The years before Ernest Hemingway took his own life he had not published anything, but this doesn’t mean he was not writing. Hemingway shot himself in 1961, and it had been nearly a decade since he published The Old Man and the Sea, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Vanity Fair is reporting that this week, a previously unpublished Ernest Hemingway short story, “A Room on the Garden Side” was shared with the world for the first time. In the second half of the fifties, Hemingway was living in Cuba and sent a letter to his publisher, Charles Scribner Jr., to let him know that he was writing.
“I started writing short stories which is the hardest thing for me,” he wrote. “You can always publish them after I’m dead.”
It’s unclear if the letter was forboding or a sign of his state of mind as less than five years later, the American writer was dead. Carlos Baker, Hemingway’s biographer, said that the year that he was working on short stories was one of the toughest of his life.
“[Hemingway] hoped to get through the spring without killing anyone, himself included.”
— CNN International (@cnni) August 3, 2018
That year found Hemingway struggling with writer’s block and desperate to get back into the groove of writing again. He was said to be grumpy and hoping that by working on short stories, he might get his writer’s voice back. He had put a novel based in Africa aside and turned back to writing about wartime Europe.
Andrew F. Gulli, the managing editor of The Strand Magazine (which will publish the new Hemingway short story) says Hemingway returned to Paris for the setting of “A Room on the Garden Side.”
“It has some of the necessary ingredients. A group of courageous characters, hope for the future, nostalgia for the past, a memorable setting (in this case, the iconic Ritz hotel), and the fragility of life.”
The story is told in the first-person by an American named Robert, but whose nickname, like Hemingway’s was “Papa.”
As a setting for his fiction, Paris was Hemingway’s happy place. His memoir (published after his death), A Moveable Feast, covered his early years in Paris as a young journalist with such notables as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein.
Why the Hemingway family has decided to publish the story now is unclear, but the Hemingways are happy to have one more piece of the legendary writer to enjoy.