A Hemingway War Story Sees Print for the First Time
By 1956, Ernest Hemingway was in a free fall.
Once transformative and captivating, his short, simple staccato style that remade U.S. writing decades before had gone stale. It was now emulated by numerous authors. Lost in a literary rut, he became a caricature of his super-macho characters. He dodged sniper’s bullets in France, chased wild animals in Africa and tried to outrun fame.
That summer, Hemingway found inspiration for his fiction in his adventures years earlier as a correspondent in World War II. He wrote five short stories about the war, he told his publisher, with a stipulation: “You can always publish them after I’m dead.”
Six decades later and long after his suicide in 1961, only one of those stories had been published — until Thursday. The newly published work, “A Room on the Garden Side,” is a roughly 2,100-word story told in the first person by an American writer named Robert just after Allied soldiers liberated Paris from the Nazis in August 1944.
There is little doubt that Robert is based on the author himself. The scene from the title is a garden-view room at the Ritz, the luxury hotel in Paris on the Place Vendôme that Hemingway adored and claimed to have “liberated” in the war. Soldiers in the story call Robert by the writer’s nickname, “Papa.” There are other signs, too: exclusive magnums of Champagne, doting service from the hotelier and discussions about books and writers and the trappings of celebrity.
“Hemingway’s deep love for his favorite city as it is just emerging from Nazi occupation is on full display, as are the hallmarks of his prose,” said Andrew F. Gulli, the managing editor of The Strand Magazine, the literary quarterly that published the story.
While the short story had never been released to the reading public, it was not entirely unknown. The manuscript — 15 pages written in pencil — has been stored for decades in the permanent Hemingway collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Hemingway scholars have studied and written about “A Room on the Garden Side” and the four other works in the series, including “Black Ass at the Crossroads,” the only other story that had been published.
About a year ago, Gulli said, he asked the Hemingway estate for permission to print the story in Strand Magazine, which mostly publishes new mystery stories but also unpublished pieces by well-known writers. In November, it published an uncovered short story by Raymond Chandler, best known for his gritty detective tales.