Friday, June 27, 2014

Nancy W. Sindelar's "Influencing Hemingway"

Nancy W. Sindelar holds an M.A. in Literature, a C.A.S. in Educational Administration, and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. She has spent over 30 years in education as a teacher, administrator, university professor, and consultant and has published numerous articles and three books on educational topics. A board member of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, Sindelar has made many popular presentations about the life and work of Hemingway.

Her new book, Influencing Hemingway: The People and Places That Shaped His Life and Work, contains more than sixty photographs of the individuals and locales that influenced Hemingway, allowing readers to see Hemingway from a new perspective.

Sindelar applied the “Page 99 Test” to Influencing Hemingway and reported the following:
Opening Influencing Hemingway to page 99, a reader finds a photo of Ernest Hemingway in France during World War II [below right; click to enlarge] and the statement that “Throughout his life Ernest loved the action and exhilaration that came from the involvement with war.” This interest in war was the influence of his grandfathers. Both were veterans of the Civil War and viewed war a as venue for men to display honor and courage. Coached by his grandfathers, Ernest believed the strain and horror of battle tested the individual and brought out the best and worst in men. His experiences in World War I became the basis for A Farewell to Arms and his friendships during the Spanish Civil War served to create memorable characters in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Ernest’s love of Spain and fascination with war drew him to the Spanish Civil War. By 1936 his extraordinary reputation made him a visible, meaningful spokesman for the Loyalist cause and he jumped at the opportunity to be a war correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA). After the Fascist cause won in Spain, he was convinced the Spanish Civil War was merely a prelude to a larger global conflict. His instincts were correct, and during World War II, he returned to Europe as a war correspondent for Collier’s.

Once again, Ernest placed himself in dangerous situations to be part of the action and absorb the experiences needed for a good story. From the vantage point aboard a landing craft off the coast of Normandy, he witnessed the D-day landing at Omaha Beach and described for his readers, the steep cliffs of Omaha Beach, the vantage points of the German machine-guns along the lower ridges of the cliffs, and the drowning of hundreds of men as they tried to reach the shore under heavy machine-gun fire.

As time progressed, Ernest saw that modern warfare was different than the experiences of his grandfathers and came to believe that it was impossible for a country to wage modern warfare and emerge with its innocence intact. Though a strong supporter of the Loyalists during the Spanish Civil War, he wrote about the atrocities that took place on both sides in For Whom the Bell Tolls. After his experiences in World War II, he believed the leaders of Nazi Germany should be punished, but he also believed a country that killed 60,000 civilians with one atomic bomb had no reason to feel smug.

Photo credit: Ernest Hemingway Collection.John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston
Visit Nancy W. Sindelar's website.

See Sindelar's six best Hemingway novels, ranked.

--Marshal Zeringue