Monday, August 17, 2015

Author, Interrupted

It was the second of July in the year 1961, and Ernest Hemingway was famous. He was a well-loved, bestselling American novelist and one of the world's most celebrated storytellers. This is why so many people cannot fathom why Hemingway woke from his bed that morning at 7, walked to his storage room and took out a shotgun. He placed the barrel of the gun against his forehead, and fired. It was a tragic ending to the story of an adored author.


The Hemingway Curse

At first, his wife claimed the gunshot was accidental. He'd been cleaning the weapon, she said. Finally, she admitted that she believed he had intentionally killed himself. It didn't make any sense. Hemingway was larger than life. He was a world traveler, a bullfighter, a hunter of big game, a man's man and an amazing writer. Why would such a man end it all when he was so successful and so admired by the world?






Biographers and others have spent years studying his life, trying to unravel the mystery that was Hemingway. A man of many hobbies and multiple marriages, he was a self-professed heavy drinker and seemed driven toward danger his entire life. He was known to be irritable and have terrible mood swings. He threw relationships away and started new ones.

Looking back, it seems that he was never satisfied with anything. He moved from marriage to marriage, obsession to obsession, and seemed to trying to wring everything he could out of life. Maybe he was looking for happiness instead.

Some psychiatrists now believe that Hemingway suffered from a number of psychological problems, including intense depression and bipolar disorder. In looking back, many have believed that his family has strong tendencies toward manic depression.

And in 1960, Hemingway was depressed. He was unable to write and soon became intensely paranoid. He couldn't even bring himself to write just one sentence for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy when asked. He was treated for his condition with horrifying electro-shock therapy, and was stopped in at least one suicide attempt before he ended his life.

In the years since, other members of the Hemingway family have taken their own lives. Many have speculated that a curse hangs over the family. But the facts don’t support supernatural causes in his death -- they clearly point toward great emotional distress. In short, Hemingway was unhappy. He was unhappy with himself, deeply so, and spent his life chasing something that he, apparently, never found.

It’s easy to romanticize such a man, especially after reading his amazing words. It’s easy to say that he was brilliant, and his emotional disturbance helped him tap into a form of creativity otherwise unachievable. Maybe all that stuff is true, in fact. But if he was given a choice, Hemingway might have chosen not to be a famous storyteller. He might have simply picked being happy instead.

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