Thousands more of writer Ernest Hemingway’s personal papers from his collection in Cuba will be added to a special archive at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, for preservation and viewing.
U.S. Representative James McGovern and the Finca Vigia Foundation announced this morning that 2,000 of the Nobel Prize-winning author’s materials retrieved from his house in Cuba have been digitized. Some of these items include passports showing Hemingway’s travels and letters that track the creative process behind the author’s revered novella, The Old Man and the Sea.
Although the library already houses many of the manuscripts, notes and letters Hemingway penned during his time in Cuba, this will be one of the first times U.S. audiences can access files directly from his estate, Finca Vigia.
After living there off-and-on for two decades, Hemingway left Cuba in 1960 after Fidel Castro threatened to nationalize all properties owned by Americans and other foreign nationals. Hemingway left most of his work and art in a bank vault in Havana, some of which is included in the Kennedy Library collection.
Around the time he fled, John F. Kennedy invited Hemingway to his presidential inauguration in Washington, but the famous writer was too ill to attend; he committed suicide soon after, in 1961. Seven years later, in continuing correspondence with the Kennedy’s, Mary Hemingway arranged with Jacqueline Kennedy for her ex-husband’s materials to be donated to the Kennedy Library.
Mary Hemingway retrieved many of her ex-husband’s papers by striking a deal with Castro, trading the papers for ownership of Finca Vigia, which had been nationalized. Castro wanted the house to be a monument to Hemingway’s cultural contribution.
Mary Hemingway began transferring some of her husband’s documents to the Kennedy Library in 1972, through to the mid-‘80s, when she died. Some of these files arrived in Boston in shopping bags and scattered in trunks. The Hemingway collection at the library also includes an archive of Mary Hemingway’s personal papers.
There is renewed interest in Hemingway with the release of best-selling novel Paula McLain's The Paris Wife, based on the writer's relationship with his first wife, Hadley.
Hemingway purchased "Lookout Farm," the English translation for Finca Vigia, in 1940, with the money he earned from his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. He wrote some of his most enduring work in Cuba, including Across the River and Into the Trees and The Old Man and the Sea.
The estate, a wood house painted white with a clay tile roof, and overhanging trees with orange flower blooms, was built in 1886 by Spanish architect Miguel Pascual y Baguer. The National Trust for Historic Preservation lists Finca Vigia as one of the 11 Most Endangered Places.
Scholars and students curious for a peak at the Hemingway collection in Boston must apply online beforehand with the research desk. If accepted, they can sift through boxes of photocopied Hemingway material, including letters received from celebrities such as actress Ingrid Bergman, a friend and Hemingway fan, and valuable manuscript notes helpful for aspiring writers.
For preservation purposes, original Hemingway documents have been sealed because of wear caused by humidity and insects in Cuba's tropical climate.