Every moment that time zips and flies and dips and runs away we become the habits within that movement. Daily, hourly, and minutely we become our choices; living without intention we often become so unrecognizable because every decision shapes our character. Without direction, morals, or love we become a reflection of our fears, inhibitions, and anxieties. A reality is sacrificed with every decision, whether we choose ice cream or mangoes, working on our craft or a night out, or being stuck between two lovers. Hemingway On Lost Love displays a vulnerable side of Hemingway never seen.
Each choice, or lack of, defines our reality. We lose ourselves attempting to live life without making the necessary choices required for spiritual maturity. While in a psych ward, reflecting of his life with longtime friend A.E Hotchner, Ernest Hemingway reflected on his inability to make a decision that resulted in him losing the love of his life. For the man that fails to choose between two women he eventually loses them both, Ernest Hemingway was a man afflicted with double love. At various points in our lives we may suffer the ailment of having to tell someone that we can’t choose them. During a conversation with Josephine Baker, Ernest Hemingway speaks about the state of his soul saying:
‘”I fear for my soul,’ I told her. ‘Either way I go, I hurt one of my ladies, and that’s bad for my soul.
“Those black days,” he said, shaking his head. “I marked them off my calendar the way a convict marks his. The nights were particularly bad, but some places helped take my mind off them. One of them was Le Jockey, a classy nightclub in Montparnasse—wonderful jazz, great black musicians who were shut out in the States but welcomed in Paris. One of those nights, I couldn’t take my eyes off a beautiful woman on the dance floor—tall, coffee skin, ebony eyes, long, seductive legs: Very hot night, but she was wearing a black fur coat. The woman and I introduced ourselves.
“Her name was Josephine Baker, an American, to my surprise. Said she was about to open at the Folies Bergère, that she’d just come from rehearsal.
“I asked why the fur on a warm night in June. She slid open her coat for a moment to show she was naked. ‘I just threw something on,’ she said; ‘we don’t wear much at the Folies. Why don’t you come? I’m headlining as the ebony goddess.’ She asked if I was married. I said I was suspended, that there were two women, one my wife, and neither wanted to compromise.
“‘We should talk,’ she said. She’d once had a situation like that.
“I spent that night with Josephine, sitting at her kitchen table, drinking champagne sent by an admirer. I carried on nonstop about my trouble, analyzing, explaining, condemning, justifying, mostly bullshit. Josephine listened, intense, sympathetic; she was a hell of a listener. She said she, too, had suffered from double love.
“The rest of that night, into dawn, we talked about our souls, how I could convince my soul that despite my rejection of one of these women and inflicting hurt on her, it shouldn’t reject me.”
“So, Papa,” I asked, “what happened when the hundred days ended? ”
“The end started on the seventy-first day that I marked off my calendar. I was having a drink at the Dingo Bar. I was using the Dingo as my mail drop, and on this night the bartender handed me my accumulated mail. My breath caught in my throat. Why would Hadley write to me? I dreaded opening it. ‘Dear Ernest,’ Hadley’s handwriting, only a few lines. It said although thirty days short of the time she had set, she had decided to grant me the divorce I obviously wanted. She was not going to wait any longer for my decision, which she felt was obvious.
It may be a lack of maturity or inability to rise to the occasion or the tendency to allow our past to continually damage our present, but sometimes we lose the love of our lives. Maybe the fault of our species, but we seem to forget the value of people until they have become memories. Until one day we are forced to develop new routines, hopes, and perspectives from the absence of their body. Hemingway became numb after losing the love of his life; he reflected on the emotional stagnation that came from hoping the everything would work itself out. However, the recognition of sorrow is necessary for the healing of our heart; the universe chose Ernest Hemingway’s fate. He did what all great artists are meant to do, and put his sorrow, heartbreak, and despair into his art saying:
They are not sorrows, so much as terrible things. There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it. The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places. The rain will stop, the night will end, the hurt will fade. Hope is never so lost that it can’t be found. Love was the greatest thing, wasn’t it? Love was what we had that no one else had or could ever have? And you were a genius and I was your whole life. I was your partner and your little black flower. Slop.
Love is half catheters and half whirling douches. I know about love. Love always hangs up behind the bathroom door. It smells like lysol. To hell with love. Love is you making me happy and then going off to sleep with your mouth open while I lie awake all night afraid to say my prayers even because I know I have no right to say anymore. All right. I’m through with you and I’m through with love. Your kind of picknose love.
Beneath the macho persona of the writer “who roams the earth looking for adventure,” Ernest Hemingway was a deeply conflicted human being, a now familiar observation which this memoir from friend and biographer Hotchner (Papa Hemingway) proves yet again. From notes, recordings, and memories of their conversations, Hotchner presents an account of Hemingway’s reminiscences, mostly from 1954 and 1955. Nearing the end of his life and shaken by living through two recent plane crashes, Hemingway On Lost Love looks back, observing, “Loving two women at the same time is the worst affliction a man can have.”
In his own words (as reconstructed by Hotchner), we see a young writer in Paris, on the cusp of fame, torn between his first wife, Hadley, and a wealthy Southern flapper, Pauline Pfeiffer. Despite F. Scott Fitzgerald’s injunction to make up his mind, Hemingway vacillated between the two women, until Hadley chose for him. Their divorce allowed for his marriage to Pauline, which also proved unhappy. Though Hemingway is less mentally and physically healthy each time he meets with Hotchner, his stories remain just as compelling. The result is a portrait of triumphant highs, melancholic lows, and the pervading tone of the subject’s generation—a human being’s love lost. Continue reading Alain De Botton on meaning.