre Malraux and Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Herbert L. Matthews of the New York Times, the photographer, Robert Capa, the writers, Langston Hughes and John Dos Passos, and the movie star, Errol Flynn.
Hemingway, crackling with generosity one reporter remembered, and bursting with vigor was at the center of things.
The high-spirited crowd gathered around him each evening, often wearing winter coats since the hotel had no heat, to dine on beer and whiskey, canned ham, and pate he imported from France, sometimes supplemented with partridges he had shot in the fields beyond the city that morning and had cooked up on a hot plate for himself and his guests.
(gun firing) - He did identify most utterly with extreme situations.
It's like in King Lear is wanting to know the worst and to know if one can bear it.
It's a test and it's also a terror.
And they come together in one.
- As Lynn said, he was in Spain with the woman who became his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, his fellow journalist and novelist.
The only woman who covered D-Day.
How did their work, for Ken, how did their work bring them together and how did it contribute to pulling them apart?
(Ken laughs) He seemed most bitter, I have to say, about her after their relationship ended.
- Well, he has four wives.
And as Edna said in the introduction, he sort of has people lined up before the next one.
It was certainly true.
He was leaving his second wife, Pauline, for Martha.
But she is uncontrollable.
She is a writer and a journalist and an artist in her own right.
She's been drawn to Hemingway because he's been a huge influence on her.
She's got a kind of energy that he's attracted to and as he has, and she's drawn to that and they're both kind of dangerous to each other and to the world.
And so I think he's scared of her.
And for a long time, the beginning of one of his major declines occurs in this period where she wants him up and out and he doesn't want to do that, to come and begin to cover the second world war.
So I think that in the arc of her independence was something that was hugely terrifying to him.
And in order for him to get back on his feet, he had to find a way to, in some ways, manufacturer a break with Martha and then look for the next person who is going to be more malleable or more corruptible.
The interesting thing, to me, about the Spanish Civil War is that the geopolitics of it are pretty intense.
And, essentially, it's all the fascist powers lined up supporting the insurgency, the fascist General Franco, the big landowners, the Catholic Church, against the duly elected leftist government of the loyalists.
And the only supporter of them is Joseph Stalin.
And so his whole apparatus is there and stuff happens that is pretty bad that Hemingway doesn't report because it doesn't fit the cause.
And then the novel, the extraordinary novel that he produces out of this experience is actually truer to what he saw and experienced than the journalism that he reported back.
So he's censored himself for this and what he observed of the outrageous behind-the-scenes role that the Soviets played in this story in order to sort of keep up the image, but in his novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls", he's an equal opportunity critic.
And it's a pretty interesting reversal of what we think journalism and fiction does.
The fiction is much truer than the journalism that was produced there and in a very interesting way.
- Lynn, how did his fellow correspondents and readers of his day see him?
Was here a Hemingway and then everybody else?
- Yeah, well, I think that evolves and it's different in each of these situations.
So I do have a sense, and Alex would know more than I do about this, but in the Spanish Civil War, there was real camaraderie and kind of mutual respect.
And they were all really believers in the cause, like Ken was saying.
And also it was dangerous because there were no front lines, really, the war was everywhere, especially, where they were, as you saw from, so I think that there was, and I kept, in looking at this scene from the film thinking about Robert Kapa, one of the great, great photographers of all time, was a young kid there taking pictures of everybody.
And there's just this sense of trust and kind of belief in what they're doing and being around these great committed journalists and photographers to get the story out and get the world to pay attention and care about the fate of the people of Spain, was a really powerful kind of glue that bonded everyone together.
World War II was a little bit of a different story.
He's way bigger, larger than life.
And, like Ken was saying, he didn't really even want to go.
He'd been through enough war already.
And I sort of have the feeling there that he's the center of attention in a way that doesn't lend itself to probably great journalism, which is not what he really did in World War II.
- And I also think that for some, he was just a pain in the neck a sort of egotistical horse's ass, whereas in other situations, he was the great king of writing and that's a big change for him.
I mean, I think, he was pretty much insufferable for most of his adult life, but I think it's never more so than in World War II in terms of his relationship to other reporters and other writers and the people that are in that coterie.
- I mean, we did find in the film, he made good friends with some of the soldiers that he was around in World War II, more than the other journalists, it seems like too.
So that's how he felt a real connection.
- And maybe that's how he saw himself?
- As Alex said, he's firing guns at the enemy as a journalist.
- I'm not sure any news outlet would take a chance on an 18-year-old Ernest Hemingway today.
For one thing, because he never went to college And neither he nor Gellhorn ever believed that there's such a thing as objectivity.
I wanted to ask Alex, could he work in journalism today and would he even want to?
- So there's sort of two parts to the question.
I mean, the notion that they don't believe in objectivity, I'm not sure I do either, right.
And so we can criticize him for having a first person voice in his journalism.
But what he's doing is saying, this is what I saw.
I mean, that is admitting to the fact that he's not pretending to report facts that somebody else gave him.
This is what he saw.
It's his form of bearing witness, right, to sort of acknowledge that.
Could he be a journalist today, maybe a blogger?
I mean, he famously does not like bosses at all.
And so maybe he could be a blogger somewhere.
- I said, in this, however, not unique in the newsroom, right.
- That's right, yeah, yeah.
- I don't know.
I sort of think that talent will out and ambition and drive will out.
And I think that we see in the descendants of Ernest Hemingway all around us, in great feature writers and people who travel the country, kind of in their own beat reporting about stuff.
I think he would have, if he was up and coming, he would certainly find a place because he's so good.
And I think even if he was well-established, he would have been a pain in the neck in other places, but I think he would have been respected as a journalist and there wouldn't have been an organization that wouldn't have wanted to have him on in a kind of Pete Hamill, Jimmy Breslin, Mike Barnacle kind of sense of a chronicler of the intersection of intimate life and the big issues that are happening.
So Jimmy's Storefront Candy Store, but a much bigger picture.
And Hemingway was really good at that sort of stuff.
And I think he'd probably fit in pretty well.
I think he's irresistible.
And I think that means that any age is gonna find that so.
- Here's a question that has absolutely nothing to do with journalism, but it's one that I kept hearing from friends who knew I was gonna be part of this.
They said, please ask, they're all, so many of us are interested in the end of his life, do you see that his suicide was inevitable in some way?
And did he feel at the end of his life, Lynn, you're shaking your head, so this one is for you, that he had either lost his gift or had said everything he had to say?
- Well, I'd say the answer to the second part of the question is, yes, he did feel he'd lost his gift.
And that was very tragic.
We definitely don't want to think that it was inevitable or foreordained and that any step along the way, perhaps could have been prevented.
And the tragedy of mental illness is the stigma and shame that people don't acknowledge it or talk about it or seek treatment.
And so it's very difficult to prevent a suicide if you're not fully accepting what's happening.
Now, he did get treatment, and we'll probably talk about that in more detail at some other time, but he was someone who had depression and suicidal thoughts as a young man and anxiety and vulnerability and fears.
And, as Ken was saying, a sort of obsession with death.
So in that sense, you could say, you could see it coming, but that doesn't mean it had to happen.
So, really, in any number of places along the way, perhaps, other things could have been done and he could have been treated, gotten better treatment and it wouldn't have happened.
- Right, I mean-- - Oh, sorry.
Let's just say by the end of his life, and I didn't understand this before we started working on the film, his brain had been battered by multiple concussions.
He has adult life, serious alcoholism, self-medicating with many different drugs to try to get through the day.
And then there's this family history of depression and suicide.
And access to guns, let's not ignore that.
That's a huge factor, being able to do it is not a small thing.
So all of these things contribute to this really, really tragic end.
And he did feel that he couldn't work anymore.
And that was the most devastating thing.
But that could be a factor of the depression, all the things we were just talking about.
- If I could add too, I mean, this documentary, this film is, it's emotional.
I mean, this is not just a sort of informational, talking-head kind of documentary.
And I think where it really comes to head is that last episode, which basically is what Lynn is talking about right now, as you see him decline and deteriorate and his mental capacities diminishes and he physically ages, it is astonishing to watch that.
And that last episode is really, I think, heart-wrenching.
And so kudos to Ken and Lynn and their team for telling that story as effectively as they did.
- It's a sad thing.
I agree with Lynn.
It's not inevitable, but I think when you, and I was just interrupting only to add what Lynn already said, just about the concussions alone and what we understand about CTE now.
And, of course, all the history of mental illness, his own alcoholism, all of that, it looks in retrospect like an inevitable train wreck but there's so many places in which you want to just say, oh, Ernest, we don't have to go that far.
It doesn't have to be this way.
And it doesn't happen.
- So we have a lot of questions from viewers.
So let me get to some of those.
Jeff in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, asks a great question.
What do you know, and I'll put this one to you, Lynn, what do you think is the biggest misconception about Hemingway?
There's so many from which to choose.
- Oh wow, well, I think if they watch the movie, 'cause you're gonna find out all kinds of things that were misconceptions that many of us had when you really get to know this man in a deep way.
I think we've said the tagline is the man behind the myth.
And I think that's really the biggest misconception is that this public persona that he had was actually him.
And it doesn't take too long to peel back the layers of the onion and see that there's a complicated, vulnerable, thoughtful, bookish, quiet guy who likes to stay home and read a book as much as he likes to run around fishing, and is capable of great, sensitive, empathetic thoughts and relationships.
And also, can be a very difficult person to deal with.
So I just think the complexity of the human being it's hard to see that when you see this macho guy and that was sort of one of our major projects here, to really get to know him as a human being.
- I think that macho person, as one person in the film says, the toxic masculinity is very interesting that it is, perhaps, masking this gender fluidity that he's been curious about and experiments with all his life which ought to just be the screech of the brakes.
And you know, what, and it is interesting to see him, there's a kind of bravery there and it belies this sort of posturing or what seems to be macho posturing.
And a lot of it is what we build up about him.
A lot of it is what he promotes that isn't true.
A lot of it is this thing, he did like to brawl.
He did like to fight.
He did like to drink.
He did like to shoot.
He did like to fish.
He did do all of those things, but he also liked a book and he liked to be alone in nature and he was frightened and as well as belligerent.
And so all of these things plus this curious sexuality that is manifest throughout his lifetime and with all of his wives, it's incredibly interesting.
And he writes about it, but even he doesn't want it published in his lifetime.
And, I think, it rocks your world if you're content with the kind of conventional wisdom about Ernest Hemingway.
And so we just would ask you to leave your baggage behind and just have carry on.
- Here's a question, Marie, from Cincinnati, Ohio, for Professor Vernon, why do you think Hemingway changed his mind about America's involvement in the Spanish Civil War?
Was it his love of Spain?
- I'm not sure what the changed his mind was.
He absolutely loved Spain.
He had been in Spain in the early '30s working on "Death in the Afternoon".
He was watching all that happened over time, over years.
And he wanted to be there when the war happened and he supported the legitimate government.
He was, those folks they sort of tagged themselves as premature anti-fascists.
He was an isolationist.
In the 1930s, he was writing about the next war and how Americans should stay out of the next war.
And so part of the Spanish Civil War for the people who went and believed was, let's stop fascism here in Spain.
Let's not allow Hitler, Mussolini, to start World War II.
We can do it in Spain.
And so part of what their mission was, they thought, right, was to stop fascism in Spain as well.
He loved Spain deeply, he loved the people.
He always said it was his favorite country on earth and the cause, he never liked government in general, but he recognized you had to have government, and he recognized that a republic, a democracy, even if left-leaning, is much preferable to a fascist state.
- Here is one for Ken from Andre in Ontario, who has a great question, was it an inside joke for Hemingway when he blurred the lines between journalism, fiction writer and popular author?
Was he having a private laugh at our expense or was every story a building block to his next chapter as a writer?
- Well, I definitely don't think it's an inside joke.
I don't think he's playing with us in any way.
I think he's experimenting, he's restless, he's pushing the boundaries of what the rules are of fiction and of what the rules are of non-fiction.
And that's the mark of a transcendent artist, he's doing that.
And the fact that he could do it, I'm not sure if he played equally in nonfiction as he did in fiction, but the way he wrote, so much of his fiction feels so true that I think that he was trying to have us see that this wasn't a joke or a wink, but in fact, look at the difference.
And we realize that ourselves.
Shakespeare conflated lots of history, combined characters, changed characters, moved things around.
And yet the end product is such extraordinary art that our own language is peppered with phrases that come from his plays.
And I think that, in some ways, Hemingway is interested in just knowing more and awakening something.
And if it's going to come in fiction then it comes in fiction.
And if it's going to be a nonfiction then he'll try to find it there.
But he is relentlessly pursuing it.
And it isn't a fool's errand.
It is not Don Quixote tilting at windmills.
This is an artist in full charge towards his subject.
- I think he does recycle or reuse material in a way.
And that's really interesting.
So that journalism, I was just thinking, as Ken was talking about "The Old man and the Sea", that started as an article in Esquire about that story.
And then he went back to it, I think how many years, 15 years later or more, and looking for new material, went back to an article he'd written about this experience of someone catching a big fish and getting eaten by sharks, which happens.
This is not the only time it happened, but he'd written about it.
And, in his mind, I just imagined him kind of constantly going back to his own well of his lips, like you said, and what would be a good way to start another story.
So it's a very organic process, I imagine, and everything is grist for the mill.
So the journalism feeds the fiction and the fiction probably, also in some ways, feeds the journalism, when that happens.
- I love this question from Rudy in Texas, in what current day news outlet or what medium do you think Hemingway would flourish now?
- It's funny when we were asking, when we were talking about that question a little bit earlier, I was imagining him as a feature writer for The Atlantic or The New Yorker or something like that.
Not necessarily for the politics of it, but for the uninhibited freedom to explore in great depth subjects of importance in the moment, but also with the latitude to bring great art, great style to its expression.
So I have a feeling that it would be something like that or Alex may be right, he might be just a blogger that's irresistible to have, that you can't live without your daily dose of what this person has to say about whatever they choose to do it as he was as a young reporter writing about everything, the dangers of getting a free shave at a barber's college, as well as beautiful descriptions, as Lynn was talking about, of a stream of refugees from the Greco-Turkish war.
I mean, there's endless possibilities.
And I think having Ernest Hemingway around, particularly now, when the tsunami of information threatens to drown everything out, I think that it would be nice to have a singular voice as challenging us as I think he would do.
- Also fun to speculate what kind of novelist he would be today, right.
He purposely was trying to redo prose literature in English.
He was set out to do that.
And he did, right.
And the question is, what would that look like now?
And who knows, right?
So it would be fascinating to see what kind of novelist he would be today as well.
- And what of the stuff that he censored in himself?
Not just the sexual stuff, but other things would be able to find full voice in this day and age, where many of the taboo subjects of his earlier writing.
Gertrude Stein says you cannot put "Up in Michigan", which is about date rape in your addition of "In Our Time".
And it isn't, we would look at it and say, my goodness, what sensitivity for a young male writer in his 20s to be able to inhabit a female character so well.
It's interesting how modern he might still be.
- I'm sorry we can't get to the rest of the questions 'cause we're out of time, but thank you all for joining us tonight.
For more information on Ken and Lynn's latest documentary, "Hemingway", and to register for upcoming conversations on Hemingway events, visit pbs.org/hemingway.
Hemingway premiers April 5th, sixth and seventh on your local PBS station.
Thanks again so much.