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Ernest Hemingway. The life of an indomitable writer, seen with a Freudian eye

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Tone can be a hard concept to document, but the sense of condescension here about circumstances that clearly took an extraordinary level of courage is the kind of attitude that tends to undermine this biographer's believability and sympathy for his subject. As is the near-sarcasm of ``he tried to demonstrate that he was still a good man to have around in a crisis ....''

Well, in this instance Hemingway has my vote. He still seems a pretty good man to have around - ``indomitability'' enough for me.

Whatever the reason, Hemingway, neck and neck with Mark Twain (and heavily influenced by him), may be the stylist and narrator around whom much of modern American fiction pivots. For many - correctly or incorrectly - he has come to mark the end of what might loosely be called ``Victorian style.''

You can give others the credit. You can see Hemingway style as the natural evolution of this or that, from this writer or that.

You can perhaps even take Lynn's view: ``To be forced to practice the most severe economy in your attempts to `render' your life artistically, because your capital of self-understanding was too small to permit you to be expansive and your fear of exposure too powerful.''

(That is: Hemingway's style was so spare because his understanding of himself was so spare. Shall we say something similar of Picasso's move from realism to abstraction?)

But for me such an approach to Hemingway's life leaves the essence of this great spirit unexplained - his boundless energy and creativity, the quality of his writings - among them ``classic'' short stories and novels - and the literary awards, including the Nobel Prize.

This leads to broader questions: Are biography and literary criticism to remain forever in the kingdom of Freud? Is artistic creativity always the sublimation of frustrations and emotions? And doesn't the acceptance of this ``given'' inevitably shadow much that a biographer or critic observes and writes about? Isn't it a reductio ad absurdum explanation for the roots of creative endeavor?

Yet in ``Hemingway,'' concerning the writing of ``A Moveable Feast,'' we find:

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