• The Hub

    News, Notes, Talk

    Hemingway’s letters to a ‘co-ed’ are going to auction.

    Janet Manley

    April 4, 2023, 9:10am

    If you liked the Joan Didion estate sale, you’re going to love the auction of two letters by Ernest Hemingway detailing near-death experiences.

    In the pair of letters written to a “co-ed” (about which more below), you have, in the words of Sophie Haigney, “actual relics, the things that outlasted [him], which might serve as little metonymies for whatever it was we tried to read into [him].” That is, were you to buy Hemingway’s letters, it’s interesting to ask what you think you’d be buying: a sense of bluster? A taste for a strong drink at sundown? A newfound passion for punctuation? You tell me.

    The headline offered by the auction house is itself a bit of 👊 Hemingway-ian prose 👊: “Two Powerful, Personal Letters, to be Offered for Sale at Raab, Shedding Light on a Heartwarming and Previously Unknown Incident in the Life of Ernest Hemingway and its Impact on a Young Visitor.” I think the capitals really make it.

    The letters date from 1955 and detail “his near-death experience in two airplane crashes” and also tidbits about the writing of shmashmortion classic Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway wrote the letters to Mary Lou, a second-year student at CCNY—the aforementioned co-ed—who traveled to Cuba with her boyfriend in search of Hemingway. Per the press release:

    “He sent his driver to pick her up, and they spent an afternoon together. She helped him entertain, toured his home, and the two decided to stay in touch. He even promised to send her animal skins from a recent hunt.

    It sounds like a bit of a precursor to the Matt Damon epic, and I’m available to write the screenplay.

    Here’s a grab from one of Hemingway’s letters to Lou, which reads as very dadly:

    Please be careful about aircraft. If I ever see you will tell you how and why. It is one of the great pleasures of life but you pay off accordingly. No second thoughts will help you and when you are dead you are dead for a long time. Maybe we are only alive when we are dead but I have not believed that for a long time. Excuse me if I am pedantic about aircraft but everybody is pedantic about something….

    Hemingway was right, and since dying has been dead for a long time, but his letters live on! If you would like to own a piece of history, visit the Raab Collection.

  • Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

    For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.

    %d bloggers like this: