Tuesday, May 08, 2007

In Another Country

It must have been ten years ago, one of the last times I was in Key West, that I picked up a copy of The Kenyon Review and read "A Hemingway Story," an essay by the late Andre Dubus about how his reading of Hemingway's "In Another Country" changed over time. I remember sitting by the pool one morning, reading long stretches of the essay aloud to Marcia. It is a remarkable piece of writing--poignant; insightful about age, handicaps, and the possibility of making a gift to another. Is "In Another Country" about "the futility of cures"? I don't want to give anything away, but No, Dubus concludes, many years after first reading it, "In Another Country" is not about the futility of cures.

You can find the essay in the 1999 Pushcart Prize Volume XXIII (Pushcart Press, 1998), and in Dubus' collection, Meditations From a Movable Chair (Vintage, 1999).

Here are the first two paragraphs of Hemingway's story:

In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more. It was cold in the fall in Milan and the dark came very early. Then the electric lights came on, and it was pleasant along the streets looking in the windows. There was much game hanging outside the shops, and the snow powdered in the fur of the foxes and the wind blew their tails. The deer hung stiff and heavy and empty, and small birds blew in the wind and the wind came down from the mountains.

We were all at the hospital every afternoon, and there were different ways of walking across the town through the dusk to the hospital. Two of the ways were along canals, but they were long. Always, though, you crossed a bridge across a canal to enter the hospital. There was a choice of three bridges. On one of them a woman sold roasted chestnuts. It was warm, standing in front of her charcoal fire, and the chestnuts were warm afterwards in your pocket. The hospital was very old and very beautiful, and you entered through a gate and walked across a courtyard and out a gate on the other side. There were usually funerals starting from the courtyard. Beyond the old hospital were the new brick pavilions, and there we met every afternoon and were all very polite and interested in what was the matter and sat in the machines that were to make so much difference.


Blogger Talia said...

Hemingway's stories are all so similar, a theme carried through all of them, just like Fistzgerald's stories. I think that is what I love about both of them; they seem to have some sort of obsession and it seems in writing they are trying to make sense of it.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Diane K. Martin said...

Greg, I read that essay in the Pushcart Prize, and I loved it. I remember reading it aloud to my parents. My father was in the hospital, and I was visiting to help out my mother. It was a year before she died.

I don't know if I ever read the Hemingway story it refers to, but the essay moved me-- I cried as I read it. My parents didn't have a clue why I was crying. I'm not sure I could say either. Although I cry very easily.

3:40 PM  

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