After two weeks in Havana, I have many stories about Ernest Hemingway in Cuba. There are tours to all of the Nobel prize-winning author’s haunts: the bars that he frequented, the hotel room where he wrote, and his home outside of Havana. Not surprisingly, he’s revered by Cubans. He wrote about their life and their people.
The Old Man And The Sea
He loved the country. When he won the Nobel prize for his novel, The Old Man And The Sea, he gave his award to the Cuban people for inspiring his story.
Essentially, this book is about an old fisherman, a young boy and a fish. But it’s more than that. It’s about the power of the human spirit to keep going despite all odds. It’s also about the dignity of nature and old age.
To honour the writer, the fishermen of Cojimar raised money for a bronze sculpture of him. It sits in the bar, Floridita, where he liked to drink daiquiris.
Hemingway was a man, larger than life itself. He bravely re-imagined how to tell a story by trimming unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. He was a master at getting inside his character’s heads and writing their inner dialogue.
I was surprised to discover that there were no chapters in The Old Man And The Sea. The story moved well. I was quickly drawn in. That’s because the subject matter is about life itself, through the mind of an unlikely hero—a fisherman.
Stopping at a Hemingway Bar
Another stop on our walks through Havana was La Bodeguito del Medio, a tiny bar overwhelmed by tourists waiting for to taste a mojito.
The crowd wasn’t there so much for the drink as it was for the fact that Hemingway used to stop there to drink that rum cocktail. The bar’s walls are covered with signatures, paying homage to the writer; and on one wall facing the street, is hung a rendering of the actor, Morgan Freeman. I suppose he was a fan as well.
Where Hemingway Wrote
While Hemingway was in Havana, he liked to write in room 511 in the Hotel Ambos Mundos. It was where he wrote some of For Whom The Bell Tolls. It’s a small room, now preserved as a museum. It boasts a fine view of the city, a twin bed, a bookcase, various memorabilia, and his typewriter (protected by plexiglass).
In Hotel Mercure Sevilla, where we stayed, management claims that Hemingway wrote some of For Whom The Bell Tolls on their premises, and displays a letter from the author, attesting to that fact.
Although we didn’t visit his house outside of Havana, it’s listed in guide books as containing 4,000-6,000 books, which were appropriated by Fidel Castro when he took over running the country. As they say, if you want to be a good writer, you also have to be an avid reader.
Though I elected not to drink at any of the bars he frequented as the prices of dauqiris and mojitos were twice what they were elsewhere, I appreciated how many fans Hemingway still has. The museum guide at the Hotel Ambos Mundos mentioned that even the award-winning Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, had visited his room. And for a writer, whose occupation is often to sit alone in front of a computer, typewriter or notepad, that’s really something, isn’t it?
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