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In Paris or Paname: Hemingway's Expatriate Nationalism by Jeffrey Herlihy (review)

From: The Hemingway Review
Volume 32, Number 1, Fall 2012
pp. 128-131 | 10.1353/hem.2012.0020

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The title of this meticulously researched and multi-disciplinary argument derives from a letter Hemingway wrote after he had lived in Europe for a number of years: "Americans are always in America—no matter whether they call it Paris or Paname." Herlihy explains that Paname is a colloquial term for Paris. Given the context of much recent theorizing about postnationalism and transnationalism, Jeffrey Herlihy's explication of Hemingway's expatriate nationalism brings a timely perspective. Herlihy underscores his departure from traditional readings that focus on Hemingway and a number of his characters as expatriates and calls instead for interpreting Hemingway and most of his characters as immigrants. He accuses the cultural academies of ignoring the polycultural dimensions of Hemingway's work. Furthermore, he argues that national displacement is as central to Hemingway's novels as other critical commonplaces that focus on the writer's wound, his sexuality, and his relationships with women, etc. Consequently, setting should be seen as key for, as Herlihy states: "Hemingway uses the foreign context to heighten the pathos of each protagonist's failure" (13).

In his introduction Jeffrey Herlihy claims a "unique perspective" as a scholar of Hemingway's cultural displacement because he has lived in the American Midwest, Europe, and the Caribbean, places that featured prominently in Hemingway's life and fiction. In addition, he is obviously fluent in Spanish. For those of Herlihy's readers who are also bi- or multi-lingual and/or have experienced national or cultural displacements, many of his arguments will resonate on a number of levels. Having lived in three different Spanish-speaking countries, I found the footnote discussion of the varieties and differences in Spanish as spoken and/or pronounced in different countries such as Cuba and Spain quite interesting. My Mexican Spanish vocabulary often brings expressions of puzzlement from Venezuelan or Spanish friends. In the context of the argument about the quality of Hemingway's grasp of the Spanish language, Herlihy suggests that "Hemingway's possibly adroit employment of an idiomatic Cuban word or phrase could have been misinterpreted as a mistake" (85, f.105)

In Chapter I, "Perspectives of Place, Exile, and Identity," Herlihy argues convincingly that "places nourish writers" and that for Hemingway, "the rich intercontextualities of expatriation" provided an abundant mine of materials for his stories and novels. In a subsequent chapter the role of place in literature is foregrounded. The discussion of transplantation creating a distance that works well as a literary resource, particularly in Hemingway's case, is insightful. Hemingway called the technique of writing about one place while being in another "transplanting." In support of his ongoing presentation of Hemingway's transnational status, Herlihy reminds us that Hemingway left Oak Park at a young age for a more or less semi-permanent separation from his native land. In a later chapter he emphasizes that Hemingway lived in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba longer than in any other place, arguing that while Hemingway may have been an expatriate in Europe, he was an immigrant in Cuba, wanting to permanently relocate. In support of this approach, Herlihy quotes Hemingway about Cojímar where he claimed to be a "citizen" and his statement in 1959 that "I consider myself Cuban" (90). He reminds us that Hemingway only left because of the circumstances of the Cuban Revolution, even suggesting that Hemingway could argubaly be considered a Cuban refugee in the United States in 1960.

A particularly perceptive discussion and analysis of Hemingway and Spain challenges generally held assumptions. Much of this material was published in the Spring 2012 issue of The Hemingway Review under the title "'He Was Sort of a Joke In Fact': Ernest Hemingway in Spain." Herlihy contends that many "have overlooked Hemingway's identification with the Spanish people and the 'Spanish self ' he constructed by mimicking their socio-cultural practices in language, gastronomy, and sports" (76). However, this "mimicking" was not always welcomed. Contesting much of the accepted wisdom about Hemingway's relationship with Spain and Spaniards, Herlihy provides a full analysis of why prevailing attitudes are problematic. He negates the idea that Hemingway and Pio Baroja were friends, quoting Baroja's negative reaction to Hemingway's appearance at his bedside...

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