8 July 2017

Ernest Hemingway – American novelist

War wounds sustained in Italy inspire the great American novel

Hemingway in the uniform he  wore while serving in Italy
Hemingway in the uniform he
wore while serving in Italy
An 18-year-old American Red Cross driver named Ernest Hemingway was severely wounded by shrapnel from an Austrian mortar shell on this day in 1918 at Fossalta di Piave in the Veneto.

Hemingway was taken to a field hospital in Treviso, from where he was transferred by train to a hospital in Milan. While in the hospital and recovering after two operations, he fell in love with his nurse, 26-year-old Agnes von Kurowsky.

His experiences of being wounded in Italy and falling in love later inspired him to write the novel, A Farewell to Arms.

On leaving school Hemingway had worked briefly as a reporter for The Kansas City Star before leaving for the Italian front in World War One to enlist as an ambulance driver.

While stationed at Fossalta di Piave he was bringing chocolates and cigarettes to the men on the front line when he was seriously injured by mortar fire. Despite his own wounds, Hemingway assisted some Italian soldiers to safety, for which he later received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery.

Hemingway recuperating in hospital in Milan
Hemingway recuperating in hospital in Milan
After his release from hospital, he returned to the United States in January 1919. He and Agnes had agreed to get married in America, but two months later she wrote to say she had become engaged to an Italian army officer.

A Farewell to Arms, which was published in 1929, is a first-person account told by an American, Frederic Henry, who was serving as a lieutenant in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army. The novel focuses on a love affair between Henry and a woman he meets, Catherine Barkley, which is set against the backdrop of the First World War, with its cynical soldiers, combat and the displacement of populations.

A Farewell to Arms was Hemingway’s first best seller and is regarded as the finest American novel to depict World War One.

The Monument to Peace in Fosslalta, where the  memorial to Hemingway can be found
The Monument to Peace in Fosslalta, where the
memorial to Hemingway can be found
Travel tip:

Fossalta di Piave, where Hemingway was injured during the First World War, is a small town situated 64 km (38 miles) north of Venice, which is famous for the wine it produces. There is a memorial to Hemingway overlooking the river Piave.

Travel tip:

Treviso, where Hemingway was taken to hospital after he was wounded, is an historic, walled city in the Veneto region, with picturesque canals and water wheels. It is the headquarters of the clothing firm, Benetton, and is famous for producing Prosecco wine and the vegetable, radicchio.

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