Intellect is seductive ……. and is equally eager to be seduced. Women are drawn to intelligent men. It is equally true that when these men get out of their own intensely thoughtful heads, have sought women like much-needed tonic. ——- ever younger, more beautiful, doting and appreciative. After the initial charm wears off, they have changed women, seeking to stay on the high which the initial flush of love brings. This keeps the ego sated and, of course, it keeps the ideas coming.
One such giant of English Literature, Ernest Hemingway (July21, 1899 — July2, 1961) lived life to the fullest on his own terms, indulging every whim, courting danger and flirting with death ——– be it on the battle-fields of two World Wars, the bullfighting arena of Spain, the jungles of Africa, his regular trysts with the sea or two plane crashes on successive days. Ironically he escaped these deadly arenas, and finally met death in his own home foyer on his own terms, by blowing his brains out with his favourite shotgun. Tis last tale was the only tale he did not live to tell, the only experience he could not share.
Hemingway’s dangerous living is explained in his words from Paula McCain’s book —– The Paris Wife. Talking of the bullfighting in Pamplona, Spain, Hemingway say to his 1st wife —- Hadley Richardson, “The torero has to know he is dying and the bull has to know it, so when it’s pulled away at the last second, it’s like a kind of magic. That’s really living.” Hemingway was a cocktail of contradictions, as history’s most interesting human beings are. He loved with a passion that saw nothing wrong in chasing many women at the same time, and hated with a vengeance that saw nothing wrong in ridiculing and harming those who supported him on his upward journey. He was a man who was scared of death and yet courted her repeatedly; one who built a heroic myth around himself, yet was scared to sleep with the lights off. One who needed his space and solitude and yet could not bear to be alone.
Hadley, who probably loved him best of all four wives, says of him, “He was such an enigma —— fine and strong and weak and cruel. An incomparable friend and a son of a bitch. In the end, there wasn’t one thing about him that was truer than the rest. It was all true.” —– For Hemingway, life was about honing his art of writing and gaining popularity. Hadley was eight years older to him, and was credited with grounding and encouraging the young Hemingway till he found his feet in the wetlands of literary Paris. Within 5yrs of marriage and a son, Hemingway started an affair with Pauline Pfeiffer, Hadley’s best friend. He married Pauline in 1927 and had two sons with her. Then in 1936, he fell for Martha Gellhorn, a war journalist and author ——- almost cast in his own mould. It was a foregone conclusion that this union wouldn’t last as Hemingway could never stand competition. Within 4yrs, he started living with is 4th and last spouse Mary Welsh. In his memoir —- A Moveable Feast, he says about his 1st wife, Hadley, “I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her.” —Martha, the wife who hated him most, said of him, “A man must be a very great genius to make up for being such a loathsome human being.”
Hemingway was indeed a tormented man when he died. His own father had committed suicide, as did close 5 relatives. He once said, “About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” The mental torture and his unending compulsion to be liked and applauded, created the myth of an invincible Papa Hemingway, who ultimately died as he lived and loved —— by his own rules.
—Vinita Dawra Nangia