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24.8.05

Where Writers Died

Ernest Hemingway, writing in Kenya, 1953This must have gotten some play in the American newspapers or literary blogs, but I somehow missed it, and it's too strange and creepy not to mention. Apparently, the house in Ketchum, Idaho, where Ernest Hemingway committed suicide may eventually be opened as a museum. Of course, there are museums in the Hemingway House on Key West, the Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois, and the Museo Ernest Hemingway in Finca Vigía, the famous house in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, but now this. (When Michael Palin did his Hemingway Adventure for PBS, he even went up to beautiful Walloon Lake, in my homeland, the Great State of Michigan, where the Hemingway family had, and still has, a cottage named Windemere.) We already have the wonderful and addictive Find a Grave to locate writers' burial places (Hemingway's grave is in Ketchum), and we will surely have one soon to locate the locations where they actually died.

As you can imagine, the neighbors in that part of Idaho, mostly as famous and rich as Hemingway but still alive, are not keen on the idea of a museum drawing lots of visitors. Here is part of an article by Guillemette Faure (Ernest Hemingway, son musée intime, August 12), who was in Ketchum for Le Figaro (my translation):

Today, with the agreement of the Hemingway House Foundation, formed two years ago to restore this place, an association intends to open the writer's final home to the public. "It's a treasure. I hope that the public will have the chance to see it. The location speaks volumes about what Hemingway loved," gushes Susan Beegel, literature professor at Yale and editor of The Hemingway Review for the Hemingway Society. The cinema, for example. In the same little entryway [where he shot himself], Hemingway had a little shelf put in for his film projector. A little rectangle was cut out of the wall to let images through to a big screen opened up in the living room. On the upper floor, in the guest bedroom, a typewriter has been placed on a desk facing the window. It was here that he used to write, or rather that he used to suffer because he could no longer write. It's hard to imagine that [his fourth wife] Mary survived for 35 years in this cottage after her husband's death: the house seems to have been frozen in 1961, the year of the magazines in the magazine racks. One of them has an article about the failed attack on the Bay of Pigs on April 21, the day that Hemingway realized that he could never return to Cuba and again tried to kill himself.
The property covers 15 acres near the Big Wood River, the largest plot of undeveloped land in the county. Hemingway's granddaughter Mariel, who lives in Ketchum, supports opening the house as a museum, but others close to the writer are opposed. It's hard to see how things are going to be resolved. Although the nearby residents are opposed to bringing in museum-level traffic to their neighborhood, the local government in Sun Valley, Idaho, has no problem hosting the Ernest Hemingway Festival from September 22 to 25.

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