Date with a Legend
By: Wina Acosta / Photos Jose Tito Meriño
The Ambos Mundos Hotel, located at the intersection of Mercaderes and Obispo Streets in Old Havana, sheltered one of the most controversial writers of the 20th century. Journalist Hemingway was awarded the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Old Man and the Sea and the following year, won the Nobel Prize for literature for the work of a lifetime.
This same hotel hosted the 13th International Colloquium dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Hemingway’s death and the official declaration of Cuban heritage for Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm), the farm on the outskirts of Havana where the writer lived for 20 years.
The event was also the 85th anniversary of the publication of his novel The Sun Also Rises (published in London under the name Fiesta), written in 1925.
According to the president of Cuba’s National Cultural Heritage Council, Margarita Ruiz, the academic and scientific meeting promoted an exchange with renowned authorities on Hemingway’s life, and perpetuated the legacy of one of the most productive writers of all times.
The meeting, held from June 16 to 18, was attended by some fifteen speakers and foreign observers, a greater number than in previous editions. Some of the participating countries were Brazil, Britain, Japan and the United States.
Among the papers presented at this meeting were those by Finca Vigía Foundation President Jenny Phillips and by Susan Wrynn, Hemingway Curator at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Some interesting papers were also presented by the Cuban side, such as Unconscious Autobiography by researchers Rosalia Quintana Díaz and Marta Roca Rodríguez, who explore the author’s personality through his writing.
Another paper that drew the attention of participants was that by narrator and essayist Armando Cristóbal Pérez, which dealt with Hemingway’s relationship with Cuban intellectuals, specifically that with the most frequent Cuban writer to visit Finca Vigia, Enrique Serpa. On December 4, 1941, Hemingway signed in black ink a copy of the first English edition of For Whom the Bell Tolls for Serpa in gratitude for receiving his novel Contrabando, published in Havana in 1938.
A special welcome was given the presentation of three consecutive issues (16, 17 and 18) of the Cubaplus tourism magazine, which were dedicated to Hemingway.
Dominic Soave, founder and director of Cubaplus, spoke about the magazine’s editorial profile and its quarterly circulation of 50,000 copies, of which half are for tour operators, travel agents and other tourism professionals in Canada.
The activities related to the international conference on Hemingway included the unique presentation, in the Ambos Mundos Hotel’s Del Monte Hall, of the world premiere of the play Goodbye Ernest by Canadian actor, director and narrator Brian Gordon Sinclair, considered “Ernest Hemingway’s most important dramatic actor in the world today.” The play is the latest in a time series known as Hemingway On Stage and showcases a special view of the writer’s life and work from his arrival in Cuba, through his life with his fourth wife, and ending at the Mayo Clinic in Idaho. Proceeds from future performances of Goodbye Ernest will be donated to the Hemingway Museum of Cuba to sustain its restoration and help research topics related to the author of A Farewell to Arms.