restricted access 2. Reclaimed Experience: Trauma Theory and Hemingway’s Lost Paris Manuscripts
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18 marc seals 2 Reclaimed Experience Trauma Theory and Hemingway’s Lost Paris Manuscripts Marc Seals • In a 1934 letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway advised, “We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it” (SL 408). Hemingway often made use of his own painful and traumatic memories in his fiction. A. E. Hotchner relates a conversation in which Ava Gardner asked Hemingway if he had ever had an analyst, to which Hemingway replied, “Sure I have. Portable Corona number three. That’s been my analyst” (139). For Hemingway, writing and traumatic memory were inextricably linked; trauma provided material for his writing, and writing provided a therapeutic outlet for trauma. Hemingway repeatedly wrote about the memory of one particular traumatic experience: his wife Hadley’s loss of his early Paris manuscripts in 1922. He wrote about this incident in the manuscript of each of the major works published after his death—A Moveable Feast, Islands in the Stream, The Garden of Eden, and True at First Light/Under Kilimanjaro—although Hemingway’s editors have not always chosen to include the episode in the published versions of these works.1 Accounts of traumatic memory in literature present the reader with a rather peculiareconomyoftruth.Hemingway’sposthumouslypublishedwritingreveals aspects of his psyche that he was unable or unwilling to share publicly. His repeatedwriting about theloss ofhis Paris manuscriptsserved asasort ofcreative flashback, allowing him to face and deal with the trauma of this memory. 18 Cirino & Ott.indb 18 3/23/10 9:34:29 AM reclaimed experience 19 In Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History, Cathy Caruth defines trauma as “the response to an unexpected or overwhelming violent event or events that are not fully grasped as they occur, but return later in repeated flashbacks, nightmares, and other repetitive phenomena” (91). This definition certainly fits the disastrous events of December 1922 when Hemingway was in Switzerland covering the Lausanne Conference. Investigative journalist and editor Lincoln Steffens, whom Hemingway had met in Genoa, wasalsothere.SteffenswasimpressedwithHemingway’swritingandexpressed a desire to see more (Diliberto 131). At Hemingway’s request, Hadley packed up all of his papers in a suitcase and boarded a train for Switzerland to deliver the manuscripts (Reynolds 86). She left the suitcase unattended while buying a bottle of Evian water for the trip, and the suitcase was stolen before the train even left the station. Hadley had packed both the originals and the carbons, so the work was irrevocably lost. It is unclear how important the loss was to Hemingway at the time. Although Michael Reynolds reports that Hemingway made a hasty return to Paris to check into the matter (86, 89), James Mellow disagrees, asserting that Hemingway did not return to Paris until mid-January 1923 and that, due to his extensive journalistic activities, he had little time to write fiction in 1922 (208–13). Mellow concludes, “The enormity of his literary loss is definitely open to question” (211). Indeed, Hemingway did not bother to run a newspaper advertisement seeking the return of the manuscripts. When considering such an advertisement, he thought of offering a reward of just 150 francs—about $10 (Reynolds 86, 89–91). Yet in a 23 January 1923 letter to Ezra Pound, Hemingway wrote: “I suppose you heard about the loss of my Juvenilia? I went up to Paris last week to see what was left and found that Hadley had made the job complete by including all carbons, duplicates, etc. All that remains of my complete works are three pencil drafts of a bum poem which was later scrapped, some correspondence between John McClure [editor of Double Dealer] and me, and some journalistic carbons. You, naturally, would say, ‘Good’ etc. But don’t say it to me. I ain’t yet reached that mood” (SL 77). Given this explicit statement of bitterness and distress, it seems odd that Hemingway did not seek the return of the lost Paris manuscripts more actively, regardless of the cost or even the chance for a successful resolution. But this does not necessarily mean that the event was not acutely traumatic.2 In fact, the relative lack of immediate concern fits neatly withCaruth’spsychoanalytictrauma-theorymodel,whichstatesthatthetrauma victim often may not note the significance of the event until years later. Cirino & Ott.indb 19 3/23/10 9:34:29 AM 20 marc seals Although other trauma theories also inform this study, Caruth’s...


Subject Headings

  • Memory in literature.
  • Hemingway, Ernest, -- 1899-1961 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Geography in literature.
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