Hemingway: two unpublished letters appear to his girlfriend
The Raab Collection, an antiquarian gallery in Ardmore, in the state of Pennsylvania, which specializes in historical documents, has announced that it has come into possession of two “powerful and revealing” letters from Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) to a girl, concerning writing , life, filming “The Old Man and the Sea,” fishing, traveling, and perhaps most importantly, death and the afterlife (“No second thoughts will help you, and when you’re dead you’re dead for a long time,” he wrote), including his near-death experience in two plane crashes.
They also shed light on a touching and interesting episode from the life of the US writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. The letters have been kept by the recipient and her family since they were written in 1955 and are apparently unpublished. The Raab Collection intends to sell them for the first time this spring. Hemingway wrote both letters while living at Finca Vigia, his estate outside Havana, Cuba, to an American student named Mary Lou Firle, whom he had met shortly before. Mary Lou kept her letters, hiding them in an upstairs closet, which saved them from ruin when Hurricane Sandy slammed into her family’s Long Island home in 2012, flooding it.
“These letters let us discover the daily life of Hemingway and the people he inspired and touched,” said Nathan Raab, director of the Raab Collection and author of the recent book “The Hunt for History” (Scribner, 2020). “It was a pleasure to find them and learn about Mary Lou’s life.” In January 1955, Mary Lou, a sophomore at the City College of New York, traveled to Havana to meet her boyfriend Morris, a naval officer on leave. While she was on the island she intended to find a way to meet Hemingway. After Morris’s departure, she telephoned the writer unexpectedly, who, due to a misunderstanding of her, which she encouraged, assumed that she had been referred by a mutual acquaintance. The writer sent his chauffeur to pick her up and they spent an afternoon together. She visited her home and the two agreed to keep in touch. He even promised to send her animal skins from a recent hunt. Hemingway jokingly gave her the nickname “Black Kraut”, due to her resemblance to Marlene Dietrich, whom he called “Marlene Dietrich”, as well as her tan and her German origins. Later that year, she Mary Lou wrote to the Nobel Laureate asking him to take a trip to Cuba that summer. Hemingway, who was filming The Old Man and the Sea, sent her a long reply. After two recent plane crashes, the Nobel laureate reflected on life and death. In October 1955, Mary Lou turned to Hemingway again.