from Liz: Sean Hemingway interview on alternative endings to A Farewell to Arms

She does it every time, you guys, because she a) knows me and my tastes quite well and b) scours the internet and the podcasts and whatnot constantly.

Liz sent me this: an interview with Ernest Hemingway’s nephew, Sean, on a radio show called “To the Best of Our Knowledge” (acronym TTBOOK, which is cute). It opens with a movie clip (from a movie I’ve never heard of, which is a reflection on me, not the movie) about Hemingway’s very well-regarded World War I novel, A Farewell to Arms: the movie’s protagonist is upset about the ending, as many of us have been and will be. Sean Hemingway has recently released a new edited version, A Farewell to Arms: The Hemingway Library Edition, which includes all the alternative endings that Hemingway wrote before settling on the one we know. There were 47 of them.

Click the above link to listen to, or read, the interview, which includes a few of the alternate endings. (I started by listening – which was good, for the movie clip, and for hearing Sean’s voice; but then I got impatient and read through the rest.) Um, this should be clear, but if you haven’t read the book, beware of spoilers in the interview!

I was intrigued because, as interviewer Steve Paulson says, these alternate endings give us a real window into Hemingway’s process and his difficulty, himself, with the ending. And as Sean points out, most of us have lost a loved one, and the difficulties Hemingway had working out how to end this book are analogous, at least, to the difficulties we have in letting go.

Do I want this new edition? Do I want to reread the novel, or just the 47 endings? I’m not sure; my appetite is certainly whetted by this interview, but I don’t think I’m up for a full reread. For one thing, although much-lauded, A Farewell to Arms is far from being among my favorite Hemingway works. I’d reread it before I reread Death in the Afternoon, but that’s about it. And I still haven’t read everything he wrote, either, so it would be hard to justify. I could run through those endings, though… we shall see.

Thanks, Liz, for another great reference. Go check out the interview – it’s short.

3 Responses

  1. I’m pretty much like you on A Farewell to Arms — it’s far from my favorite. And 47 endings is more than I could possibly spend time on.

    At first it made me think of deleted scenes in movies, which can be interesting (as I talked about here: http://u-town.com/collins/?p=4400 ), but then the difference occurred to me.

    With deleted scenes on a DVD, the director still had some input into which deleted scenes were included. With this, obviously the author was not consulted.

    But that’s not a firm rule with me, since I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of the History of Middle Earth series (which shows the early drafts of Lord of the Rings). So, I think it’s mostly the “47” thing. Couldn’t they have edited it down to the Top Ten or something? 🙂

    • Lol. I’m attracted by the idea of the 47 endings; it’s the question of rereading the whole book to get them back in perspective that daunts me. If the few that he read in this interview are any indication, they’re short, at least. I bet there are exceptions though!

  2. […] from Liz: Sean Hemingway interview on alternative endings to A Farewell to Arms (pagesofjulia.com) […]

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