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Hemingway's Veneto (review)

From: The Hemingway Review
Volume 31, Number 2, Spring 2012
pp. 130-133 | 10.1353/hem.2012.0003

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Hemingway's Veneto, edited by Gianni Moriani, is a book intended to accompany the photography exhibition commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Hemingway's death, hosted by the Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti in Venice from 2 April to 15 May 2011. This book transcends the functional quality of a typical brochure, and adds new dimensions to the existing scholarship on Hemingway's engagement with Italy and his relationships with people somewhat marginalized in Hemingway biography: Agnes von Kurowsky, the Ivanciches, the Kechlers, Baron Franchetti, Giuseppe Cipriani, and Fernanda Pivano.

Although Hemingway's 1918 wounding receives the most critical scrutiny, his subsequent Italian visits, including his sojourns in the late 1940s and early 1950s, are integral to the trajectory of Hemingway's life. These later visits also underscore Hemingway's compulsion to revisit places that he knew from his younger days. A study of Hemingway's Venetian travels, including his confused and confusing relationship with Adriana Ivancich, the inspiration for the novel's heroine, informs Across the River and into the Trees, the last full-length novel published in Hemingway's lifetime and a work that James Meredith warned us almost twenty years ago was "in danger of remaining in comparative obscurity" (60).

The critical substance of Hemingway's Veneto is formed by two essays: Gianni Moriani's "Hemingway's Veneto" and Rosella Mamoli Zorzi's "Hemingway: Fifty Years After His Death." Because the essays are intended to accompany the photographs in the exhibition, they privilege information, concision, and lucid prose (conveniently arranged in a dual-lingual presentation) over exhaustive scholarly engagement.

Moriani provides a brief biography of Hemingway told through the lens of the writer's relationship with Italy. His essay provides insight into each visit Hemingway made to Italy: his World War I experience, the 1922 journalism, the writing of "Out of Season" in Cortina, the 1927 visit, his 1948 return (when he met Pivano), his 1950 travels through Venice and Cortina, and his 1954 return to Venice and Friuli following his African plane crashes.

Although the book includes side-by-side Italian and English versions, Moriani's useful essay has not been fully translated into English; quotations from "A Natural History of the Dead," "The Passing of Pickles McCarty" (aka "The Woppian Way), and Hemingway's journalism, as well as from the scholarship of Giovanni Cecchin, are omitted from the English. Moriani's thorough chronicle demonstrates beyond a doubt how central Italy was to Hemingway's life and writing. This ethnocentric thesis reminds us that Hemingway's recurrent interest in Italy plays a role in his writing, no less important than that of Spain, Africa, France, Cuba, or Key West.

Zorzi's essay provides a broader consideration of Hemingway's literary legacy. Beginning with American literature's encounter with World War I in the work of Henry James and Edith Wharton, she then moves to a discussion of the Lost Generation, including neglected African-American authors. Her essay proceeds knowingly by negotiating Hemingway in contrast with "The Hemingway myth," and then focuses on Hemingway in the Veneto and Venice itself.

As valuable as the essays are, the pictures in this book are magnificent; many of the images will become essential to associations of Hemingway and the time period. These 109 photographs, for the most part presented chronologically, form a vivid pictorial biography of Hemingway and the region, although Hemingway himself is featured in only 68 of the images, less than two-thirds.

The selection of photographs begins with a sequence of World War I pictures of Hemingway, spanning from May 1918, on board the Chicago, to September 1918, attending the San Siro races with Agnes von Kurowsky and Elsie MacDonald, the inspiration for Fergie in A Farewell to Arms. The San Siro photo is a classic: as Agnes strikes a pose with her cape under Hemingway's careful watch, Elsie looks away with a sour, disapproving expression, suggesting that the novel's characterization was spot on. Hemingway is usually beaming in his World War I photos, whether being shipped to Italy, peering out of a tank, or even being wheeled around after his wounding (with a colossal bandage on his right leg). These pictures give the...

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