Letters Of The Writer As A Young Man

Joshua Kotin praises the recently released second volume of Ernest Hemingway’s collected letters – which cover the years he spent in Paris, Toronto, and Spain as a young writer on the cusp of greatness – as a “real time version of A Moveable Feast.” One of the topics Hemingway covers? Bullfighting:

“It isnt just brutal like they always told us,” he writes his friend William D. Horne Jr. “It’s a great tragedy — and the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and takes more guts and skill and guts again than anything possibily could. It’s just like having a ringside seat at the war with nothing going to happen to you.” Bullfights will dominate his letters for the next two years. In 1924, he tells [Ezra] Pound that the bullring “is the only remaining place where valor and art can combine for success. In all other arts the more meazly and shitty the guy, I.E. Joyce, the greater the success in his art. There is absolutely no comparison in art between Joyce and [the matador] Maera — Maera by a mile.”

Kotin marvels at how the letters display Hemingway’s prose chops:

The letters to Pound are especially fascinating — despite their virulence or, perhaps, because of it. “You go on and learn everything,” he tells Pound. “I cant. I’m limited. But I’m going to know about Fucking and fighting and eating and drinking and begging and stealing and living and dying.” The sentence captures the form and content of Hemingway’s best work. All Hemingway fans — not only completists — will want to read the letters.