Unpublished Letters Written by Ernest Hemingway Made Available for the First Time by JFK Library

For Immediate Release: March 28, 2012 
Media Contact: Rachel Flor (617) 514-1662, rachel.flor@jfklfoundation.org  

Boston, MA– The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum today announced that fifteen letters written by Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway to his close friend Gianfranco Ivancich have been made available to scholars. Hemingway met Ivancich and his sister, Adriana, who became the author’s muse, while visiting Venice in 1949. The letters provide a glimpse into Hemingway’s life in Cuba and his travels around the world. 

The Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library spans Hemingway’s entire career and represents ninety percent of existing Hemingway manuscript materials, making the Kennedy Library the world’s principal center for research on the life and work of Ernest Hemingway. 

“These extraordinary letters offer new insight into Hemingway during the last years of his life,” said Tom Putnam, Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. “Since many of the letters have never been seen before, they are a treasure trove for new scholarship." 

Spanning the years 1953 to 1960, the fifteen pieces of correspondence written by Ernest Hemingway were purchased from Gianfranco Ivancich by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in November 2011. The letters, twelve of which have never before been published, are both handwritten and typed, many with signatures and handwritten notes in the margins. Hemingway wrote to his Venetian friend from Cuba, where he was living during this period, and also while in Ketchum, Idaho; Kilimanjaro; Nairobi; Paris; and Madrid. These new letters complement the 23 letters and cables from Ivancich and five from Hemingway to Ivancich that are already in the Hemingway Collection at the Kennedy Library. 

Gianfranco Ivancich first met Ernest Hemingway in January 1949 at the bar of the Gritti Palace Hotel in Venice, where they bonded over common war experiences (both had been badly wounded in the legs). Despite their age difference of over twenty years, the two struck up an unlikely friendship. In November of 1949, Ivancich announced that he would take up work at a shipping agency in Cuba, and Hemingway hosted him in a guest room at the Finca Vigia for an extended stay. Ivancich eventually purchased his own home near Ranco Boyeros, where he lived on and off until 1958, when he sold the property. Up until Hemingway’s death, the pair maintained a close friendship through letter writing, and Ivancich was one of the few people present at Hemingway’s private funeral. 

Hemingway’s affection for Ivancich is apparent throughout the letters, which are both frank and personal. In one letter dated February 22, 1953, Hemingway describes the painful event of having to shoot his cat Willie after the animal was struck by a car. When a group of tourists arrived at his home the same day, he writes, “I still had the rifle and I explained to them they had come at a bad time and to please understand and go away. But the rich Cadillac psycho said, ‘We have come at a most interesting time. Just in time to see the great Hemingway cry because he has to kill a cat.’” 

Of Ivancich, he writes: “We miss you very much and it is lonesome to have somebody around as you were and have them like a brother and have them go away. Now I have no brother and no good drinking friend nor hard-working banana grower. Everybody remembers you with so much affection and sends very best wishes.” 

In many of the letters, Hemingway inquires about Adriana, whose visit to Cuba in 1950 he credited with inspiring the creative period during which he wrote much of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Old Man and the Sea

In addition to the Hemingway letters, the Kennedy Library Foundation has also acquired from Ivancich’s collection a manuscript of The Faithful Bull, a fable that Hemingway wrote for Ivancich’s small nephew, Gherrardo Scapinelli. The story is from a period of Hemingway’s work that he referred to as the “Venetian Fables,” and a final version was eventually published in the now defunct Holiday magazine. 

On Sunday, April 1, 2012, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum will display several of the letters during the annual Hemingway Foundation/PEN New England Awards Ceremony at the Kennedy Library. Patrick Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s son, will present the prestigious literary award for a distinguished first book of fiction to Teju Cole for Open City (Random House). Novelist Andre Dubus III will serve as the ceremony’s keynote speaker. 

The Ernest Hemingway Collection was the generous gift of Mary Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s widow, to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. While Ernest Hemingway and John F. Kennedy never met, President Kennedy admired Hemingway's work. In the opening sentence of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, Kennedy cited Hemingway's description of courage, writing that, "This is a book about the most admirable of human virtues: courage. 'Grace under pressure,' as Ernest Hemingway defined it." President Kennedy invited Hemingway to his 1961 inauguration, but the author declined as he was too ill to travel. 

Mary Hemingway saw the Kennedy Library as a fitting place for her late husband’s papers due to the role President Kennedy played in helping her collect them after Hemingway’s death. In 1961, despite a U.S. ban on travel to Cuba (the result of high tensions between the two countries following the Bay of Pigs invasion), President Kennedy made arrangements for her to enter Cuba to claim family documents and belongings. While in Cuba, Mrs. Hemingway met with Fidel Castro who allowed her to take her husband’s papers and the artwork he collected in exchange for the donation of their Finca Vigia home and its remaining belongings to the Cuban people. 

A 1968 exchange of letters between Mary Hemingway and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis confirmed that the Hemingway papers would find a permanent home at the Kennedy Library. In 1972, Mrs. Hemingway began depositing papers in the Kennedy Library, and in 1980 Patrick Hemingway and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis dedicated the Hemingway Room in the Kennedy Library. To learn more about the Hemingway Collection, or to find out how to make an appointment to conduct research visit www.jfklibrary.org or call (866) JFK-1960

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is one of 13 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and is supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. 

Download the Press Kit for the Gianfranco Ivancich Letters