‘literary currency’

Just when the pressure surrounding him as a virtually unknown writer had built to an almost intolerable level—financial woes, living with Hadley in squalor, fears of obscurity, excruciating writer’s block—Lady Duff Twysden had saved the day. As Hemingway watched her at the fiesta—a jezebel in Arcadia, manipulating her suitors like marionettes—he knew that he had figured out the puzzle at last.

A story began to shape itself in Hemingway’s mind—the intense, poignant story that, in short order, would become The Sun Also Rises. Suddenly every Pamplona confrontation, insult, hangover, and bit of frazzled sexual tension took on literary currency. Once he started working, he could not stop. He and Hadley moved into the Pensión Aguilar, in Madrid, where he wrote furiously in the mornings. During the afternoons, he went with Hadley to the bullfights. The next morning he would begin again. “Have been working like hell,” he reported to Bill Smith a week after the fiesta had broken up.

“It is a hell of a fine novel,” Hemingway wrote to an editor acquaintance before the book came out, adding that it would “let these bastards who say yes he can write very beautiful little paragraphs know where they get off at.”

He was right. With the publication of The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s generation—the generation Fitzgerald had written about in The Great Gatsby the year before—was informed that it was not giddy after all. It was simply lost. The Great War had ruined everyone, so everyone might as well start drinking even more—preferably in Paris and Pamplona.

– Lesley M. M. Blume ‘The True Story of the Booze, Bullfights, and Brawls That Inspired Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises’  excerpt in Vanity Fair


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