Ernest Hemingway/The Downward Spiral

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5.The Downward Spiral

After the war, he started and abandoned a novel about the earth, the sea and the air, and went to Italy where he gathered material for "Across the River and Into the Trees", a homage to Venice. He derived the title from the last words of General Stonewall Jackson, maybe he expected his own end soon. His now divorced third wife appeared as the third wife of the protagonist, Adriana Ivancich as his lover Renata, which means "Reborn" in Latin. Hemingway was longing for his lost youth. The novel was widely disapproved, the majority of reviewers accused him of bad taste, stylistic ineptitude and sentimentality, the last of which is most certainly true and fitted into the pattern that was beginning to emerge: Hemingway grew old.

He started and, depressed by its mediocrity, abandoned a long sea novel to be published posthumously as "Islands in the Stream". One section of it was published as "The Old Man and the Sea", its enormous impact satisfied and fulfilled Hemingway, probably for the last time in his life. It earned him both the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954 and restored his international reputation as an author.

Then, his legendary bad luck struck once again. On a safari he was the victim of two successive plane crashes, the injuries he got away with were grave and numerous, he sprained his right shoulder, arm and left leg, had a grave overall concussion, temporarily lost his vision in the left eye, his hearing in the left ear, had a paralysis of the sphincter, crushed his vertebra, suffered from a ruptured liver, spleen and kidney and was marked by first degree burns on his face, arms and leg. As if this would not be enough, he was badly injured one month later in a bushfire accident which left him with second degree burns on his legs, front torso, lips, left hand and right forearm. This physical hurts caused him to crack up, his strength was gone entirely and so was his will to live. He couldn't even travel to Stockholm personally.

A glimpse of hope came with the discovery of some of his old manuscripts from 1928 in the Ritz cellars, which were transformed into "A Moveable Feast" . Although some of his energy seemed to be restored, severe drinking problems kept him down, his blood pressure and cholesterol count were perilously high, he suffered from an aorta inflammation, and maybe the depressions accompanying alcoholism had already started. He also lost his Finca Vigía in San Francisco de Paula and was forced to "exile" to Ketchum, Idaho after the situation in Cuba had started to escalate.

The very last years, 1960 and 1961, were marked by severe paranoia, he feared FBI agents could be after him if Cuba turned to the Russians, that the "Feds"(Burgess (9.), p. 110) would be checking his bank account and that they wanted to arrest him for gross immorality and carrying alcohol, he got upset about perfectly normal photographs in his "Dangerous Summer" article etc. He received treatment for his mental disorders, there were suicide attempts in Spring 1961. He received treatment again, but it could not prevent his suicide on the second of July, 1961. He put the gun to his head and fired.

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