Wed, Jan 07, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Museum launches electronic access to Hemingway papers


Cuba on Monday began accepting requests for electronic access to more than 3,000 documents from author Ernest Hemingway’s home on the island, including the unpublished epilogue of For Whom the Bell Tolls and coded messages the author sent when using his boat to hunt for German submarines during World War II.

Unedited manuscripts, a screenplay for the The Old Man and the Sea, letters to the Nobel laureate and insurance policies are among other papers at Finca Vigia, the hillside hideaway on the eastern outskirts of Havana where Hemingway lived from 1939 until 1960.

The 3,197 documents were scanned and organized electronically as part of a 2002 agreement between Cuban national heritage authorities and the New York-based Social Science Research Council, which also provided acid-free boxes and other storage materials to better protect the originals, said Ada Rosa Alfonso, director of the museum at Finca Vigia.

Alfonso said academics, researchers and others could petition the island’s heritage council to obtain electronic copies of specific documents. By lunchtime on Monday, the museum was working on the first such petition, from a journalism professor in Spain seeking correspondence between Hemingway and Spanish author Jose Luis Castillo-Puche.

In an interview at the museum, whose name means “Lookout Farm,” Alfonso said about 1,000 more documents from Finca Vigia would be scanned and made available upon request, though she did not say when.

Alfonso said the collection did not include any newly discovered literary works because the author’s widow, Mary Welsh, took most documents back to the US after his suicide in 1961.

“If there are any new works that have not been published they are not in Cuba,” she said.

Sarah Doty, Cuba program coordinator for the Social Science Research Council, said authorities had given CDs and microfilm images of the Finca Vigia documents to the John F. Kennedy library in Boston.

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