I think “girlfriend” is being used rather loosely but I can’t wait to see these letters. It was late in his life so I am interested in what Hemingway expressed. Best to all, Christine

Hemingway: two unpublished letters appear to his girlfriend

Hemingway: two unpublished letters appear to his girlfriend

The Raab Collection, an antiquarian gallery in Ardmore, in the state of Pennsylvania, which specializes in historical documents, has announced that it has come into possession of two “powerful and revealing” letters from Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) to a girl, concerning writing , life,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 The letters have been kept by the recipient and her family since they were written in 1955 and are apparently unpublished.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.

4 thoughts on “I think “girlfriend” is being used rather loosely but I can’t wait to see these letters. It was late in his life so I am interested in what Hemingway expressed. Best to all, Christine”

  1. Hem’s letters keep turning up – Penn State has already determined a final volume of his letters will be published after the scheduled volumes, which will contain all his subsequently discovered correspondence. Hopefully these two will be included in the scheduled release.

    I read that Penguin Random House is releasing The Sun Also Rises with a trigger warning. I suppose that decision is better than editing the book – a far too common action in Great Britain lately. I have not heard of the disease spreading to U.S.A. publishers, yet. Always enjoy your posts – all the best!

    1. Dear Timothy! Yes, Hemingway was quite the prolific letter writer. VOLUMES of them as we know. I’m happy about it.

      I saw that “trigger” notice. Really a bit silly. I think a reader can vet a book and decide if they want to try it or not. And Hemingway is not delicate in his subjects so . . . really a bit much.

      Thanks as always, Timothy. Feedback and knowing someone is reading the blog helps to keep me going! Have a great weekend! Best, Christine

  2. Hello !!
    I am house cleaning my phone and opened up your blog posted a month ago tomorrow some how I missed it.
    Very interesting indeed is Mary Lou still alive I wonder. I will wait and hope that you will see these letters.
    Mary was an out going girl ( wife Mary ) would have been around I believe. The best I could do was have a photo taken next to the bust of Mr. Hem’ in the famous bar in Havana
    2015. Thank you always enjoy your blogs.

    1. Good morning, Pamela! I wonder too about Mary Lou’s status. I did a little research and did not find details but perhaps another reader has some information. Thank you so much for enjoying the blog. It keeps me writing it! warmest wishes (and it does seem warm everywhere) ! Christine

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