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  HOME | Cuba

Cuba Hemingway Letters, Manuscripts to Be Available Online

HAVANA -- The epilogue of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and the screenplay for "The Old Man and the Sea," letters, coded texts and even insurance policies taken out by Ernest Hemingway will be available starting next month as part of a digital collection of some 3,000 documents belonging to the Nobel laureate.

The collection, which contains unedited non-literary texts, will be available in Havana to fans and researchers as of Jan. 5, thanks to a project that started in 2001, representatives of the Hemingway Museum at Finca Vigia told Efe.

Included in the collection is a "large selection" of the items at Finca Vigia, located some 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside Havana and the legendary writer's home on the island from 1939 to 1961, specialist Inaurys Portuondo said.

"This is an exquisite selection, it's not an arbitrary selection," Portuondo said, adding that the digitalization project was a "gradual process" that Cuba's National Cultural Heritage Council completed with the cooperation of the U.S. Social Science Research Council.

In addition to conserving and digitalizing the papers of Hemingway, who lived from 1899 to 1961, the two institutions worked to restore Finca Vigia, which was turned into a museum in 1962.

The property, which reopened in December 2006, will now house the Hemingway digital archive and welcome specialists and researchers from Cuba and abroad who are interested in using it.

"It's not a free service," Portuondo said, adding that there was great "demand and eagerness" on the part of researchers to use the archive.

"There are no unedited literary (pieces), at least as far as we know, but we know that specialists might be able to come up with new theories after consulting" the archive, Portuondo said.

Among the most interesting files in the collection are some texts "in code" that may deal with the German submarines that operated off the Cuban coast during World War II.

The texts were kept in "different formats" and Hemingway likely "did not keep a specific notebook" for them for "security reasons," Portoundo said.

The digital archive will be available "later on" at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, and specialists are already working "gradually" on the conservation of 1,000 other documents, Portoundo said.

Hemingway's widow, Mary Welsh, donated Finca Vigia to the Cuban government to fulfill the writer's last wish after he committed suicide on July 2, 1961, in Idaho.

The Hemingway collection at Finca Vigia contains approximately 22,000 items, including some 9,000 books, more than 3,000 letters and documents, and about 1,000 photographs, hunting trophies, weapons, and sports and fishing gear.

The Pilar, the fishing boat owned by Hemingway, is now on permanent display at the house, which was built by Catalan architect Miguel Pascual y Baguer, who bought the land in 1887 for use as a family vacation home.

In 1903, the building was sold to a Frenchman, who rented it in 1939 to Martha Gelhorn, Hemingway's third wife, for 100 pesos a month. A year later, the writer became the new owner of the property.

It was at Finca Vigia that Hemingway wrote one of his most famous novels, "The Old Man and the Sea," for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1953.

One year later, Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for Literature.


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