Thank you Ernest Hemingway

I have often been asked who was the author who most influenced my writing and invariably I have fudged the answer; I’ve read everything from Tolstoy to William Boyd, I’d say.  And that is true; I have been a voracious reader all my life, something that comes from being an only child in the pre-digital age.  It is only recently that I have come to realise that the writer to whom I owe the most gratitude is Ernest Hemingway,  Now I am not a heavy drinking (not really), smoking, womanising, macho man but I have always loved his sparse, carefully worded and sensitive prose and unwittingly I have tried to emulate it.
A short while ago I met an exceptional woman; she was an American living in Spain with her husband.  She had contacted me through my web page because she had enjoyed one of my books and as she was living close by, wondered if I’d like to meet for coffee.  We spent an enjoyable morning, sitting in a cafe, overlooking a very blue Mediterranean Sea and talking about books and more importantly about Ernest Hemingway.  She had her own website; it was called the Hemingway Project and was dedicated to all and everything about Ernest Hemingway, her hero.  She had attracted all kinds of followers, many of whom had new tales to tell of Hemingway and photos and letters to share with her and her readers.
As we were talking I realised to my shame that I had not read any Hemingway since my teens; I couldn’t even go home and take down a copy to refresh my memory.  As a teenager all my reading was from books taken from my favourite place, the local library; that was where I learnt of the great writers: Steinbeck, Hemingway, Tolstoy, Maupassant, Balzac, Hardy, Scott Fitzgerald and many, many others.  So when I got home that evening I went straight to Amazon and ordered the Hemingway books that I had loved in my youth: ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ was top of the list.
Just recently I have been reading a wonderful book by Donna Tart; her writing is vivacious, colourful, all-encompassing and riveting.  I couldn’t put the book down, even though it was eight hundred pages long and made my arms ache holding it.  But as I read it I knew that I could never hope to emulate her; it was like admiring a beautiful dress on another woman but knowing that it would not suit you.  It wasn’t until I started re-reading ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ that I suddenly realised where my fascination with Spain and its history had come from and who had been the greatest influence, albeit without my knowing it, on my writing.
So thank you Ernest Hemingway and thank you Allie Baker.  Get well soon.

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Joan Fallon is a writer and novelist living in Spain.

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