Ernest Hemingway encounters Josephine Baker
05 July 2016
By Pan Macmillan
Ernest Hemingway took his own life on the morning of July 2, 1961. A few weeks earlier he had been visited in the psychiatric ward of St. Mary's Hospital by his old friend A.E. Hotchner.
Their final conversation was also the final instalment in a story whose telling Hemingway had spread over more than a decade.
Hemingway revealed to Hotchner the details of the affair that destroyed his first marriage: the truth of his romantic life in Paris and how he lost Hadley, the true part of each literary woman he'd later create and the great love he spent the rest of his life seeking.
And he told of the mischief that made him a legend: of impotence cured in a house of God; of a plane crash in the African bush, from which Hemingway stumbled with a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin in hand; of F. Scott Fitzgerald dispensing romantic advice and champagne in the buff with Josephine Baker; of adventure, human error, and life after lost love.
This is Hemingway as you've never known him--humble, thoughtful, and full of regret.
Now, for the first time, Hotchner tells the whole story, mostly in Hemingway's own words. Hemingway in Love is the intimate and repentantly candid chapter missing from the definitive biography of a literary giant.
In this extract Hemingway describes how he discussed his women trouble with Josephine Baker while enjoying champagne in the buff.
''I fear for my soul,’ I told her. ‘Either way I go, I hurt one of my ladies,
and that’s bad for my soul.'
Read an extract from Hemingway in Love
Josephine Baker was a fascinating character in her own right, an American dancer from the black ghetto who electrified Paris in the Twenties. You can discover more about Josephine from Judith Mackrell’s gripping biography Flappers.
Photo of Hadley and Ernest Hemingway courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
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