THE Last sunrise
daybreak -Ketchum, Idaho
'... he does his work
alone and if he is a good enough writer,
he must face eternity,. or the lack of it,
from Ernest Hemingway's Nobel Prize
...man's awareness of death is one of the guiding forces
in life. Beneath every surface activity, then, is the awareness of death.
There is also the notion that conventional and traditional ways of coping
with the fact of man's mortality are based on romantic illusions which cause
one to avoid thinking about the central fact of existence: that one must
eventually die. It is with man's attitudes toward life in the presence of
death that Hemingway is most concerned. The surfaces of his stories, the
tips of the icebergs, most often show individuals whether in war, in the
bullring, in a big-game hunt, or in some other life-threatening
situation--dealing either gracefully or in a cowardly way with death or
What evolves, then, over the course of Hemingway's forty-year career as a
writer is a comprehensive code for living which acknowledges death as the
end point in life.
Bryant Mangum, "Ernest Hemingway," in Critical Survey of
One avenue of biographical exploration may be the
consideration of how Hemingway's postwar psychological state affected his
claims of having killed Germans. Many things...no doubt contributed to the
depression, paranoia, and delusions that ultimately led him to take one more
life, his own.'
- Professor William Cote Hemingway Review
But he dwindled so abruptly, so touchingly
from the great red and white head to the spindly legs...that seemed scarcely
able to hold him up. Fragile, I found myself thinking, breakable and
broken---one time too often broken, broken beyond repair.
- Professor Leslie Fiedler (upon meeting
Hemingway shortly before his death)
Early on the morning of July 2, 1961, about the time the
sun was rising above the Sawtooth Mountains, Ernest Hemingway took his
and killed himself in the foyer of his Ketchum home.
"..the sound of a couple of drawers banging shut awakened
me and, dazed, I went downstairs , saw a crumpled heap of bathrobe and
blood, the shotgun lying in the disintegrated flesh, in the front vestibule
of the sitting room." How It Was - Mary Hemingway
Ernest was wearing pajamas and his dressing gown, his red
'emperor's robe'. The robe is mentioned in the Carlos Baker biography and
details are from interviews Baker conducted with Don Anderson and Chuck
Atkinson, friends who were among the first to arrive at the death scene.
It was Hemingway's habit to cinch his robe at the waist
with his Gott Mit Uns belt and buckle. His friend and personal secretary
Valerie Hemingway makes specific reference to this when she was traveling
with him in Spain a few months before he committed suicide.
" The three of us were sitting in his suite when Hotch
walked in. Nursing his infected kidney, Ernest was lying on the bed; his
dressing gown was tied at the waist by his German 'Gott Mit Uns' belt. Annie
and I were sipping glasses of wine. Hotch wrote later, "Worry hung in the
room like black crepe." - Running With The Bulls - Valerie Hemingway...Suecia
Hotel Madrid -October 2, 1960.
had the pleasure of meeting Valerie Hemingway at a Hemingway Society
Conference in Spain 2006. We talked at length on a drive from Ronda to
Malaga and she confirmed that the belt was Hemingway's favourite, that he
wore it often, even around his robe as she had described in her book.
The investigation of Hemingway's death was cursory. Today,
there are no records to be found in Ketchum police or Blaine County Coroner
archives. There was no inquest. . The death certificate reads 'death by
self-inflicted gunshot wound'.
Ernest's death left Mary in shock. With the help of family
and friends she managed to make funeral arrangements and do all the other
things necessary on such a somber occasion. She was worried about the
shotgun falling into the hands of souvenir hunters. A few days after
Hemingway's suicide, Chuck Atkinson took a torch, cut the shotgun into
pieces and buried it in the woods. Mary kept the Gott Mit Uns buckle, and
later gave it and other personal effects to the JFK Library.
"Atoms can't dream, Gig, " I could hear him say. "No use
deluding yourself old pal."
Papa, A Personal Memoir by Gregory Hemingway
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