25 May 2011

Hemingway's Cuba

Adam, this post is dedicated to you.

Last year, while still at Knox, one of my closest friends had told me that he really wanted to go as a post-graduate chaperon on the unofficial Hemingway trip  to visit Florida and Cuba. I'd never really considered going to Cuba before he mentioned this, and when the opportunity to travel with my synagogue presented itself, I thought, "Sure, why not?".

I knew almost nothing about Cuba, other than it being the forbidden fruit to any casual American traveler. I skimmed the itinerary not really knowing what we were doing, holding onto the idea that on our trip we would be swinging by the Ernest Hemingway Estate out in the hills of Havana. I must also admit that the only work I've read of Hemingway's besides a few short stories, was The Old Man and the Sea - and while we're confessing things here, I read it back in eighth grade, so over 10 years ago. Before I left for my trip, I asked my friend if he could suggest something for me to read of Hemingway's to prep me for my visit - and lo and behold, he told me to read anything he'd written while living in Cuba.

I walked into Myopic Books back in February and stumbled upon this beautiful hardcover edition of Islands in the Stream, three books following the  life of a middle-aged artist, Thomas Hudson in three distinct Caribbean locations: Bimini, Cuba, and The Sea. I've read the first two books in the three part series, and I have to say, there is just something so wonderful and poignant about the simplicity of Hemingway's prose. He gives you just the right amuse bouche of details that allow your imagination to let the story take form. And like one of my favorites, JD Salinger, he finds a way of neatly and promptly wrapping up a story with almost no time left - such an amazing quality.

La Floridita
La Floridita was one of Hemingway's haunts in Havana. An old street-corner bar a hop skip away from our hotel in the central downtown area of the city. Old striped awnings, a live band playing the Buena Vista Social Club, black and white photographs of various celebrities, and a life-sized brass sculpture of Hemingway placed at his corner spot at the bar. They serve Papa Hemingways, which are a frozen drinks made of grapefruit juice, and a double shot of delicious Cuban rum, a drink that Thomas Hudson downs nearly a dozen of in the Cuba portion of Islands in the Stream. How magical to be reading a story about such a real character while simultaneously drinking delicious daiquiris at the place where both he and his author hung out regularly.

hemingway at his corner spot at the bar
who wants a daiquiri
a delicious, cool, refreshing daiquiri

The Hemingway Estate
Following my glowing reviews of Hemingway's writing and my recent obsession with everything in Cuba, it will come as no surprise that visiting the Hemingway Estate was one of the highlights of my trip. Hemingway bought his place in 1931, and stayed there off-and-on until his death in 1961. Rumor has it that Ava Gardner once swam naked in his pool - among other celebrity visitors. Dogs laze about the property but there were no cats, for Hemingway thought that the cats on his property were bad luck. Though we weren't able to physically tour the interior of his home, I was able to snap some photographs through the open windows. It was very cozily decorated, the perfect mix of a man's taste for mounted animal heads and the lightness of a woman's touch.

the guest house at the hemingway estate
the front porch of the hemingway house
for whom the bell tolls
 views of the living room
the tower his wife mary had constructed for him
one of the bedrooms. his typewriter is on the ledge beneath the mounted animal head. he wrote standing up.
the study
the bathroom. the writings on the wall document hemingway's weightloss as he battled cancer towards the end of his life
hemingway's closet
the library. all of the books and written documents contained in this house have been copied to micro-film for preservation purposes.
light coming through the trees on the back porch area
in the dining room
views of havana from the tower
inside of the tower. mary wanted heminway to write up here, but he hated it, and never did. 
me at the top of the tower
the pool
hemingway's dog cemetery
 visitors left their mark on the bamboo 
one of the many lazy dogs
me with hemingway's boat, pilar
mom and i with hemingway's boat

1 comment :

  1. When I went to Paris I made sure to read Hemingway's nonfiction account of his time with fellow expats in the city "A Moveable Feast" and delighted in eating in the same cafes he did. So I can only imagine how great it would be to read any of his Cuban novels while in the country itself. And his house is beautiful, I've never seen an antelope look so beautiful on a wall.