The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry. --Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). When his name is mentioned, this iconic twentieth century American writer may be more readily recalled as a two-fisted, hypermasculine deep-sea fisher, big game hunter, war vet, brawler, and womanizer, rather than as a Nobel Prize-winning and groundbreaking author of genius.
In Hemingway, their new, unprecedented six-hour documentary series for PBS, co-directors Lynn Novick and Ken Burns and senior producer Sarah Botstein have created a revelatory and nuanced portrait of the writer. The film explores the myths about the author as it examines each stage of his life as a writer as well as his celebrity and his loves, his childhood, his wars, his marriages (times four), his children (three sons), his physical and psychic wounds, his mental illness, his suicide, and more. The film is based on extensive research into Hemingway’s letters, diaries, and notes as well as books and papers of friends, family members, and colleagues, significant academic monographs, and a fascinating trove of rare photographic and film resources, many of which were only recently discovered by the Burns-Novick team.
The documentary frames scenes from Hemingway’s life with commentary from leading literary scholars and historians as well as prominent authors including Edna O’Brien, Tobias Wolff, Mary Karr, Tim O’Brien, Mario Vargas Llosa, and others. In addition, several acclaimed actors lend their voices to the film, such as Jeff Daniels who delivers the words of Hemingway, and Meryl Streep who gives voice to Martha Gellhorn, the brilliant journalist and author—and Hemingway’s third wife.
Director Ms. Novick and Senior Producer Ms. Botstein generously discussed their widely anticipated documentary Hemingway by Zoom.
The interview in its entirety can be read on the History News Network website.
Originally Published with the History News Network on May 23, 2021