”In order to write about life, first you must live it.”
This quote is from Ernest Hemingway, one of the most famous American writers of the last century, whose influence on the capital of Cuba, was greater than that of any other author. Nearly everywhere in Havana there are reminders of Hemingway’s stay on Cuba. You often see statues or sculptures of him in the streets, his favourite pub and his favourite café have become famous tourist attractions.
But it was just a coincidence that Hemingway came to live in Havana. During a sailing trip from Europe to Florida the young Hemingway and his friend had to make a technical stop in Havana because of some problems on the boat. Hemingway only stayed in Havana for 48 hours, but he was so fascinated by the city that he came back many times as a tourist, to admire the beauty of the Caribbean metropole. In 1939 he decided to make Havana his new home. But every creative writer needs a perfect place where he can come up with new ideas and concentrate on writing, so Hemingway and his second wife Martha started to search for a house. At first, he didn’t like the villa, in which he would live, called Finca Vigia, but Martha bought the house without the agreement of her husband. Anyway, Hemingway lived in the villa for over twenty years and produced most of his work there, for example his last and most famous book called “The Old Man and the Sea”, for which he received the Nobel prize of literature.
But Hemingway wasn’t only an excellent author as his personality had two very different sides. On one hand he was a brilliant writer, his books are popular all over the world and he invented a new unique writing style that reformed the world of authors. On the other hand, he was a real womanizer who loved hunting. He was also dealing with health problems due to his large consumption of alcohol, especially when he got older. In 1960 Hemingway even had to leave Cuba for medical reasons because of his many diseases like diabetes and the problems with his liver. Only one year later he committed suicide.
To learn more about his life and his personality, we visited his old villa Finca Vigia, which was turned into a museum only one year after his death. As we arrived at the villa, the vice director of the museum gave us a short presentation about Hemingway and his life, while we were sitting in the shade of palms in the big garden that surrounds the old villa. After that, we walked through the garden and had a look into the different rooms of the villa. Every room was left just like it had originally been in the 50ties and 60ties including some personal belongings and old objects of Hemingway’s property. Nearly in every room, there were stuffed heads of dead animals hanging on the white painted walls. Everywhere, there were wooden bookshelves filled with masterworks from the past, even in the bathroom. Because of his popularity and the successful sale of his writing, Hemingway earned a lot of money, so his lifestyle was very luxurious especially considering the times in which he lived. He had a tennis court, a big swimming pool and a yacht, which he often used to go fishing on the north coast of Cuba. But did all this luxury make him a happier man? Probably not, judging by the depression he suffered in his last years, which drove him to commit suicide.
Some days after our visit at the Hemingway museum, we said goodbye to Cuba and drove back to the Thor. As we arrived at the marina, I saw a little sign which read in big blue letters “Marina-Hemingway”. I smiled.