A new partnership will allow US academics and the public to get a fuller view of the trove of books and records novelist Ernest Hemingway left at his home in Cuba where he wrote some of his most famous works.
Cuba and a private US foundation are working together to preserve more of Hemingway’s papers and belongings that have been kept at his home near Havana since he died in 1961.
On Monday, US Representative James McGovern and the Boston-based Finca Vigia Foundation are scheduled to announce the digitization of 2,000 Hemingway papers and materials. The digital copies will be transferred to Boston’s John F. Kennedy Library.
This is the first time anyone in the US has been able to examine these items from the writer’s Cuban estate, Finca Vigia. The records include passports showing Hemingway’s travels and letters commenting on such works as his 1954 Nobel Prize-winning The Old Man and the Sea.
Jenny Phillips, the granddaughter of Hemingway’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, founded the Finca Vigia Foundation in 2004 after a visit to Havana. She saw Hemingway’s home falling into disrepair and became aware of the many records kept in a damp basement at the estate. She worked to get permission from the US Treasury and State departments to send conservators and archivists to Cuba to help save the literary records.
The newly digitized files include letters from Hemingway to the actress Ingrid Bergman, letters to his wife, Mary, passports documenting his travels and bar bills, grocery lists and notations of hurricane sightings. It does not include any manuscripts.
An earlier digitization effort that opened 3,000 Hemingway files in 2008 uncovered fragments of manuscripts, including an alternate ending to For Whom the Bell Tolls and corrected proofs of The Old Man and the Sea. Restoration work continues at Hemingway’s Finca Vigia estate in Cuba. A new building is being constructed with library-quality atmospheric controls to house the writer’s books and original records.
“Scholars have been trying for years to see what’s there, and because of the political situation between the two countries, the Cubans held on very fast to what they had there,” said Phillips, who spent time negotiating on both the Cuban and US sides to gain access to the Hemingway collection. “I think this is an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind collaboration between the two countries.”
McGovern, an advocate of normalizing relations between the US and Cuba, has called the collaboration over Hemingway historic.
In 2009, he said it was “a turning point toward a more rational, mature relationship.”