Hemingway's Grandson Brings New Life to "The Sun Also Rises"

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Ernest Hemingway
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"This is a novel about a lady." That's how Ernest Hemingway initially began "The Sun Also Rises," though those lines and the entire first chapter of the book were eventually tossed.

But this week, Hemingway readers will get a new experience with an old classic. The publishing house Scribner is releasing a version of the book that's never been seen before. It includes lost chapters and extensive revisions, giving an altogether new portrait of Papa's creative process.

Sean Hemingway is a curator in the Department of Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He's also the grandson of Ernest Hemingway, and editor of this new edition of "The Sun Also Rises."

“This new Hemingway Library edition of ‘The Sun Also Rises’ gets into how my grandfather wrote the book,” says Sean. “After going to Pamplona, he really knew that he had a great subject and he went at it furiously. He knew he had to write a novel—he had been writing so many wonderful stories, but he needed a novel.”

Before “The Sun Also Rises,” Hemingway attempted to write a novel. But in 1922 his first wife, Hadley Richardson, lost track of a suitcase that held several of his manuscripts at a train station in Paris.

“We’ll never really know exactly what that first novel was, but I don’t think it was the masterpiece that ‘The Sun Also Rises’ is,” says Sean. “I think he learned a tremendous amount in Paris, mingling with all of these other great writers, artists, and luminaries. It was a great training ground for him.”

In the new edition of “The Sun Also Rises,” Sean says there are some new passages that were previously deleted, and some surprising insights.

“He disparages a bit the (Latin) Quarter and his colleagues,” he says. “And yet, he clearly sat at the foot of Gertrude Stein and learned from her and was greatly influenced by her. I think he was very caught up in it—he was living it. Later on in his life, in works like ‘A Moveable Feast,’ he really goes back and reflects differently on it.”

In addition to some previously excluded chapters, Sean says that this new edition of “The Sun Also Rises” provides readers with some more insight into the creative process of his grandfather.

“It’s amazing to think that this was his first novel to be published,” says Sean. “He threw himself into it—he wrote the first draft in two months. Later he said he wrote too quickly, and that he had to do a lot of editing. You can see examples of the first draft and how different it is from the final product and all the changes that he did to finish the book, polish it, and make it the way he wanted it to be.”

Sean says that the conflicts of the day influenced his grandfather deeply, adding that the universal themes of war and camaraderie have helped keep his grandfather's books fresh for generations of readers.

“The subjects in his book to deal a lot with the consequences of war—both World War I and World War II, and the Spanish Civil War,” says Sean. “For him, (war) was a powerful subject that he wrote about a lot.”

Sean believes that “The Sun Also Rises” continues to live across generations because of the deeper themes ingrained in the text.

“It has a vitality and a fresh quality that still resonates today,” he says. “I think what’s fascinating in the material that’s included in this new edition is this unpublished forward that he wrote for it, and how serious it is and how literary it is. He’s sort of depressed about the effects of World War I, and for his generation that has devastated everyone and that they can’t move beyond it. And that’s what you see in ‘The Sun Also Rises’—these broken people that can’t move beyond the damages of the war.”

In this new edition, Sean says that some of the discarded chapters that Hemingway originally cut shed light into the way people felt as these conflicts unfloded. As violence continues to flare up across the globe—from Syria and Iraq to the West Bank and beyond—the lessons that Hemingway bestowed to the world in “The Sun Also Rises” continue to carry weight in 2014.

“War is everywhere, and I think this book remains a very powerful reference point for seeing how damaged people are by war,” says Sean. “There are thousands around the world who come back with post-traumatic stress disorder from war from serving their countries, and have to go on and live their lives. They do the best they can, but it’s a phenomenon that continues.”