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Content on this page:

- Hemingway in Africa
- The Africa stories


More on this site:

- Photos from Africa 1937
- East African Photo Safari
- African literature
- African films
- Chimamanda Adichie


Hemingway links:

- Hemingway foundation of Oak Park
- Timeless Hemingway
- Hemingway Society
- Hemingway Resource Center
- Hemingway Collection on JFK library
- Hemingway Home and Museum
- Michael Palin's Hemingway adventure

 

 

Hemingway in Africa

Introduction to Ernest Hemingway's African adventures and writings.

The legendary American writer Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961) was probably the one introducing the Swahili word "safari" to the English language. Hemingway traveled in East Africa two times in his life and the experiences gave him material for several short stories and novels. The remarkable personality of Hemingway also contributed to the image of the Great White Hunter. He was probably not the greatest of hunters but he had a true love affair with the hunting experience, the nature and wildlife of Africa. Without learning the kiswahili language he also managed to have some understanding of the Kenyans, which was far from common at that time.

Ernest Hemingway with a lion in 1933.First safari

From early in his life Hemingway traveled more than most people at that time. He had an enormous appetite for adventure, war and danger. That gave him a chance to show of the macho image he was creating for himself all his life. The first visit to Kenya and Tanganyika (Tanzania) was in 1933 with his second wife, Pauline. He was probably a bit bored at the time seeking out for new inspiration. Early on the safari Hemingway was sick with dysentery. He stayed several weeks in Nairobi where he met other adventure seeking men from Europe and America. One of them was Bror Blixen, the husband of Danish writer Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen). After continuing the safari and returning home Hemingway started writing the travel description "The Green Hills Of Africa". The book did not sell well at first, which depressed Hemingway, but his two major African short stories were quickly recognised to be among the highlights of his writings ("The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro").

The second safari

In the winter 1953-1954 Hemingway set of for Africa again. A bit older and changed - drinking far too much. Now travelling with his fourth and last wife, Mary, to enjoy another safari. He also wanted to visit his son, who was living in Tanganyika. The visit was in the middle of Kenya's Mau-Mau rebellion ignited by later president Jomo Kenyatta. The rebellion against the British colonialists was very violent. Hemingway almost lost his life on this journey, but it was not as a victim of the Mau-Mau. (As a matter of fact, it happened 2 or 3 times that Hemingway was declared dead. Only the last time, of course, was it true.) In January 1954 he had the rare chance to read his own obituary notice. On the journey from Nairobi to Bukavo (Congo), he and Mary had several emergency landings in the small airplane together with the pilot Roy Marsh. They had two(!) serious crashes near Entebbe in Uganda. They were alive, but wounded after the plane disappeared in flames. They decided to return to the luxury of New Stanley Hotel in Nairobi.

Lions resting in Masai Mara, Kenya

The safaris of today are no direct threat to the lions. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Hemingway wrote about this second safari and his flirt with a young, Wakamba girl. The book is written as fiction, but most of it can be read as the diary of Hemingway. "True at First Light" was published posthumous in 1999. The unfinished manuscript was completed by his son, Patrick. Ernest Hemingway shot himself on July 2nd 1961.


The Africa stories

The Green Hills Of Africa

By Ernest Hemingway (1935)
Hemingway's experiences on his first meeting with Africa. It taught him about nature, hunting, people and himself.

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Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa As Evolutionary Narrative (Studies in American Literature, Vol 5)

By A. Carl Bredahl, Susan Lynn Drake
Synopsis from Amazon.co.uk:
A close reading of a text that has been critiqued as "relatively meaningless" and "trivial" or as "a disappointment", but which Hemingway thought contained some of his best work. The study argues for the richness and importance of this largely unread and misunderstood work.

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The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

By Ernest Hemingway (1933)
In general Hemingway did not write stories with dramatic development and shocking endings. Dramatic things are surely happening, but it is up to the reader to grab the small hints in the descriptions. That was the unique style of Hemingway. This short story is a bit different with a surprise ending that changes everything. In 1947 it was made into the movie "The Macomber Affair". Thought by many to be one of the best screen adaptations of a Hemingway book. It was directed by Zoltan Korda and starred Gregory Peck, Robert Preston and Joan Bennett.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

By Ernest Hemingway (1933)
A writer is waiting for rescue or death at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. In fewer and delirium he thinks his life over again... Was I any good? A very personal story by Hemingway. The story was made into Hollywood romance in 1952, starring Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. More about the film.

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True at First Light


By Ernest Hemingway and Patrick Hemingway.

"Fictional memoirs" from Hemingway's second safari in Africa. Completed by Patrick Hemingway after the death of his father.

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