Sunday, 7 April 2013

More on Ernest Hemingway and Fort Madox Ford


Previously on the Hem Fordie row: This means war

It becomes clearer as if it were ever that obscure that Hemingway is having his leg pulled by Ford. First of all he knew Belloc well and could pretend that a stranger was him for cutting purposes. In the Bodley Head Ford Madox Ford, Vol.Five, Memories and Impressions he relates how he often dined with him, knew him well and took material from him for The English Review

This ‘cutting’ business was a characteristic joke of his, playing the Tory toff. He is talking about the founding of The Transatlantic Review and tells how at the time that he had met his brother in Paris by chance he had not seen him since 1916.

Then one day, crossing the Boulevard St.Michel up near the Luxembourg Gardens, I met my brother. I had not seen him for a great number of years. The last time had been in 1916 when I had passed his rather bulky form, in uniform, in New Oxford Street. He had been wounded and I failed to recognise him, khaki making everyone look alike. My companion on that day said I exclaimed - it was during the period when my memory was still very weak: ((due to concussion from being blown up))
‘Good God: that was my brother Oliver, I have cut my brother Oliver.... One should not cut one’s brother!......... It isn’t done.

I do not remember to have uttered those words but I can still hear the ringing laughter that saluted whatever I did say.

In the Hemingway Library
Hemingway Library
there are several books of Ford’s including reminiscences. Whether they contain the material that is in the selection made by Michael Killigrew for Bodley Head I do not know but if they do there is much there to offend E.H. His tauromachy, his shadow boxing, his attempt to hijack the contents of the magazine when Ford was away are all related with a sort of affable slighting tone.

On most Thursdays Mr. Hemingway shadow boxed at Mr.Bird’s press, at the files of unsold reviews and at my nose; shot tree-leopards that twined through the rails of the editorial gallery and told magnificent tales of the boundless prairies of his birth. I actually preferred his stories of his Italian campaign. They were less familiar.........Mr. Hemingway had, I think, been a cowboy before he became a tauromachic expert




4 comments:

ktismatics said...

Hmm. In this anecdote Ford is suffering from concussion, he fails to recognize his brother, he does not remember what he himself has just said. Under those circumstances it seems unlikely that he would have been joking. I can see why those who heard the remark would have laughed, since Ford seemed more concerned about making a gaffe than about reuniting with his injured brother. There's also the parallel with Hemingway's story, in which Ford again fails to recognize someone whom he knows well. That said, Ford is willing to laugh at himself, which no doubt made him a more amiable companion than Hemingway.

ombhurbhuva said...

I left the story incomplete. He then chases after his brother and catches up with him in the tube station.

I think the implication for the Hemingway jest is that his companions thought it funny and it was a voice that he used in The Good Soldier which he would have to hand for our hero. This doesn’t seem too tendentious.

ktismatics said...

That clarifies things a bit more. It's evident that both F and H adapted nonfictional events for their fictions, in H's case without always drawing the distinction between fact and fancy.

Your first, minimalist rendition of the F story leaves more uncertainty, more gaps for the reader's imagination to fill. On a related note, I've read a few more Carver stories recently. Yes, his narrators and characters use the plain words and short sentences of the world they occupy, often describing seemingly trivial events in considerable detail. But it's Carver's narrative incompletenes and indeterminacy, rather than a stylized verbal austerity, that strikes me as characteristically minimalistic about them.

ombhurbhuva said...

Ktismatics:
It was E.H. who developed the doctrine of omission and used it well. Like Big Two-Hearted River everything was satisfactory but really we felt that it wasn’t. “There were plenty of days coming when he could fish the swamp”.

Ford always had great regard for Hem’s talent and both of them appreciated the writing of W.H. Hudson now more or less forgotten. There are no less than 14 Hudson books in the Hemingway library. They are to be found on Gutenberg Project. The simplicity and clarity of the writing is probably what attracted them both.