wanting to write a thesis about Hemingway could have a head
start here - look at this excellent piece written by KELLEY DUPUIS - this literary piece gives thoughts
about TURGENEV'S influence on Hemingway's work.
and Turgenev: A Brief Introduction By Kelley Dupuis
to be very careful taking Ernest Hemingway at his word. Fiction
was his metier, and one of the dictionary definitions of fiction
is "something invented or imagined." The impulse to embellish
was powerful in him. Hemingway seldom let facts get in the
way of a good story, either on paper or while entertaining
a crowd at lunch. Add mental breakdown, alcoholism, repeated
head injuries and depression to that tendency, and you have
some of the reasons why A Moveable Feast, Hemingway's
memoir of his life in Paris with his first wife during the
early 1920s, is undeniably a wonderful "read," (I fell in
love with this book, and with Hemingway's art, when I was
16) but it's also a book that has to be taken not just with
any grain of salt, but with a grain of the kind of salt they
use to de-ice freeways.
only did Hemingway love to embroider around facts, but like
many self-educated men, he wore his erudition on his sleeve.
We sometimes forget that before the end of World War II and
the advent of the G.I. bill, a college education was not considered
a universal entitlement in America, nor was it necessarily
something that everyone felt they had to have. Hemingway was
offered the chance to go to college-his father wanted him
to attend Oberlin-but he decided he'd rather go out and get
educated in the business of life instead, first as an ambulance
driver in the First World War, and then as a reporter on the
Kansas City and Toronto Star newspapers. In his day you could
still do this. Hemingway educated himself in literature not
by attending seminars and writing research papers, but by
reading, and throughout his life he loved to list the authors
he had read or claimed to have read for the commiseration
of the reading public, although he always got very touchy
when anyone dared whisper the word "influence." He had sufficient
perspective to generously acknowledge his admiration for the
"big guns"-his high regard for Shakespeare and Tolstoy were
never alloyed with irony-but when it came to lesser, or God
forbid, contemporary influences, friends and associates
had to step carefully around him. With his enormous ego and
extreme competitiveness, Hemingway was not one to be generous
to colleagues, and the surest way to get him to turn on you,
as Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson learned the hard way,
was to help him out. Hemingway wasn't comfortable owing anyone
anything, especially not any aspect of his style. Perhaps
that's not surprising in view of the way Hemingway's style
co-opted his personality, (or perhaps it was the other way
around.) In any case, identifying the influences on Hemingway
has amounted to a full-time job for scholars and critics for
when he began assembling the sketches for A Moveable Feast circa 1957, Hemingway's need to show the world the breadth
of his youthful reading centered largely around the great
Russians-Tolstoy, Dostoevski and Turgenev chiefly, but also
Gogol and Chekhov. Tolstoy's impact on Hemingway is as hard
to ignore as an iceberg-after all, no one has ever written
on the subject of war with anything like the sweep, depth,
power and drama of Tolstoy, and war was a subject that Hemingway
found endlessly fascinating. Admiration for Tolstoy was a
"natural" for him. Dostoevski, too, seems to have interested
him, if only because he reports himself wondering aloud to
the poet Evan Shipman how Dostoevski could "write…so unbelievably
badly, and make you feel so deeply." In the Paris sketch in
which he describes his first visit to Sylvia Beach's famous
bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, Hemingway lists Dostoevski's The Gambler and Other Stories as one of the volumes
he first borrowed, along with War and Peace, some D.H.
Lawrence and A Sportsman's Sketches by Ivan Turgenev.
obvious object of Hemingway's admiration was Henry James,
whose highly stylized, mannered prose was worlds away from
Hemingway's short sentences, and whose world of elegant drawing
rooms and upper-class parlors was continents away from Hemingway's
world of battlegrounds, bullrings and African hills. And the
contrast isn't only in subject matter. James was a practitioner,
in fact he was the very apotheosis of the 19th-century's idea
of good writing, the highly-polished "polite prose" that Hemingway
was trying to get away from.
Turgenev. I've bracketed Turgenev and James together because
they seem to me similar writers in some ways: although Turgenev
wrote in Russian and James in English, both spent much of
their adult lives living outside their country of birth, and
both wrote in an elegant, highly-polished style that doesn't
appeal to everyone. Oscar Wilde once remarked that James wrote
prose "as if it were a painful duty," and to this day it is
fashionable among bookish Russians to deride Turgenev as "feminine"
owing chiefly to the elegance and gracefulness of his style.
And because I have heard that term applied to Turgenev more
than once, I find it ironic that he should have influenced
the macho-obsessed Hemingway, with his laconic tough-guy characters
who speak in short sentences. And yet, if you take a look
at that very book of Turgenev's that Hemingway reports having
borrowed from Sylvia Beach in 1922, A Sportsman's Sketches, and then glance through Hemingway's first widely-read book
of short fiction, in our time, a few of Turgenev's
fingerprints do indeed seem to appear on Hemingway's pages.
The most powerful influences on the style that Hemingway evolved
in the early 1920s may well have been, as has been often pointed
out, the Kansas City Star's stylebook, with its emphasis
on keeping things short, clipped and free of adjectives, and
Gertrude Stein, whose mammoth novel The Making of Americans Hemingway helped to type and whose "cubistic" approach to
prose, repeating phrases over and over with slightly different
wordings, doubtlessly influenced Hemingway's sense of prose
rhythm. But Turgenev, too, is part of the mix, and Hemingway
certainly never made his admiration for Turgenev a secret.
In 1925 he told Archibald MacLeish that he thought Turgenev
"the greatest writer there ever was," and then added "War
and Peace is the best book I know, but imagine what a
book it would have been if Turgenev had written it."
that Hemingway's admiration for such writers as Turgenev and
Joseph Conrad stemmed to some extent from the personal appeal
of their subject matter. Tolstoy had dazzled him by writing
dazzlingly about war. Conrad, like Herman Melville, had been
a sailor, and many of his tales center around the adventurous
and-at least in those days, manly-world of the sea. Turgenev,
in A Sportsman's Sketches, creates a world-a peculiarly
Russian one-around a man who spends all of his time indulging
his greatest passion, which also happened to be one of Hemingway's:
hunting. I think that, with regard to Turgenev, this was the
hook that drew Hemingway in. But once he was there, within
Turgenev's world, Hemingway took something else away with
him besides the enjoyment of a string of vignettes about a
man out hunting.
Sportsman's Sketches was an unusual book for the middle
of the 19th century. Perhaps it could have been written nowhere
except Russia, where there actually wasn't much in the way
of literary "tradition" circa 1850. At the same time that
Dickens, Thackaray and their contemporaries in England were
building on the foundations of the great 18th-century English
novelists such as Richardson and Fielding, and writers in
France like Hugo and Flaubert were doing the same with the
traditions of Rousseau, Chateaubriand and Stendhal, Russian
writers were still trying to create a tradition for themselves.
Russian literature is often said to have begun with Pushkin
and Gogol, both of whom flourished in the 1830s. Mikhail Lermontov's
highly idiosyncratic novel A Hero of Our Time had appeared
in 1840, when Pushkin had only been dead three years. Lermontov
himself was killed in a duel, (the same fate that had befallen
Pushkin) just a year after his novel came out. Russian authors
of the 1840s and 50s may have had to contend with the tyranny
of the czar's government, but they were working relatively
free of the tyranny of a literary tradition.
didn't bother writing "stories" in the accepted sense of the
word when he wrote A Sportsman's Sketches (I'm using
the title Hemingway knew; in more recent translations the
book has been called A Sportsman's Notebook.) There
is no conventional "plot" or schematic narrative anywhere
to be seen. The stories are snapshots of places, characters,
situations. Hemingway's in our time, a product of "modernism"
written not long after he had been reading Turgenev in Paris,
works in much the same way. It was an uncommon technique for
a writer of the mid-19th century to be using, to understate
rather than overstate, use observation and description rather
than rhetoric, and as often as not, to end on a "dying fall"
rather than a crashing chord, as at the end of the sketch
called "Raspberry Water:"
started up. The peasant sat down beside us. We fell silent
again. On the other bank someone started singing, but such
a melancholy song…My poor friend Vlas grew sadder and sadder.
Half an hour later, we parted."
Hemingway at the end of "The Battler:"
climbed the embankment and started up the track. He found
he had a ham sandwich in his hand and put it in his pocket.
Looking back from the mounting grade before the track curved
into the hills he could see the firelight in the clearing."
fall, the laconic understatement. Two of Hemingway's trademarks.
And yet as I re-read A Sportsman's Sketches last summer,
I found example after example of the same sort of thing in
Turgenev that later made Hemingway's reputation. Listen to
this bit of dialogue from "Bezhin Meadow:"
Vanya," began Fedya tenderly, "is your sister Anyutka well?"
"Very well," answered Vanya, slightly slurring the "r." "Tell
her to come and see us. Why doesn't she come?" "I don't know."
"Tell her to come." "I will." "Tell her that I'll give her
a present." "And me too?" "Yes, you too."
out just one word, "tenderly," and that snatch of dialogue
could be Hemingway. Or, perhaps it might be more appropriate
to say, the following exchange from The Sun Also Rises could be Turgenev:
the matter with the old one?" I asked. "He hasn't got any
passport." I offered the guard a cigarette. He took it and
thanked me. "What will he do?" I asked. The guard spat in
the dust. "Oh, he'll just wade across the stream." "Do you
have much smuggling?" "Oh," he said, "they go through."
between Turgenev and Hemingway came Chekhov, another master
of emotional tautness and the restrained phrase. And Hemingway
greatly admired Chekhov too. But there can be little doubt
that Turgenev's evocation, a generation before Chekhov, of
the lovely, vast and brutal Russian countryside and its characters,
in prose all the more effective for its restraint, gave Hemingway
the cue for some of his own efforts, three-quarters of a century
later, to evoke his own landscapes and characters, lovely
and brutal, in prose all the more effective for its restraint. Kelley Dupuis. March 2000
EXCELLENT! Kelley Dupuis is one
of the most informative people on Hemingway we have ever come
across. He can help American students with their studies on
Hemingway, but please respect his immense literary insight
and knowledge and do not ask him to do your homework. Your
understanding of Hemingway comes from your own personal research.
Kelley Dupuis can help with his literary insight of Hemingway
but his help is for serious students of Hemingway. Thanks. email@example.com
enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
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