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Anyone 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.


Hemingway and Turgenev: A Brief Introduction By Kelley Dupuis

One has 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.

And not 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 decades.

Nevertheless, 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.

A less 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.

So was 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."

I suspect 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.

A 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.

Turgenev 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:"

"Styopushka 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."

Now hear Hemingway at the end of "The Battler:"

"Nick 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."

The dying 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:"

"Well, 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."

Take 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:

"What's 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."

Yes, 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. kelley@kelleydupuis.com

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