HEMINGWAY VS. STENDHAL, OR PAPA'S LAST FIGHT WITH A DEAD WRITER.
Tracing the development of these oft-repeated analogies between artist and prizefighter may help us better understand the gradual transformation of Hemingway the sensitive, objective artist who in the 1920s had modeled his art on Turgenev's, into the "new" Hemingway of the 1930s and 1940s. This new Hemingway, recalling the youthful Hemingway's passion for literary action heroes like Captain Frederick Marryat, Rudyard Kipling, and Gabriele D'Annunzio, was a self-publicist more skillful than anyone since Lord Byron in developing a heroic persona.
In spite of their outrageous oversimplification of the literary landscape, Hemingway's pugilistic analogies provide at least a rough chronology of his changing literary values and goals, as indicated by the dead authors Hemingway successively brought into the ring with him, beating each one mercilessly before going on to the next.
In a letter to Esquire editor Arnold Gingrich in 1933, Hemingway was already referring to his story "The Light of the World" as a whore story as good as or better than Maupassant's "Maison Tellier" (SL 393). Was he already thinking about Maupassant as a dead writer he may have beaten, albeit not with a knockout blow? Be that as it may, in 1935 he began to stress the importance of living authors challenging dead masters with literary reputations that had stood the test of time: "What a writer in our time has to do is to write what hasn't been written before or beat dead men at what they have done. The only way he can tell how he is going is to compete with dead men" (quoted in Meyers, Hemingway 464). By July 19 47 he was advising William Faulkner to follow the Hemingway method of achieving literary success: "You should always write your best against dead writers ... and beat them one by one. Why do you want to fight Dostoevsky in your first fight? Beat Turgenieff--which we both did soundly.... Then nail yourself DeMaupassant.... Then try and take Stendhal" (SL 624).
In September 19 49, writing to Scribner once again, he reported that he had beaten Maupassant as well as Turgenev, and that he had fought "another dead character": "I tried for Mr. Turgenieff first and it wasn't too hard. Tried for Mr. Maupassant ... and it took four of the best stories to beat him. He's beaten and if he was around he would know it. Then I tried for another guy ... and think I fought a draw with him. This other dead character" (SL 673). Two months later, in his famous interview with Lillian Ross, the one draw had become two, and the dead character with whom he fought was identified: "'I started out very quiet and I beat Mr. Turgenev. Then I trained hard and I beat Mr. de Maupassant. I've fought two draws with Mr. Stendhal, and I think I had the edge in the last one'" (quoted in Ross 35).
Instead of looking for some criterion of excellence that might explain the successive targets of Hemingway's literary pugilism, perhaps we need to recognize that his choices of Turgenev, Maupassant, and Stendhal as successive sparring partners might best be explained by Hemingway's changing conception of the role of narrator and author in his own writing. From this point of view, Maupassant Would serve as a transitional figure between the almost invisible presence of the author Turgenev in his A Sportsman's Sketches and the romantic, center-stage presence of Stendhal's persona, somewhat disguised, in The Red and the Black. Critics find in Turgenev qualities which may also have appealed to Hemingway in the 1920s--a "disinterested opening up to life" and "a constant self effacement" (Wilkinson 31; Hare 68). What one finds in Maupassant--and in Hemingway's great stories of the early and mid-1930s--is the illusion of objective reality, with the personality and motives of the author hidden so skillfully as to preserve the appearance of total aloofness (Sherard 267).
By way of sharp contrast, Stendhal, like Hemingway in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) and Across the River and into the Trees (1950), projects his personality into his narratives, especially but not exclusively through the protagonist. As Robert Adams has noted, "None of the books of Stendhal is very much like any of the others; yet, paradoxically, each of them is pervaded by his personality, and none of them could conceivably have been written by anyone else" (23). Joanna Richardson finds this romantic identification of the author with the protagonist especially evident in Julien Sorel, hero of The Red and the Black, the Stendhal novel which Hemingway most admired. Even though the story was based on a crime reported in a newspaper, "Julien does not only personify certain qualities and ideals, a persistent theme in the author's mind: he is, very largely, [Stendhal] himself" (225). Stendhal's persona even invades the narrative framework of his fiction: "The elusive but haunting presence of Beyle-Stendhal in the world of the novel is then to be assumed; and his constant intrusion.., confirms that strangely double situation by which the events of the novel take place inside his mind while he himself appears within the framework of the fiction" (Adams 69). Similarly Colonel Richard Cantwell--protagonist, Hemingway persona, and ostensible subject of Across the River and into the Trees--invades the narrative framework by means of interior monologue disguised as omniscient third person narration, as Lisca has pointed out (236).
As Stendhal's critics have noted, however, The Red and the Black is not merely a novel of personal experience, but of personal experience unfolding moment by moment in the context of contemporary history, as indicated by its subtitle, "Chronique du xixe siecle," with "Chronique de 1830," the year of the novel's publication, as the heading for its opening section (Keates 334). In For Whom the Bell Tolls and Across the River and into the Trees Hemingway emulates boldly and more or less successfully some of these recurrent features of Stendhal's writing.
In effect, as Hemingway moved from modeling his-art first on Turgenev, then on Maupassant, and later on Stendhal, he was gradually moving away from the objective art which had fascinated him in the 1920s, toward more sophisticated versions of the Captain Marryat stories of personal adventure he had read in childhood and which he was still praising in the 1930s. What Joseph Conrad said of Marryat's novels might equally be applied to Hemingway's fiction of the late 1930s and the 1940s: "`His novels are not the outcome of his art, but of his character'" (quoted in Spilka 72).
Though Hemingway kept mentioning the sequence of the three contests he was fighting with dead writers, he was not very forthcoming about their chronology. There seems to be consensus that in the 1920 s Turgenev was a major if not the dominant influence on Hemingway. He read Turgenev's A Sportsman's Sketches at least five times between 1925 and 1929 (Wilkinson 27), and Mark Spilka believes the Russian work was particularly influential on the composition of In Our Time (1925), "a collection of ironic, deadpan tales...which roughly matches Turgenev's A Sportsman's Sketches, in design and manner" (66).
Hemingway's June 1933 letter to Arnold Gingrich boasting that he had equaled or bested Maupassant's "Maison Tellier" with his own whore story may suggest that the contest with Turgenev was finished before the completion Of "The Light of the World" in 1932, and that the fight with Maupassant had begun (SL 393). His 1949 letter to Scribner states that it "took four of the best stories [including "The Light of the World"] to beat Maupassant. Hemingway does not indicate what the other three stories might be. Even so, one may plausibly speculate that three stories composed after "The Light of the World" between 1932 and 1936, may be the ones he had in mind: "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" Among the stories written between 1932 and 1939, by which time the contest with Maupassant had been won to Hemingway's satisfaction and he was writing his great novel of the Spanish Civil War in emulation of Stendhal's The Red and the Black, these three stand head and shoulders above most of the rest in quality, as both Hemingway and his peers recognized. Despite their submerged, subjective, autobiographical content, they also manifest the cool, apparently detached observation of human nature that Maupassant achieved in his best stories.
"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," written in the fall of 1932 several months after "The Light of the World" and similarly replete with imagery of darkness and light, resembles Maupassant's beautifully crafted "Garcon, un Bock!... "in its use of an urban cafe setting, the first story being located in a Spanish city, probably Madrid, and the second in Paris. Both stories have a leitmotif of nihilism. In Hemingway's tale, despair comes late in an old man's life along with deafness, the loss of a mate, and loneliness. In Maupassant's story, despair arrives early with a sudden childhood revelation of parental adultery, hatred, and violence. In both stories the response of the afflicted protagonist is steady, self-destructive drinking in a cafe. There he can observe around him the life in which he cannot participate, the life that keeps at bay thoughts of suicide and of the actual or symbolic darkness outside.
Hemingway's telling of his tale, with its narrator effaced, is even more objective than Maupassant's. The French author's thirty-something narrator happens to sit down in a tavern next to an old school friend, Count Jean des Barrets, whom he has not seen for years. The Count, initially unrecognizable because of his degenerate look, his filthy body, and his ill-fitting clothes, nevertheless recognizes and speaks to the narrator:. Gradually the Count's story unfolds, mostly in the form of dialogue between him and the spellbound narrator, much as the old man s story unfolds through conversation between the older and younger waiter.
The second story, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" with its wealthy hunting party on safari in Africa, is far removed from the bourgeois French setting of most Maupassant stories. Nevertheless, "Macomber's" unorthodox treatment of masculine cowardice and cuckoldry recalls--with an important difference--Maupassant's obsessive treatment of these themes in more than thirty stories, but perhaps most memorably in "Monsieur Parent" Hemingway's cowardly cuckold, eventually transformed into a fire-eating, woman-terrifying hunter, contrasts sharply with Monsieur Parent. Maupassant's cool protagonist, worm of a cuckold to the end, twice gathers the strength to rage at his wife and her lover, but finally lacks the courage to take revenge on them. Unlike Macomber, Parent is at best pathetic, and at worst contemptible, remaining to the end the weak dupe of his wife and her lover. Challenging Maupassant on his home ground, so to speak, Hemingway in "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" employs the surprise ending which had become Maupassant's literary signature in America on the basis of such tales as "The Necklace." Hemingway's cuckold not only develops courage along with machismo near the story's end, but, in a second twist, is shot by his wife Margot.
The third story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" without developing a recognizable or recurrent Maupassant theme, nevertheless Challenges the French master's surprise endings even more boldly, with its apparently happy ending turning tragic in the last few lines when we realize that Harry's realistically described rescue by plane from Kilimanjaro has been instead Harry's vision of his imminent death, not recognized by him as such. Death comes to him finally, not in the terrifying shape of a skull or a hyena, but in the form of a friendly, chatty airplane pilot named Compie wearing "slacks, a tweed jacket and a brown felt hat" (SS 75). It may be worth noting that "Snows" was originally entitled "The Happy Ending" a title which perhaps too obviously telegraphed the story's final, ironic twist (SI, 4 43- 45 ]). In these three stories, and perhaps in "The Light of the World" as well, a good case can be made for Hemingway's "victory" over Maupassant.
Although recent scholars and critics with the exception of Jack Jobst and W. J, Williamson appear to have largely ignored the influence of Maupassant on Hemingway, such has not been the case with Stendhal (52-61). Stendhal's influence on Hemingway is more controversial. Robert O. Stephens assumes that the major period of Stendhal's influence on Hemingway was from the composition of A Farewell to Arms in 1928 to the composition of For Whom the Bell Tolls in 1939-40. He maintains that the major work of Stendhal influencing Hemingway, especially in A Farewell to Arms, was The Charterhouse of Parma, with its masterful account Of Fabrizio del Dongo's retreat from Waterloo with . the French army. According to Stephens, The Charterhouse was not only the immediate source of Hemingway's description of the retreat from Caporetto, but also the matrix of A Farewell to Arms. Stephens's conclusion regarding the influence of Fabrizio's retreat on Frederic Henry's is supported by Hemingway's recently published letter to Charles Scribner of 14 February 1929: "The episode [of the Caporetto retreat in A Farewell to Arms]... differs from conventional descriptions of a retreat in much the same way as Stendhal's, account of Waterloo differs from conventional accounts of battles" (in Bruccoli 89).
While Stephens's argument for Stendhal's influence on the Caporetto retreat is quite convincing, his suggestion that The Charterhouse is the matrix of A Farewell to Arms, with the protagonist of each novel transformed "from a man initially unable to love because he has no religious belief to one Who loves and believes passionately and finds his destiny in his identity as a believer," seems to fit Fabrizio much better than Frederic (Abstract of Stephens 197). Although Hemingway reportedly said in 1937 that Stendhal's account of Waterloo "'was the best, deceptively casual description of war in literature'" (quoted in Mellow 503-4), he had also written in 1932 that "Stendhal was a great writer with one good book--Le Rouge et le Noir--some fine parts of La Chartreuse de Parme (wonderful) but much of it tripe and the rest junk" ($L 366).
Given Hemingway's condescending if not contemptuous view of the structure of The Charterhouse, it is hard to imagine how it could possibly have become "the matrix" of A Farewell to Arms, as Stephens suggests. In that novel, the character and exploits of Frederic Henry, although resembling Hemingway s own in many respects, lack the transparent subjectivity of Stendhal's in The Charterhouse of Parma. Frederic Henry has a melancholy, brooding, philosophical temperament quite different from Hemingway's arrogant, combative persona.
Moreover, although Stephens quotes one of Hemingway's statements about his successive challenges to Turgenev, Maupassant, and Stendhal, always listed in that order, Stephens ignores the implied chronology of these contests, which would place Hemingway's two challenges to Stendhal some months or years after his challenges to Maupassant, which began about 1932. If this chronology is accepted, then it would appear that For Whom the Bell Tolls (1939-40), identified by Stephens as the second Hemingway novel challenging Stendhal, was actually the first, while his next novel, Across the River and into the Trees, composed in 1949, was the second. Although according to Michael Reynolds, Hemingway appears to have read The Red and the Black in French by 1927, and much earlier in English, his first published letter praising Stendhal's great novel was not written until 1932, as noted above (19). Therefore it is hardly surprising that scholars to date, including Stephens, have found no evidence of any special influence of The Red and the Black, Stendhal's companion novel to The Charterhouse of Parma, on the composition of A Farewell to Arms in 1928--29.
The evidence that For Whom the Bell Tolls and Across the River and into the Trees were the first and second novels, respectively, which Hemingway wrote in competition with Stendhal, can be summarized as follows. In the summer of 1949 Hemingway was evidently becoming convinced that the novel he was working on, Across the River and into the Trees, would be one of the best he had written, if not the best. In August he wrote Scribner: "In regard to the new medium sized book I want you to get it into the Book of Month Club and start chopping down trees for the paper now. If it isn't good you can hang me by the neck until dead.... I'm hitting around .430 writing and I am only a consistent .300 hitter" (SL 667-68). Such a book would seem to be a likely candidate for a match with some dead author, yet there is no indication here that Hemingway was engaged in such a contest. However, three months later, in his November interview with Lillian Ross, Hemingway refers to "having fought two draws with Mr. Stendhal" (35). The "second draw" here seems inescapably to be to the nearly completed manuscript of Across the River and into the Trees, while in all, probability the first was For Whom the Bell Tolls--the only other novel Hemingway wrote between A Farewell to Arms and Across the River and into the Trees was To Have and Have Not, a critical failure published in 1937 in an edition of only about 10,000 copies (Baker, Writer as Artist 352).
Consequently, although Across the River and into the Trees had not yet been published to receive its anticipated accolades, Hemingway felt free to make public allusion to this latest match and to tout himself once again as its possible winner. In the same interview with Ross, Hemingway includes The Red and The Black, right after two of Maupassant's stories, near the top of a list of great works for aspiring novelists to read (18). The Charterhouse of Parma is not on this list, suggesting that Hemingway perceived himself as in the ring with The Red and the Black.
Assuming now that For Whom the Bell Tolls, and not A Farewell to Arms, was Hemingway's first full-scale challenge to Stendhal and that Across the River and into the Trees was his second, we need to consider the main respects in which these novels resemble and differ from Stendhal's. One thing that was truly distinctive about Stendhal, besides the vivid, charismatic force of his personality, was his capacity to project that personality onto his characters. Thus in The Red and the Black the plot involving Julien Sore! becomes the story of Stendhal himself. Like Stendhal, Sorel loathed his father and his humble birth, and changed his name to M. Le Chevalier de La Vernaye, as Stendhal changed his from Marie-Henri Beyle to the pseudonym Stendhal (preferably preceded by the title "Baron"), in an attempt to the escape the indignity, of his birth (Richardson 228).
In sharp contrast to A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls might well serve as a model for successful application of Stendhal's approach to novel writing. The Red and the Black was inspired by the recent trial of a disenchanted priest guillotined for shooting his former mistress in church. Hemingway, in writing For Whom the Bell Tolls, was also inspired by recent events and actual persons, finding inspiration for his protagonist, Robert Jordan, in Major Robert Merriman (1912?-38), the American leader of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion in the Spanish Civil War (Eby 381-83; Martin 59-63; Merriman and Lerude 132-33).
In addition to providing a historical dimension to his novel, Hemingway, like Stendhal before him, endows his protagonist with his own characteristics, including his "red, black killing anger," his propensity for romantic entanglements, his youthful ambition to write a book "only about the things he knew, truly," and his family history of heroic military service tainted by suicide (248). He even assigns Jordan a lightly mocking allusion to Hemingway's Celebrated quarrel with Gertrude Stein: "`An onion is an onion is an onion,' Robert Jordan said cheerily and, he thought, a stone is a stein is a rock is a boulder is a pebble" (289). This fusion of Hemingway's own persona with the character of Jordan Merriman not only works, but actually enriches the novel, even as Stendhal had enriched The Red and the Black more than a century earlier by the same method. A key to the success of both authors may be the balance and tension achieved between the ostensible protagonist and the persona of the author himself. The reader never feels that one dominates or betrays the other. Instead, they work together almost magically.
In Across the River and into the Trees Hemingway also employed a Stendhalian approach to composition, but in spite of his high hopes for the new book, it turned out to be a critical disaster. He never again indulged, so far as I can discover, in boastful comparisons with Stendhal or other dead authors. Yet one is left wondering what went wrong with the method of literary emulation that proved so successful in For Whom the Bell Tolls but which led only `to abysmal failure in Across the River and into the Trees. Perhaps in writing Across the River and into the Trees, Hemingway carried the method of Stendhal to such extremes that the Hemingway persona came to dominate that of the ostensible protagonist, Colonel Richard Cantwell, leaving the reader to wonder whether Hemingway or Cantwell is the true subject of the novel. The problematic nature of the novel is heightened by the author's strange decision not to dramatize the central event of the novel, Cantwell's loss of his regiment, as Hemingway had dramatized the blowing up of the bridge in For Whom the Bell Tolls. His own explanation, that he didn't wish merely to repeat the formula for success he had followed in For Whom the Bell Tolls, and that Across the River and into the Trees was a more sophisticated work "`all done with three-cushion shots," raises more questions than it answers (quoted in Breit 14).
In Across the River and into the Trees, as in For Whom the Bell Tolls, the author picked a military protagonist, in this case an imaginative composite of two army officers. The first was Eric Edward (Chink) Dorman-Smith (1895-1969), Hemingway's brilliant, unorthodox British army friend from World War I. A career officer and a captain when Hemingway met him in 1918, Dorman-Smith rose rapidly to brigadier general, which rank he still held at the beginning of World war II. In 1942 he was unjustly blamed for a major British Army defeat at Gazala in North Africa. Following his disgrace, Dorman-Smith was for a time demoted to colonel, and two years later, angered by an unfavorable report on his new command in Italy, he took early retirement in the middle of the war (Meyers, "Chink Dorman-Smith" 319-20; Meyers, Hemingway 470-77).
The second model for Cantwell was Colonel (later General) Charles "Buck" Lanham (1902-78), commander of the 22nd regiment of the 4th American Infantry Division in Europe, whom Hemingway, acting as a journalist for Collier's, met in France on 28 July 1944. Hemingway and Lanham soon developed a great camaraderie. In the course of that summer and fall Hemingway participated with Lanham as military strategist, venerable warrior, and drinking companion in the regimental thrust through France into Germany. He was with Lanham in early December when his exhausted regiment was decimated at the Battle of Hurtgen Forest (Baker, Life 438; Beistle 4,14). Like Dorman-Smith, Lanham suffered terrible losses, but unlike the British officer, Lanham was not disgraced, in the year following Hurtgen Forest, he was promoted from colonel to brigadier and later to major-general (Baker, Life 448; Meyers, "Chink Dorman Smith" 315).
Like Buck Lanham, Colonel Richard Cantwell, the protagonist of Across the River and into the Trees, is an American. Like Dorman-Smith, Cantwell is a retired veteran of both World Wars. Suffering from advanced heart disease, literally as well as symbolically, he is deeply and understandably embittered by his unjust demotion from brigadier to colonel after the loss of his World War II regiment in Germany--ironically, a loss blamed on him because he followed "like a dog" the foolish orders of his superiors, as the army requires (242). In fusing the American and British officers, Hemingway dearly follows the aftermath of Dorman-Smith's defeat, rather than Lanham's severe losses followed by promotion.
On his sentimental last journey to Venice, Cantwell goes duck hunting and engages in the wouldn't-it-be-nice courtship of a nineteen year old countess, whom he regales with war stories leading up to the grim tale of his disgrace and demotion. After indulging himself for a time in the sensuous, historical, and architectural pleasures of Venice, he puts the most pressing of his earthly affairs in order. Not until then does he regain a sufficient measure of serenity to "die well" of a heart attack, or, in the historic last words of General "Stonewall" Jackson, quoted in the novel, to "cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees" (ARIT 307).
Hemingway's infusion of his own personality and experience into that of his protagonist can be readily illustrated. Cantwell, like Hemingway in 1949, is 5 o years of age, with an irascibility and hot temper like his. Cantwell, like Hemingway, was seriously wounded in the right knee near Fossalta in 1918, and has a young admirer named Renata who dines with him at the Hotel Gritti Palace, where Hemingway lunched with his beloved Adriana Ivancich (1930-83) in April 1949. Cantwell is a connoisseur of fine Italian wines, extra dry martinis, lobster, and steak, and has a bad eye like Hemingway's. Also like Hemingway, he has loved and lost three women, with one, recently divorced, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Hemingway's third wife, Martha Gellhorn, and so on ad infinitum, until one suspects that the only significant difference between Cantwell and Hemingway may be that Cantwell lost three battalions along with his three women, and Hemingway did not (Meyers, Hemingway 440). Yet the novel is ostensibly about the heroic Cantwell's lamentable disgrace and demotion in the American army during World War II, a story it is hard if not impossible to reconcile with the superimposed, self-indulgent story of Hemingway in Venice, which invades the Cantwell story and eventually obfuscates it.
Besides emulating Stendhal's extensive use of personal experience in fiction and close identification of his own persona with that of his protagonist, Hemingway like Stendhal establishes a context for the events in Across the River and into the Trees even more contemporary than in For Whom the Bell Tolls. In doing so he may have been attempting to create, as Stendhal did so successfully, the illusion of life unfolding vividly in the present, or nearly in the present. Whereas in For Whom the Bell Tolls Hemingway began writing in March 1939 a fictional account of events that took place in 1937, two years earlier, in Across the River and into the Trees he wrote, beginning in the spring of 1949, a story set no earlier than November 1948, and possibly as late as April 1949 (Meyers, Hemingway 337). Perhaps inspired his first meeting with Adriana Ivancich after a duck hunting trip Hemingway took in early December 1948 to marshes northeast of Venice, Across the River and into the Trees began as a hunting story in April 1949, began to take shape as a novel by June, and was essentially complete by December, just one year after his first meeting with Adriana (Baker, Life 472).
The novel's nearly contemporary setting and its historical context are established by its mock-serious allusion to the confiscation of the personal property of Italian industrialist Giulio Brusadelli (1878-1962), who by underhanded dealing had established a cotton manufacturing monopoly that destabilized markets in Italy. The Italian newspapers reported extensively on this scandal in October, November, and December 1948, when Hemingway was in Italy. His response in the novel was to create a mythical order of knighthood, "El Ordine Militar... de Brusadelli," whose leader is Brusadelli and whose Supreme Commander is Colonel Richard Cantwell. Alluding to this peculiar order, the Gran Maestro of the Hotel, also a member, reports to Cantwell that "our leader, Himself, is in trouble. They have confiscated everything he owns. Or at any rate they have intervened" (270). Because it was not until early November 1948 that Brusadelli's personal property, worth millions, was impounded, this allusion, as Miriam Mandel argues, means that the novel is set in November or later, closer to the time of composition than previously thought (336). Indeed the vague, problematical chronology supplied by the Gran Maestro near the novel's end, that the next Saturday--a "movable feast"--is "A Paques ou a la Trinite" (with Easter coming on 17 April and Trinity Sunday on 12 June in 1949) may suggest that the duck hunt in the novel takes place not in November but several months later, on an unusually cold, icy Sunday in early April, probably April lo (certainly not June), with flashbacks to the two days spent in Venice immediately preceding the hunt (273).(1)
In addition to these references, the narrator of Across the River and into the Trees introduces a host of allusions to recent history leading up to the approximate time of composition, in the manner of Stendhal establishing a contemporaneous French historical context for his protagonist Sorel. Among the events alluded to are the disastrous attempt in January 1944 by the U.S. Army's 36th division to cross the heavily defended Rapido River in south central Italy; and the decimation of the 22nd regiment of the 4th American Infantry division, commanded by Lanham, at Hurtgen Forest late in the same year (Meredith 62).
Cantwell also invokes recent American military and political history by alluding to a number of World War II generals, Such as "Lightning Joe" Lawton Collins, Walter Bedell Smith, Patton, Stilwell, Bradley, and Eisenhower--and, with the utmost contempt, to President Truman. As W. Craig Turner has noted, "Hemingway incorporates more allusion into [Across the River and into the Trees] than into any of his other novels" (194). Consistent with the proposition that Hemingway's emulation of Stendhal led him to "historicize" his novel in the context of 1948-49, Brenner notes that the "most conspicuous but most ignored feature" of Across the River and into the Trees is "its mixture of fiction and nonfiction.... Hemingway never dramatizes the actual people Cantwell Cites" but uses them as "a form of historical shorthand." Brenner has counted as many as sixty actual people referred to in the novel (153, 157-58).
For Cantwell, the novel's contemporary time is a time of testing as well as renewal. Although he has amply demonstrated his courage and steadfastness in war, he has yet to quench his thirst for the beauty, refinement, friendship, and love that Venice offers, and of which war has long deprived him. In his last days he must also struggle to overcome the irascibility and hot temper which have plagued his relationships with his subordinates, and with his friends, wives and lovers. In his own words, "I should be a better man with less wild boar blood in the small time which remains" (65). Only after he has revived and gratified his aesthetic sensibility to the full, as he does on his last visit to a Venetian market, and grappled manfully if not successfully with his moral defects, is he finally prepared to die (190-93).
Even though Across the River and into the Trees achieves nothing like the success of his first novel written in emulation of Stendhal, it provides fascinating insights into Hemingway the man, who, like Byron before him, had become almost the whole subject of his art. No applied theory of composition, certainly not Stendhal's, could save this art from the bloated ego Hemingway had developed, unless he could somehow develop a more realistic awareness of his common humanity as well as his genius. His next major work, The Old Man and the Sea, provides evidence that such an almost miraculous revision of the self did take place. The novella's protagonist, the common yet exceptional Cuban fisherman Santiago, had obvious parallels with Hemingway, but by no stretch of the imagination could be confused with Hemingway himself. The Old Man and the Sea, moreover, was composed without benefit of any vainglorious references to prizefights with dead authors. By the time of its composition in January and February 19 51, Hemingway must have decided that the celebrity achieved by publicly defeating the dead author of one's choice was outweighed by the risk of having that dead author rise up.and defeat you, as Stendhal had beaten Hemingway on the rematch. In retrospect one can only be glad that the harsh critical reception of Across the River and into the Trees shocked and humbled Hemingway into setting his gigantic ego aside to make room once again for his remarkable talent.
1. On the novel's chronology and Christian symbolism, involving death and rebirth associated with Easter weekend, see also Lisca (248).
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PAUL W. MILLER Wittenberg University
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|Author:||MILLER, PAUL W.|
|Publication:||The Hemingway Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1999|
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