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The old man at Hvaler

Cuba is a state in Østfold.


[hemingway] Ernest Hemingway and the sea are connected like shrimp and lemon. At least that's how it has been every summer. When the joint holiday sets in, the family moves to Papper på Hvaler and father picks out the short stories from the bookshelf. Or it could be the debut novel And the sun goes its way, which this year turns 80 years old. Not to forget books about the author, type Bo Tao Michaëlis' Man of the Century. A Portrait of Ernest Hemingway (1999).

Father heals his beard, has sex with his wife and drinks rooms as if it were mixed water, while he philosophizes on the wisdom of the locals who mourn the sound of his exotic dialect. The other one calls the Danish boat, he thinks is the ferry to Key West. The shrimp boats are all called "Pilar". Papa, as his children with speech errors call him, sits quietly in the armchair for four weeks, fishing for happiness. Dad on Paper.

This year I have included Hemingway on the China Front, which came out before the summer, by journalist Peter Moreira. Hemingway's relationship with China is an overlooked chapter in the myth of the author, even in the extensive biographies of him. Hemingway was just a travel attachment to his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, who was on a three-month assignment for Collier's magazine in Hong Kong, China and Burma in 1941. The stay in Asia was the beginning of the end of their relationship, and the beginning of Hemingway's unhealthy relationship with brother alcohol.

Second, the adventurer Hemingway undertook a spy mission for the US government: to report on the conflict between nationalists and communists in China. After eleven weeks, Hemingway sent home a report concluding that Japan was going to attack the United States. Before Pearl Harbor, no one took him seriously, but in the years that followed, he was viciously mediated by the FBI. From Cuba, a conspiratorial, bitter and seaborne Hemingway fed Americans with stories that German Nazi boats ravaged freely off the coast of the island. He got cash with cash and was exempt from gasoline rationing, so his wet fishing trips with "Pilar" were sponsored by US tax dollars.

Hemingway's spy adventure is most tragic, and another reminder that fictional writers should stay away from politics. The American who had hired Hemingway for the Asia mission turned out to be an agent of the Soviet Union. The information did not end up in Washington, but in the Kremlin. Patriot Hemingway loved his country so much he hurt it.

Hemingway's private biography is a lesson in misunderstood patriotism, despite spending most of his life outside the United States, but his fiction and journalism are a bulwark against an overdose of Norwegian archipelago idyll. Many think it is extra valuable to read, for example, Thomas Mann's Death in Venice in Venice, James Joyce's Ulysses in Dublin and Paul Auster in New York, but you get just as much value from reading literature that complements or breaks with the place you are staying. At Hemingway you can do both at the same time.

There are those who claim that the action in The Old Man and the Sea takes place off the coast of Cuba, but they have never been to Whales. From Hemingway you can travel anywhere in the world. It is needed when sitting on an island with a goddamn sea view, where the girls decorate themselves with wild strawberries on straw, old men drop by with freshly caught mackerel when newspaper columns are to be written, and people generally act as if time does not matter. One takes in the belief that man can live by nature and sunsets alone. One takes care of wanting nowhere. You answer all the questions with mañana, mañana – yes, tomorrow Castro will come by for a mojito.

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