Posts Tagged ‘Zygmunt Malinowski’

With author Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt on the Baltic: “Literature teaches us how elaborate and intricate the human heart is.”

Saturday, November 16th, 2019
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Sopot on the Baltic. Czesław Miłosz Square at left. (All photos by Zygmunt Malinowski)

Our New York City based reporter/photographer Zygmunt Malinowski reports on literary events from Sopot, a city on the Baltic Coast. (Czesław Miłosz lived there at war’s end – Zygmunt documented that history here.) Our correspondent wrote to us earlier this fall, so we’re late getting this summertime post up. But on the brink of winter now, maybe it’s time to imagine yourself in the warm summer breezes off the sea… listening to a conversation with a writer not much discussed on this side of the Atlantic. (All photographs copyright Zygmunt Malinowski, of course.)

Schmitt with interviewer Katarzyna Janowska and translator

Summer on the Baltic is much cooler than in the States, and it’s very relaxing to spend a couple of hours with feet in the sand, in the shade with a light alcoholic drink, pleasant music, and a view of the beach and the sea in the background.

On the way to an open-air beach café in the Polish city of Sopot, I stopped to take a look at a gazette that I picked up at a kiosk. Literacki Sopot (Literary Sopot) featured a cover story about Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, a very popular European writer who lives in Belgium. Schmitt has written over fifty novels, short stories, and plays in French that have been translated into forty-six languages. He has been awarded the prestigious Prix Goncord.

He was scheduled for an onstage conversation that very day, within about half an hour. I immediately changed my plans. When I got to the town square and the National Gallery of Art where the interview was to take place, there was already a line of people waiting to get in. By the time I walked up the stairs, the spacious hall was filled.

His most famous book, Oscar and the Lady in Pink,  is part of his Cycle de l’invisble series, about a terminally ill boy who is encouraged by a hospital volunteer to live out his last twelve days as if each day were ten years long, is part of school curricula and has been adapted into a film. Among French readers, some place Oscar and the Pink Lady among the influential works, along with the Bible, Three Musketeers, and The Little Prince.

The line for the book signing at the National Gallery of Art

His latest book, Madame Pylinska and the Secret of Chopin is partly autobiographical. When Schmitt was nine years old, he discovered Chopin, fell in love with his music, and took piano lessons.

In later years,  an eccentric Madame Pylinska (a fictitious name based on a real person) tried to enlighten him about the mystery of Chopin. In one of the lessons, she instructed Schmitt to go to Luxemburg Park in the morning and pick flowers in such a way that the dewdrops would not fall off the petals. Chopin’s “own performances were know for their nuance and sensitivity,” she said. Schmitt’s pursuit and struggle of how to play Chopin did not make him the musician he envisioned but he learned instead how to be a better writer.

After a short introduction at the National Gallery, the interview turned to the obvious question about the author’s new book, although on a broader terms: What is the secret of art and where is its mystery?

Said Schmitt,  who has a PhD in philosophy: “Philosophy tries to explain life, art celebrates life. Paintings teach us how to observe the world; music how to listen to the world. Literature teaches us how elaborate and intricate the human heart is – our soul.

“In general, art does not help us to understand our world because there are matters that do not need to be understood. We need to learn how to interpret this life.”

Then he circled back to his book: “When I ask Madame Pylinska at the end of the book what is the secret of Chopin, she replies that it’s not possible to explain all of the secrets. We need to experience them because they are capable of enriching our lives. A beautiful life is a life where there are mysteries, and we need to live with these mysteries. We cannot resolve them all. It’s a bit dangerous for us, for interpretation of our life. Life is a mystery, every person is a mystery, to love is a mystery. We should live with these mysteries, be with them. Whenever we live in the illusion, the desire that we should understand all, than our life becomes very flat. If we accept its mysteries then life is full, people are full.”

“The beautiful life is not a life where there is no sadness,” he said.

The National Gallery of Art where the onstage interview happened.

A happy Easter from New York City! Photographer Zygmunt Malinowski reports.

Sunday, April 21st, 2019
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Defiantly pro-Easter for today’s parade. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

It’s been a sobering Easter – beginning with Monday’s castastrophic fire at Notre Dame, and concluding today, with the church and hotel terrorist bombings in Sri Lanka. But New Yorkers were, as always, ebulliently defiant. Photographer Zygmunt Malinowski writes: “It was unusually crowded at the morning service celebrated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral by Cardinal Dolan, with a joyful atmosphere on Fifth Avenue, which was closed to traffic to make way for the Easter parade. Folks dressed up with their own creations: women with colorful headgear with flowers, bunnies, eggs, or other seasonal themes; children in their very best outfits. Men were decked out, too – see above.”

Bergen holds its first-ever international literary festival – and we’re in Norway for it!

Thursday, February 14th, 2019
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Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf. Norway 2012 (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

The Book Haven has just arrived in Norway for the first-ever Bergen Literary Festival – tired and hungry and footsore and jetlagged, but delighted with the lovely city. For example, the Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf pictured above which dates back to Middle Ages is on UNESCO world heritage list.

We just returned from listening to a riveting onstage conversation between award-winning Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Sound of Things Falling (2011), about the Colombian drug wars, and now The Shape of the Ruins (2018), about two defining political murders in Bogotá’s past, and Spanish writer Edurne Portela. “Memory is a moral act,” said the Columbian author who spoke about the way we manipulate memory and history so we can go on. “History lies.”

“The truth of the novel is that there is no truth,” he said.

There will be more news on the inaugural festival, but meanwhile – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Bergen, the view from Mount Floyen (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

Reykjavik for book lovers? Who knew? Now you’ll know why…

Monday, December 31st, 2018
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Our well-traveled journalist-photographer Zygmunt Malinowski, at Solheimjokull glacier.

A guest post from our roving photographer Zygmunt Malinowski, this time reporting from Iceland, which he visited over the summer. (All photos are copyrighted by him, of course, and used with permission.)

Who knew that Iceland’s cosmopolitan capital is designated as a UNESCO “City of Literature”? UNESCO looks at several criteria for the tag: quality, quantity, diversity of publishing; the range of libraries and bookstores; its literary events.

Jules Verne’s Snaefellsjokul volcano.

During the cool mostly drizzly summer of 2018, Reykjavik’s main street, Laugavegur, is full of strolling foreigners and locals stopping at one of its many cafes, restaurants, bars and shops. Several chain bookshops are available here, too. Many of the visitors are backpackers heading out to experience this exotic land of “Ice and Fire,” In fact Jules Verne’s well-researched 1864 novel Journey to the Center of the Earth was inspired by this region’s volcanic landscape. Its characters descend into the bowels of the earth.

One way to see Reykjavik is to take a literary walking tour. I booked the one offered by the City Library called “Dark Deeds.” Its theme was crime fiction and ghoulish stories (i.e., Scandinavian Noir). The intention “was not to give an historical overview of literature in Reykjavik but rather to give a small sample of the varied works set in the city…. This walk takes the participant to several locations in the city center for viewing a world connected to both older and contemporary Icelandic literature, although the emphasis is on recent compositions.”

Gathering for “Dark Deeds” next to Gröndal House.

We visited eight sites, and two young men, Salvar and Guttormur, gave a brief introduction and a short reading from each author’s work at each stop. A visit to the harbor revisited a story of a luxury yacht with no passengers crashing into the harbor – a mystery thriller and international best seller, 2014’s The Silence of the Sea by Irsa Sigurðarsdóttir (translated by Victoria Cribb). A nondescript building, formerly a hospital during the 1918 Spanish flu, recalled a detective, a young inspector “drawn into the underworld of the city” in 2015’s  Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indriðason (also translated by Victoria Cribb). At Briet Square, we learned about Gerður Kristný an award-winning author, a former journalist and editor-in-chief of literary monthly, who wrote “Drápa” (a form of skaldic poetry) about a senseless murder based on a real crime. Its an epic novel in verse, which takes its form from old Norse poetry and its mood from modern crime.” An excerpt from the 2018 book:

Snowflakes floated
onto the pavement

The city vanished
overcome by night
into drifting snow

Rabid winds
besieged the town
sent downpours down
to its very core

The winter war
had begun

City-dwellers
ran for shelter

(Translated by Rory McTurk.)

Benedikt Grondal’s notebooks

A more cheerful site was the home of Benedict Gröndal (1826-1907) – a writer, poet, teacher, illustrator of Icelandic birds, translator of Iliad, autobiographer, and natural scientist. His love of nature was one of his strongest characteristics. He was one of the founders of Natural History Society of Iceland and became its first director. His autobiography Dægradvöl (Pastime) is considered one of the classics of Icelandic literature known for it historical value, satire and sincerity.

Inside renovated Gröndal House which was relocated and now is open to the public, on one of the panels there is a quote. The author muses about his legacy when he addresses the future reader:

“I hope dear guest that you will give yourself time to dwell at this window into my life and works. What you will see here is of course no proportion to my body of work, but I hope you will at the end send some warm thoughts my way and give praise to the works I so exerted myself to creating. Many of them were never appreciated by certain people during my time.”

Info column at Grondal House.

One of the amusing poems read at the home, “To Bother,” was popular as a song several years ago. In English translation’:

 

To Bother (Nenni)

I don’t always read I can’t always be bothered to read
I do n’t always bother writing I can’t always be bothered to write
I don’t always paint I can’t always be bothered to paint
what do I bother then? so what can i be bothered to do?

I always love to love I always bothered to love
I always bother to drink
I always bothered to drink I always bother to dream I can always be bothered to dream
something I bother then so I can be bothered to do something

 

Gröndal House in Reykjavik.

According to statistics, Icelanders are avid readers and it is said that one in ten here is an aspiring writer. Having seen only a few folks reading books, I asked the librarian and the National and University Library located at the nearby University of Iceland campus. He confirmed that Icelanders are readers – but mostly at home. Then he added that he also would like to write a book.

He also pointed out that Icelanders can read the ancient Viking sagas in the original language. Because of Iceland’s isolation their language did not change as much as it did as in other Scandinavian countries. The sagas – narrative prose – have an important role in Icelandic literature and are still widely read. They are valued by literary experts for their clear style, originality and uniqueness, which was hundreds of years ahead of its time in Europe (the Gaelic language would be a notable exception, however).

 

Reykjavik across the city lake.

At Gröndal House (his illustrated book of Icelandic birds is in the case)

National and University Library at University of Icelabd.

Holiday greetings from the world, and one from Virginia Woolf: “at this one season, the Heavens bend over the earth with sympathy…”

Monday, December 24th, 2018
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…at this one season, the Heavens bend over the earth with sympathy, and signal with immortal radiance that they, too, take part in her festival.”

A quick holiday message from your exhausted correspondent at the Book Haven – and a better one from Virginia Woolf, from her novella Night and Day The passage comes to us courtesy Book Post, Ann Kjellberg‘s subscription-based book review, offering a “bite-sized newsletter-based book review delivery service, sending paying subscribers high-quality book reviews, by distinguished and engaging writers, direct to their inboxes.

We’ve enjoyed greetings from around the world in our own inbox, and thought we’d share a few from senders who have appeared in the Book Haven pages: Swedish author and translator Bengt Jangfeldt, and his wife, the Russian actress Jelena Jangfeldt, writing from Stockholm; Swedish poet Håkan Sandell sends his julekort from Oslo; cat-loving Russian scholar Valentina Polukhina sends a few felines from her London home; and an Upernavik, Greenland, winter image arrived from Polish photographer, and regular Book Haven contributor, Zygmunt Malinowski in New York City. We’ll be hearing more from him in a few days.

Meanwhile, have a wonderful holiday with family and friends with plenty of good cheer!

 

Celebrating “Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard” in NYC

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018
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Gathered for a discussion of books, poetry, literature, and culture…

The Book Haven has lapsed into an unaccustomed silence. That’s because we’ve been on the road. We’ve reconnected with friends and allies in New York, based at the hospitable Westchester home of Izabella Barry, who hosted a celebration for Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard on Sunday. Old friends were in attendance – the Polish poet and professor Anna Frajlich and the Russian poet and screenwriter Helga Landauer, and the photographer Zygmunt Malinowski who has guest posted on the Book Haven. New friends were there, too: the poet Kathryn Levy.

With poet Anna Frajlich…

Irena Grudzińska Gross was the moderator for my interview– I lucky on that on that score, the author of Czeslaw Milosz and Joseph Brodsky: Fellowship of Poets is a matchless scholar and human being. We ended the interview with a discussion of my forthcoming ‘The Spirit of the Place’: Czesław Miłosz in CaliforniaAs Sunday afternoon crawled into evening, we flicked on the lights, poured more wine, and continued to discuss literature, poetry, culture.

Now I’m hunkered in Yale’s Beinecke Library. I’m finding some gems among the archives, like this one, from Czesław Miłosz, which seems appropriate for the times: “Textbooks of history tell us about crusades, about burning heretics and religious wars. All that pales in comparison with what the twentieth century demonstrated. Uncounted millions of human beings were killed not in the name of religion but in the name of lay fanaticisms and politics, that is, in a struggle for power. By the same token a belief in the moral progress of humanity was undermined, that belief so dear to our ancestors of the nineteenth century when it strangely, against logic, coexisted with the theory of evolution advanced by biologists. Technological progress did not make man a better being, on the contrary; and now we must admit that we know nothing as to where our species drifts, for goodness and purity of heart are as proper to it as the worst monstrosity.”

Roving photographer Zygmunt Malinowski spends a day with Henrik Ibsen in Norway

Friday, November 3rd, 2017
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They know how to treat theater in Norway: the National Theatre of Norway in Bergen

The Book Haven’s roving photographer and reporter, New York City’s Zygmunt Malinowski, wrote to us following his recent visit to Henrik Ibsen’s Bergen – and, as always, he documents his journey with photos, which he generously shares with Book Haven readers. (Some of his previous photographic journeys are here and here and here and here, among other places.)

From Zygmunt:

The man himself.

On the way to the northernmost part of Norway a few months ago, I had a stopover in Bergen. I was looking forward to revisiting “Bryggen,” a colorful waterfront historical area.

A few short blocks from my hotel, the street opened up into a wide plaza that ended with a stately building in art nouveau style – the National Theatre of Norway. A well-manicured lawn in front with planted flowers, shrubs, and trees on both sides added to its dignity. On one side of the green square, a large modern minimalist statue:  not surprisingly, Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright considered the father of modern theater, as well as the father of realism.

Ibsen was the first director and writer-in-residence of “Det Norske Theatre,” now the new National Theatre. He wrote several plays there, which did not earn acclaim, but nevertheless gave Ibsen much-needed experience in his craft. After he left for Italy and Germany, he wrote his most important works; Brand made him famous in his native country, and world success followed with among others: Peer Gynt, Pillars of Society, Doll’s House, Master Builder. He returned to Christiana (later, Oslo) during his late years.

In 2006, the centennial of Ibsen’s death, A Doll’s House was the most performed play for that year. Ibsen is said to be the most performed playwright after William Shakespeare.

All of Ibsen in 78 minutes.

The Ibsen statue erected more recently was modern. The body was elliptical, only the head was more realistic and even here the eyes were circular, like two oval slices. The sculptor rejected the romantic ideals just as Ibsen did in his works.

On the facade of the building, two large placards announced the current offering, one was for a new Ibsen production: Henrik Ibsen’s samlede verker på 78 minutter performed in Lille Scene, one of the three theatre stages, an intimate setting situated on the east side of the building.

Combining 28 of Ibsen’s plays in 78 minutes seemed like a magic act – as suggested by the graphic depiction of actors juggling top hats in the poster for the event. According to reviews, it’s “a comic marathon by dramatist Knut Naerum that offers a chance to learn all about Ibsen in one evening.” Performances continue through December.

It was good to be back in Bergen, especially since my visit occurred during one of these pleasant sunny days that led many Norwegians to stroll the boulevards and linger outdoors. Across from the statue at the corner building, smartly dressed couples enjoyed a glass of wine with their late afternoon meal on the patio at the Theatro restaurant and bar, part of the boutique Hotel Oleana.

Photos copyright Zygmunt Malinowski.

Hotel Oleana when it’s empty.

Stay cool, folks! Roving photographer Zygmunt Malinowski reports on a long-lost ship from the Arctic.

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017
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Zodiacs near shore of Beechey Island. Devon Island in back. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

The Book Haven’s roving reporter-photographer Zygmunt Malinowski made this trip to the Arctic last September, but we thought it was more than usually timely now given the heat wave that is currently smothering the West. Here’s his latest from our New York City colleague, who recommends Gore-Tex (and you can read about his earlier adventures here and here and here):

During a voyage through the Northwest Passage on Ocean Endeavour in late September, I heard an astonishing announcement on the speaker system: the HMS Terror had been discovered in Terror Bay, south of the Nunavut archipelago’s King William Island. It was Sir John Franklin’s ship. The polar explorer made an ill-fated expedition to find the North West passage in 1848. None of his 129 men survived. Franklin’s flagship, HMS Erebus, and the Terror were abandoned far north of the wreck site.

Through a fortunate coincidence during my voyage, Adventure Canada was nearby. The official travel partner of Explorers Club, specializing in remote Arctic trips, was going north with a Zodiac stop at Beechey Island, also in the archipelago. At 3 a.m. in bone-chilling night I and several others walked up to the upper deck so that when we crossed the intersection line at 3:15 a.m., we could acknowledge the somber discovery of the vessel whose fate had been unknown for 168 years.

An Inuit crew member of Gjoa Haven, a hamlet in Nunavut, was onboard the Arctic Research Foundation’s research vessel Brigmann, and he told them a story: Several years prior he saw part of a wooden mast sticking out of the sea ice which led to the discovery of the shipwreck. The well-preserved ship standing upright in 80-feet of water appears to have been winterized (operationally closed down) with hatches and windows closed when it was abandoned in 1848. Canadian archeologists confirmed the discovery when measurements were compared against original plans, and found the smokestack from a steam engine that was especially installed for the voyage, as well as a wheel and ship bell similar to the Erebus’ bell were identified. The other ship, HMS Erebus, was found in 2014 further south in Queen Maud Gulf.

You can read more about the discovery of the HMS Terror here.

Beechey Island. Burial site for three of Sir John Franklin’s men. (Photo: Zgymunt Malinowski)

Jacobshavn Ice Stream, Ilulissat, Greenland. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

 

Take a look around Nobel poet Czesław Miłosz’s home in Kraków: it almost breathes!

Thursday, December 1st, 2016
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Czeslaw Milosz- reciepient of Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, his former apartment in Krakow. Desk on which he wrote. Near left is bust of his second wife, Carol Thigpen. Krakow/Poland. 8.13.20016

He wrote his poems here, next to the bust of his wife Carol Thigpen

My visit to beloved Kraków last month was very short – so brief and tightly packed I didn’t have a chance to return to the apartment at No. 6 Bogusławski, where Czesław Miłosz spent the last years of his life. Fortunately, our roving photographer-reporter Zygmunt Malinowski made the journey from New York City, accompanied by our mutual friend, Prof. Aleksander Fiut. Here’s Zygmunt’s report:

Not far from Wawel Castle in Kraków and behind Planty, the park encircling the Old Town, is a street named Bogusławski. It’s a very short street, lined with trees on both sides seemingly closed off by perpendicular streets on either end.

Plaque outside Czeslaw Milosz,s former apartment. In this building in the yr 1994-2004 lived ... CM honorary citizen of Krakow, Laureat of Nobel prize for literature. Community of Krakow. Aug. 14, 2005

Number 6, Bogusławski Street

The three-story gray masonry buildings with tall doors and decorative pediments over high windows give an aura of permanence. Aesthetics rather then economics dictated this nineteenth-century architecture. Among several entrances, one shows the address as Number 6.  The hall inside leads into a sunny courtyard.

In the center of the courtyard there is a round enclosure with plants and lush vines that cover the entire building wall. To the right of the hall, a wide wooden staircase with railing leads to the second floor where Nobel poet Czesław Miłosz, “one of the greatest poets of 20th century, perhaps the greatest,” according to fellow Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, lived and worked from 1996 to 2004, as the plaque on the other side of the arched entrance door notes.

Czeslaw Milosz's, Nobel Lureat in Literaturte, apartment. Bench with poet's shoes and slippers.

His shoes and slippers are still there

I am here with Prof. Aleksander Fiut, a longstanding friend of Miłosz (they met in Paris in 1976) and author of several books about him, to visit and photograph the poet’s former apartment. As one enters through a high door there is a short corridor with a small wooden bench on the side – the poet’s shoes and slippers are still underneath, and his canes lean against the corner. At the end of the corridor a canvas tote bag is hanging on a hat and coat stand with Miłosz’s printed likeness and a quotation from his 1985 poem, “A Confession”: “My Lord, I loved strawberry jam…”

Behind, inclined against the wall is a framed front page news clipping with headlines from The Washington Post: “American Czesław Miłosz wins Nobel Prize for Literature” and The New York Times: “Polish Poet in US gets Nobel in Literature.”

Czeslaw Milosz- reciepient of Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, his former apartment in Krakow. Canvas tote bag with UNESCO logo , Krakoew city of literature, with Poet's likeness and quote from poem 'Confession' My Lord I loved strawberry jam... Krakow/Poland. 8.13.20016

“My Lord, I loved strawberry jam…”

To the left there is a small room with a desk opposite the window – a bookcase; file folders; and cartons of books, mostly unopened and sent by publishers. Author copies are stacked on the floor. This was the office of his wife, Carol Thigpen, who died in 2002. On the opposite side across the corridor, I enter the spacious living room (rather high ceilings add to this perception), which served as work space, library, and sleeping quarters. Soft upholstered sofas, a small glass-top table, and large bookcases crammed with books occupy three walls. Several paintings and lithographs are on walls, including ones by Józef Czapski and Jan Lebestein, friends from his Paris years.

My attention is immediately drawn to the right corner. A small antique wooden desk, with the computer he used in his later years, with large fonts to accommodate his failing eyesight. Two chairs offer a view of the courtyard and vine-covered wall. This is where he worked and wrote poems.

On the right, the books that he authored are arranged in the bookcase so they are closest to his desk. On top of it, some small framed photographs: his mother; Miłosz with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican; beautiful Erin, his granddaughter, whom I met in New York City; Prof. Fiut with Miłosz. To the left of his desk, hanging on the center wall, are photographs of his father, his first wife Janka, a small painting of the aunt that he admired, and his father in a group picture on the deck of a ship with Fridtjof Nantes, the famous Arctic explorer (Nantes visited Siberia in 1900s). A bust he commissioned of his second wife Carol Thigpen dominates the room. The people closest to his heart were closest to his desk.

It’s a bit unnerving to be here. It seems as if the inhabitants have only left for an outing and will soon return, and once again this place will be full of life…

I am grateful to Anthony Milosz and Prof Aleksander Fiut for the opportunity to visit the apartment, also to my friends in Kraków for their help. All photos copyright Zygmunt Malinowski.

Courtyard overloking Nobel Laureat's Czeslaw Milosz's apartment. 8.13.2016. Krakow. Poland

First-ever major exhibition on Hemingway – and it even has his wartime “Dear John” letter.

Saturday, January 30th, 2016
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Ernest Hemingway: Between Two wars. Entrance to the exhibit. Morgan Library & Museum. Jan/ 2016

Entrance to the exhibition. (Photograph: Zygmunt Malinowski)

From our roving New York City correspondent, photographer Zygmunt Malinowski filing from … Hawaii! You can read more of his posts here and here and here and here. Meanwhile:

When he was nineteen, young Ernest Hemingway enlisted as a Red Cross ambulance driver on the Italian front during World War I. Within a month, he was severely injured with shrapnel wounds to his legs. Notwithstanding his trauma, he helped other soldiers to safety first and so was awarded medal for bravery.

Hemmingway

In Milan, 1918. (Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

The story behind the exhibition “Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars” begins about then. His personal letters (including his 1920s Paris letters correspondence with Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sylvia Beach), partial drafts of manuscripts, first edition books, and photographs can be found at New York City’s Morgan Library and Museum, located near Grand Central Station. It is in the first major exhibition ever for Hemingway (1899–1961), one of the major American writers of the twentieth century.

The war was not all suffering. While convalescing in the hospital, he fell in love and became engaged. Nurse Agnes von Kurowsky, seven years his senior, was the daughter of Polish-Russian-German émigré. However, she broke off the engagement with a Dear John letter – and that, too, is featured in the exhibition.

The romantic setback was only one episode during his war experience. He left a more enduring record with his successful wartime short stories and novels, including Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway later wrote to Fitzgerald, who read and commented on some of his drafts: “war is best subject of all. It groups the maximum of material and speeds up the action and brings out all sorts of stuff that normally you have to wait a lifetime to get.” And so it was with him.

The exhibition is a treasure trove of his written records, handwritten and printed, included in annotated notebooks, single pages, and letters. I felt I was standing over this literary giant’s shoulder, watching a work in progress (he received Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954). Some of his handwritten pages in pencil give the impression that he was in a hurry to jot down his thoughts – his quick and careless handwriting runs slantwise on unlined pages.

The exhibition includes the drafts of Farewell to Arms, in which he rewrote the ending again and again. During an interview George Plimpton asked him why he reconfigured the ending so many times. Hemingway replied: “To get the words right.”

The exhibition, organized in collaboration with John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Library in Boston, ends its New York run on Jan. 31, and then continues to Boston where it will reopen in the spring at the JFK museum. (Read about it in the lower lefthand corner here.)