The Hemingway Archivist: Connection and Disconnection

***Gellhorn and Hemingway***
Digital composite by Felicia Lujan.
Includes one historic photo and
a map of the constellations- symbolic
of connection and disconnection.

I absolutely adore anything thought provoking. On July 1, 2012, I had a great comment submitted by “spoonbeams.” This woman is a former archivist who had come across my post Whiskey Dreams: Inside the Mind of Hemingway (May 10, 2012). I have included our comment string into this post because it is worth a read.

Whiskey Dreams was my post about Ernest Hemingway and his vast archive called The Hemingway Papers. In that post, I talk about: reading further into signs than I should; digital initiatives with the Hemingway Papers involving over 6,000 personal letters; the mind of Ernest; his death being a tragic loss to the literary world; his escape and submission to a dark fate; and the fact that I could be madly in love with a dead guy. I had a few interesting comments on the post.

There was one from “Rhonda” on May 10. Rhonda called Hemingway a “tortured, artistic soul.” Then on May 22, “robert87004” mentions James Mitchener, a friend of Hemingway who “paints a somewhat different picture” of the man while they were in Iberia. According to robert87004, Mitchener’s writings divulge Hemingway as a man “trying to live up to his self-image.” But I guess that’s what we are all attempting to do right? Below is the great comment string between “spoonbeams” and I.

I am so amazed that out of millions of pages of digital information, she found me and that she found that particular post. The following thread is all about connection and disconnection. Do I read too much into things? Or does everything happen for a reason? You decide… I know I connected with a wonderful woman about this.

It was fascinating to learn from her that Martha Gellhorn insisted that all of her correspondence with Hemingway be deaccessioned (or removed) from his collection. I had to say something to her about that today. At the end of her last comment, spoonbeams gave me a “thumbs up” on my latest poem titled Canvas of an Artist. It was a poem about forced disconnection.


Following is our string…

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spoonbeams Says: July 1, 2012 at 6:41 AM

Hi — My mouse passed over your square on someone’s blog and “archivist” popped up and I had to look further. I organized the EH papers at the JFK library back when. It seems like so long ago, but it still is a highlight in my life. Seems like you enjoy archiving as much as I. Yes, it’s quite possible he wrote that many letters — maybe more.

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flujan Says: July 2, 2012 at 11:17 PM

Wow!! You get a gold star for being the first person attracted by the word “archivist!” What is your name? Haha! You actually processed the Hemingway Papers? How cool is that? And in the JFK Library??? Wow!!! I can’t believe it?!! If I didn’t believe in signs- I would think it strange we have crossed paths. JFK and Hemingway— two signs of mine that are now fading— two historical figures I have connected to and now unfortunately I seem forced to disconnect from them. I would have loved to process those papers. I can’t believe you have found me?? It was meant to be. I work in New Mexico (a state repository). I am the Archives Bureau Chief, and have been with the agency for well over a decade. I do adore being an archivist and I am obsessed with history and the arts. It was my calling. You were a lucky woman to get to work in such a great library and on such a great collection. What are your thoughts on Hemingway? Was he insensitive? You- if anyone would have an up close and personal perspective on a great writer through his correspondence. Did he really love Martha G?

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spoonbeams Says: July 3, 2012 at 5:08 PM

Yes, processing Hemingway was a blastt — and working at the JFK Library was special. It’s been a long time tho since I’ve been immersed. I left the library in ’83 and moved on to other things. I do think he was very sensitive and easily offended, but I wonder if he ever truly thought about the sensitivities of others. And yes, I do believe he really loved Martha and all his wives and perhaps a few other women, but not necessarily faithfully or for long. I’m so surprised that there is a movie now about Martha and EH. I was on leave of absence from the library when she came and removed all her letters to him from the collection because she did not want to be connected with him in any way. I heard it was quite dramatic. I know lots of others like us who really love being archivists and getting deep into a topic. He was certainly an exciting topic! Thumbs up on today’s Canvas of an Artist.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

flujan Says: July 4, 2012 at 12:02 AM

Oh…. I can only imagine! That sounds so very interesting. Technically, you are still practicing a form of immersion through the art of conversing. That is really sad to hear about Hemingway, though I knew that would likely be your response. I’ll bet I could talk to you for hours?! If you are ever in New Mexico, look me up and we can have coffee. Your last comment has me thinking of exploring what it means to be a soul mate. I do wonder? If we change and grow as people, it may explain Hemingway’s continual search for his perfect match. Maybe there is more than one? Maybe a soul mate depends on what someone connects to or does not connect to at a particular time in their life? I think too much obviously! It’s just sometimes things are so very hard to understand? Why would such a great man kill himself? I was amazed to learn what you told me about Martha requesting a deaccession of her letters from the Hemingway Papers. I also find it interesting that you specifically say that “she did not want to be connected with him in any way.” Poor Martha- she was obviously just upset with him and so she made the dramatic scene. The sad part about that is no matter how hard she tried to erase all the physical and paper connections to him, there was still the one connection that she likely took to her grave in 1998— it was the one in her mind. Thank you for your preservation work on letters which will expose the real man behind the public persona. Without a doubt his personal letters shed light on his love affairs, and some very intricate souls. Also thank you for provoking my thoughts. I love that!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Other Hemingway Links:

Humanity and Wars: The New HBO Film
Hemingway & Gellhorn by Felicia Lujan (June 7, 2012)

Analysis of and Symbols in Hemingway
and Gellhorn by Felicia Lujan (June 10, 2012)

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8 Comments on “The Hemingway Archivist: Connection and Disconnection”

  1. Clowie Says:

    I love the word serendipity – it seems appropriate here.

  2. MarS Says:

    Fascinating!! Here are words from Stephanie Meyer:
    First of all, let me say that I do believe in true love. But I also deeply believe in the complexity, variety, and downright insanity of love. A lucky person loves hundreds of people in their lives, all in different ways, family love, friendship love, romantic love, all in so many shades and depths. I don’t think you lose your ability—or right—to have true love by loving more than one person. In part, this is true because you never love two people the same way. Another part is that, if you’re lucky, you learn to love better with practice. The bottom line is that you have to choose who you are going to commit to—that’s the foundation of true love, not a lack of other options.

  3. spoonbeams Says:

    I should go back and clarify. Hemingway had to have thought about the sensitivities of “people” or else he couldn’t have been the writer he was. I just wonder if he ever thought about the impact of his own words and actions on the sensitivities of his family and friends.

    There was a lot of suicide in Hemingway’s family. If you google Hemingway suicide you will find several tellings of the history and even more theories. There is a book Hemingway’s Women by Bernice Kert. It was very well researched and you might find it a good read.

    It would be fun to meet over coffee.

  4. spoonbeams Says:

    Reblogged this on spoonbeams and commented:
    Chance meeting —


  5. […] and Gellhorn; Whiskey Dreams: Inside the Mind of Hemingway; Wakeless Love, Tragedy and Words; The Hemingway Archivist: Connection and Disconnection.) This man was filled with pain, but his work was prosperous because of that. I feel that my best […]


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