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Bilingual Wordplay: Variations on a Theme by Hemingway and Steinbeck

From: The Hemingway Review
Volume 26, Number 1, Fall 2006
pp. 81-95 | 10.1353/hem.2006.0047


Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck were among the few early 20th century American writers to incorporate the Spanish language into their work, making vanguard experiments in bilingual fiction. More often than not, this was to show their affinity for the working-class Spanish or Mexican people they were depicting. In this living within, between, and sometimes outside of two cultures, Hemingway and Steinbeck are not unlike early Chicano writers, with whom they share, in a limited way, a kind of bilingualism. Their way with language has special appeal to a new generation of bilingual American readers that lives on the border between the United States and Mexico and speaks that mix-and-match argot called everything from Spanglish to Tex/Mex to calo.