A set of 2,000 recently digitised records delivered to the United States will give scholars and the public a fuller view of the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway’s life.
A private US foundation is working with Cuba to preserve more of Hemingway’s papers, books and belongings that have been kept at his home near Havana since he died in 1961.
On Monday in the US Capitol, Representative James McGovern and the Boston-based Finca Vigia Foundation announced that 2,000 digital copies of Hemingway papers and materials will be transferred to Boston’s John F. Kennedy Library.
This is the first time anyone in the US has been able to examine these items from the writer’s Cuban estate, Finca Vigia.
The records include passports showing Hemingway’s travels and letters commenting on such works as his 1954 Nobel Prize-winning The Old Man and the Sea.
An earlier digitisation effort that opened 3,000 Hemingway files in 2008 uncovered fragments of manuscripts, including an alternate ending to For Whom the Bell Tolls and corrected proofs of The Old Man and the Sea.
The newest trove includes some of Hemingway’s personal correspondence, including a letter that literary critic Malcolm Cowley wrote to Hemingway about the award-winning book.
“The Old Man and the Sea is pretty marvelous,” Cowley wrote. “The old man is marvelous, the sea is, too, and so is the fish.”
Jenny Phillips, the granddaughter of Hemingway’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, founded the Finca Vigia Foundation in 2004 after a visit to Havana. She saw Hemingway’s home falling into disrepair and became aware of the many records kept in a damp basement at the estate.
Phillips worked to get permission from the US Treasury and State departments to send conservators and archivists to Cuba to help save the literary records and to help train Cuban archivists.
The newly digitised files include handwritten letters to his wife, Mary, bar bills, grocery lists, notations of hurricane sightings and handwritten notebooks full of weather observations. It does not include any manuscripts.
“This is the flotsam and jetsam of a writer’s life – it’s his life and his work,” Phillips said. “All these bits and pieces get assembled in a big puzzle.”
Restoration work continues at Hemingway’s Finca Vigia estate in Cuba. A new building is being constructed with library-quality atmospheric controls to house the writer’s books and original records.