The Last Days of Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway's friend A.E. Hotchner has a moving essay in The New York Times about the closing months of the novelist's life in 1960 and 1961. At that point Hemingway was anxious, paranoid, convinced the Federal Bureau of Investigation was following him and that his home and car were bugged. He tried several times to kill himself and was put in a mental ward, where he received 11 electroshock "treatments." Even in the hospital, he insisted that the FBI was spying on him. Finally, 50 years ago yesterday, he ended his life.

Decades later, in a twist you may have seen coming,

J. Edgar Hoover receives word of the Hemingway suicide.

the F.B.I. released its Hemingway file. It revealed that beginning in the 1940s J. Edgar Hoover had placed Ernest under surveillance because he was suspicious of Ernest's activities in Cuba. Over the following years, agents filed reports on him and tapped his phones. The surveillance continued all through his confinement at St. Mary's Hospital. It is likely that the phone outside his room was tapped after all.

In the years since, I have tried to reconcile Ernest's fear of the F.B.I., which I regretfully misjudged, with the reality of the F.B.I. file. I now believe he truly sensed the surveillance, and that it substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide.

[Via Tom Jackson.]

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    This'll be the reminder I need to finish reading "The Old Man and the CIA."

  • Xiver||

    I guess its true; Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

  • ||

    Everyone who writes on these pages should take that to heart.

  • AuH20||

    So it's like the scene in Red?

    "He thought he was the target of a secret government mind control experiment. It turns out that they were actually giving him small daily doeses of LSD."

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Didn't Hemingway buy his shotgun at Abercrombie and Fitch? I really wish the current store would play up its previous history in sporting goods.

  • Pro Libertate||

    So the FBI killed Papa, basically? Fuck them. Did they kill Sam Clemens, too?

  • Dweebston||

    Clemens returned to the stars on the tail of Halley's Comet. Everyone knows that.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yeah, well, sounds like the feds may have helped him. Fuckers.

  • Dave Krueger||

    I sure am glad the government has become much more respectful of privacy and civil liberties issues since then...

  • Dweebston||

    Now they target indiscriminately, so nobody feels isolated. Progress!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Now, of course, it's much easier to do this, especially when even lip service to 4th and 5th Amendment rights is fading away. The thing that saved us in the past, to some extent, was the limited resources and technology of the government.

  • Tonio||

    Sure, whatever, dude, that document is like a hundred years old and is handwritten like they didn't have computers or something.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's some seriously good handwriting. If I wrote a new Constitution in longhand, they'd be arguing about what words I used for centuries.

  • anon||

    I'm sure even you can manage to put down "Congress shall make no law." in a clear and legible fashion.

  • Tim||

    Hemingway's art suffered towards the end as well. His semi-autobioghraphical " Ernest goes to Camp " was produced as a major motion picture in 1987 earning modest profits but failing critically.

  • Number 2||

    C'mon now, if Hemingway had nothing to hide, he would not have been bothered by government surveillance! He would have realized it was for his own good and the good of the American people.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    When was the last time you heard somebody say, "That could never happen in AMERICA!"?

  • Tonio||

    Far too long ago, Brooksie.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    It's amazing what we get used to. Just the suspicion of surveillance helped drive Hemingway to suicide. Now we KNOW we are being watched and recorded and there is only modest complaining.

  • anon||

    Don't count me out on the suicide front yet.

  • Robert||

    I thought it was well known he killed himself to avoid the terminal stage of cancer.


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