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 Ernest Hemingway Message Boards : General Questions
Subject Topic: Suicide and Wander-Lust: Why?? Post ReplyPost New Topic
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RonPrice
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Posted: 27 March 2006 at 8:43am | IP Logged Quote RonPrice

HEMINGWAY

Ernest Hemingway won a Nobel Prize at the age of 54 in 1954 and at the age of 62, in the twilight of his fame, after hospitalization for depression and alcoholism, he shot himself to death at home in Idaho. I will be 62 in a few months and Hemingway's suicide interested me. My question flows out of Hemingway's bio-data. His suicide seemed to call his work into question and prompted people to cast a cold eye on his own accounts of his life. His autobiographical accounts came to be seen as exaggerated or distorted. His stories were seen as falsifying something about life, about men, women and war. The rapid decline of reputation after the death of a major literary figure is a frequent occurance.

Hemingway was a writer trapped by his own charm and energy, by literary adulation and by alcoholism in a more conspicuous life than he could manage. It was too bad for him that he was a more fascinating person than most. He paid a serious price for that and so did his work, both during his life and after his death. It would seem that his suicide was partly a result of his celebrity status.

Hemingway's impulse was always to escape domestic confinement and to bond with men who, as this account makes clearer than previous biographies have done, often seem to have been sexually attracted to Hemingway. Yet physical love was not what Hemingway wanted from men. It was relations without consequences

"You exchange the pleasant, comforting stench of comrades for something you can never feel in any other way than by yourself." That something was recognizable from the feeling that comes over you "when you write well and truly of something . . . or when you do something which people do not consider a serious occupation and yet you know, truly, that it is as important and has always been as important as all the things that are in fashion." The book's preoccupation with the traffic of machismo -- sex, drinking, hunting -- is tiresome not because it is a preoccupation. This could be a definition of Hemingway's metaphysical provincialism.

''Married domesticity may have seemed to him the desirable culmination of romantic love, but sooner or later he became bored and restless, critical and bullying. The conflict between his yearning to be looked after and his craving for excitement and freedom was never resolved.''

This us a summary of some thoughts I gleaned in the following postings: "Reviews of Biographies of Ernest Hemmingway," The Archives of The New York Times, 1999....

The question that comes out of this is (a) why did he commit suicide and (b) what was the root cause of his wander-lust?

Ron Price

Tasmania

 

 

 

 

 

 



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hijo
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Posted: 27 March 2006 at 11:07am | IP Logged Quote hijo

Ron: welcome to the site.

I have to say I don't think EH made it to his 62nd birthday, having shot himself prior to it.

Which leads me to ask: are you interested in Hemingway's suicide because of the complications of the man's life and writing, or because you're near the age he was?

We can all speculate - and I guess everyone pretty much does - why someone takes their own life. But of course, only they have the answer even if it amounts to "it just seemed like a good idea at the time."

Our shock is at their action, yet it is in a sense the one thing human beings are capable of doing to take God's ultimate power away.

I think personally way too much of post-Hemingway analysis has been done because he killed himself, and not enough has been done about his writing process and how he was able to create a style admired and taught and that pre-dated both the "hard boiled" detective/crime fiction genre and "modern" or "post-modern" fiction that now seems written more like "television for the deaf" - "I walk in the room. It's dark..."

I admire the man as a writer, have disagreed with some of his purported/reported actions as a human being, but acknowledge he was after all human, and sensitive, or he could never have been the artist I believe he truly was -a painter with words. I think he killed himself for the same reason others do: he'd had enough of life, which seems at least much harder on a person than death.

Reminds me often of the scene in Crime & Punishment, when the convict won't march anymore and the guard threatens to shoot him - like it would do anything other than what the convict wants, so the convict starts uncontrollably laughing at the foolish superior attitude of the guard.

Hemingway hoped to live long enough at one point to write "three more novels and several more short stories." It's lookin' like I need to live to be 100. And if I can, in reasonably good health, maybe I'll be a great writer who didn't kill himself?

Because I have to say I don't think killing oneself is any real indication of skill or talent with anything other than weapons and maybe a bit of stealth or intentional deceit to be able to get around to it.

Which isn't to say given a reason, I wouldn't be capable of it. But to have people analyze my work for 100 years doesn't count as a good enough reason to me, when I'm not around to hear the adulation or worse, collect the royalties.

Best,
hijo
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hijo
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Posted: 27 March 2006 at 11:10am | IP Logged Quote hijo

Forgot to address the second part of your question:
Life is the source of wanderlust, speaking as a victim of the same malady. Wanting to know how people are, how the world is.

And having an outlet to express what you've learned, of course -

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hijo
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Paul Hammersten
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Posted: 27 March 2006 at 4:19pm | IP Logged Quote Paul Hammersten

Study confirms hereditary suicide risk
14/10/2002 10:46:00

More evidence suggesting a family history of suicide and psychiatric illness increases the suicide risk among members of the same lineage has emerged in Danish research.

In addition, the study authors from Aarhus University say that the two factors they identified as boosting the chances of suicide act independently and are not influenced by socio-economic status.

Previous research has highlighted a clustering of suicidal behaviour among families, prompting speculation about why families such as that of the US writer Ernest Hemingway had members of four different generations take their lives.

Dr Ping Qin and colleagues wanted to find out whether a family history of mental illness and successful suicide were risk factors for suicide and if the two factors are inter-related.

Using data from four Danish longitudinal registers, the investigators identified 4,262 people who had committed suicide between the ages of nine and 45 and matched them with 80,238 controls.

Those individuals with family history of suicide were two and a half times more likely to commit suicide than those from families with no history of suicide.

A positive family history increased suicide risk regardless of psychiatric illness, although the combination of the two resulted in the greatest likelihood of suicide.

And while a family history of psychiatric illness makes people 50 per cent more likely to kill themselves than those without such a background, it is not as big a risk factor as a personal history of mental health problems, co-author Dr Esben Agerbo told Health Newswire.

Dr Qin said, “The inclusion of familial suicidal history in the assessment of suicide risk is important, even though people with a family history of suicide are only a small proportion of the total number of people who commit suicide.

“Also, the importance of family psychiatric history should not be disregarded, because it can help to identify people vulnerable to mental disorders associated with suicide.”

She added, “These factors might be essential in prevention programmes targeting adolescents and young adults, and might apply to the general population.”

The research is published in the current edition of The Lancet.

© HMG Worldwide 2002

Best

Paul



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RonPrice
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Posted: 27 March 2006 at 7:18pm | IP Logged Quote RonPrice

After making that summary of some personal thoughts and those of several biographers relevant to my own perspectives from those "Reviews of Biographies of Ernest Hemmingway," The Archives of The New York Times, 1999--I felt the need to bounce ideas somewhere and this site seemed a useful one.  I thank you all for your lengthy and detailed responses.  I don't have time to respond right now to each of you, but I thank you for what you have written. Your responses are food for thought. I'll get back here when time permits.-Ron Price, Tasmania.



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Daughter
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Posted: 30 March 2006 at 7:57pm | IP Logged Quote Daughter

Why, why, why???? Wouldn't it be nice if he had left a note. Nah, that wouldn't be his way. I think I've read just about every biography written on the man. Just finished reading the one his son Gregory wrote. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Each one I read gets me feeling closer to, and more understanding of Ernest all the time. I am so glad there is tons of info out there on the man. I don't think he would enjoy all this speculation on his motivation. He'd probably like us to just discuss his work. I can't say in words how this man has helped me. I suffer from depression, a bit of mania too and paranoia at times. I almost feel as if I have a secret friend somewhere who knows exactly how I struggle with living.

I hope he's at Peace wherever he may be,

Gail

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Posted: 01 April 2006 at 9:35pm | IP Logged Quote Paul Hammersten

Hemingway wrote, " To understand another is one of life's richest blessings and to be understood by another is perhaps love's sweetest most satisfying gift ".

Best

Paul



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donmadge
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Posted: 30 April 2006 at 9:38am | IP Logged Quote donmadge

Hemingway probably was a bipolar in addition to being alcoholic.  In order to understand his suicide you have to learn something about bipolar affective disorder and the way it takes over and makes a peculiar brand of alcoholism.

Ancestral suicide may have had a prophetic influence on his terminal behavior.  Who knows? I lost a wife in similar circumstances.  Even in her lengthy suicide note, I find very few clues to her malignant behavior.  Those who may know an answer are closed mouth in guilt and uncertainty themselves.

Don



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Posted: 05 May 2006 at 3:29pm | IP Logged Quote donmadge

As a footnote I was researching events surrounding a Spanish Civil War action in 1938 near Barcelona at a place called Flix.  The Abraham Lincoln and MacKenzie Papineau battalions lost, at Flix,  one of their last engagements before leaving Spain.  An American hero of that day spoke recently  at a commemorative ceremony - he was 90 years old.  He said some rather interesting things about the aftermath of the battle.  They were in connection with the appearance of Hemingway and his coterie of drinking buddies, which included Fuentes, Don Anders  and an unidentified Canadian shortly after the battle.  The American denied getting into a drinking contest with Hemingway.  He said that would have been more suicidal than the engagement.

On a softer note he praised the large turnout of young people and urged them never to carry guns - "Carry flowers"! he said.   Soon after ETA announced the truce in its prolonged reign of terror. 



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Posted: 05 May 2006 at 10:13pm | IP Logged Quote hijo

Don: was that Milton Wolfe who spoke? If so, he's the guy you want to talk to about Wrobes at the time, no?
Last I saw him, his memory was sharp as a tack and he stood ramrod tall as well.

He's the guy Hemingway compared to Abe Lincoln himself.
He used to always be pictured with his collar turned up, his boina (beret) slightly pushed flat in front (showing the muted Brigadista insignia) and a pipe dangling calmly out of his teeth.

Alva Bessie, I believe, was around in Madrid in '96-'97 as well, collecting on Negrin's promise to the Brigadistas. It was all before Dolores Ibarruri - who kind of prompted the call to arms for the Brigades - died. I think the Spanish government of the time hoped most of them were already gone, as the representatives didn't hang around to meet/greet them in the Parliament (Congreso's) gallery. They were informed they'd have 3 years to prove their eligibility to receive the Spanish citizenship promised them, and the document would be sent in the mail. After those that could made their way back to Madrid for the reward the previous (Socialist) government had granted.

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hijo
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