January 6, 2009 / 1:39 AM / 10 years ago

Cuba opens Hemingway archives to scholars

SAN FRANCISCO DE PAULA, Cuba (Reuters) - Cuba on Monday made the first of thousands of digitized documents, photographs and books that belonged to writer Ernest Hemingway available to scholars after the items languished for decades in the basement of his home outside of Havana.

A visitor looks into the house of late Nobel-prize winning author Ernest Hemingway at Finca Vigia in Havana July 2, 2008. REUTERS/Claudia Daut

Most of the papers have never been published and will give new insight into the 21 years Hemingway spent at Finca Vigia in San Francisco de Paula where he wrote some of his greatest works, said Ada Rosa Alfonso Rosales, director of Museo Ernest Hemingway.

Scholars “will be able to study important documents that shed light on the Cuban period of Hemingway, which was very important and not well known by his biographers,” she said.

The material includes more than 2,000 documents ranging from manuscripts of some of his works to letters to store receipts, 3,500 photographs and 9,000 books, some 2,000 of which Hemingway was known to have read because he made notes in the margins, she said.

The documents included coded accounts by Hemingway of his exploits searching for German submarines off Cuba’s coast during World War Two and letters about his love affair with Italian Countess Adriana Ivancich, believed to be the model for the heroine in his 1950 novel “Across the River and Into the Trees,” Alfonso said.

So far, about half of the 2,000 documents have been preserved and digitized and are now available for perusal by scholars who make formal application to see them.

For now, they will have to go to Finca Vigia, or Lookout Farm, to see the archive, but later this month the documents will also be available at the Hemingway collection in the John F. Kennedy presidential library in Boston, Alfonso said.

The archive is not available on the Internet, but likely will be someday, she said.

The project is part of a joint effort by the Cuban National Cultural Heritage Council and the U.S. Social Science Research Council, working together under a 2002 agreement to preserve the archives that were stored in Hemingway’s basement.

Decades exposed to humidity, insects and heat took a toll on many of the documents, which Cuban conservationists have painstakingly restored, then scanned into computers.

Hemingway moved to Finca Vigia in 1939, the year before “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was published, and wrote “The Old Man and the Sea,” “A Moveable Feast” and “Islands in the Stream” while there, Alfonso said.

He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

In July 1960, he returned to the United States and a year later, on July 3, 1961 at the age of 61, he committed suicide in Idaho.

Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Eric Walsh

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