“So much of Havana, and Cuba, centers on the sea, and in this beautiful but merciless sea lies a part of Hemingway’s spirit and a vast part of his literary genius.” –Robert Wheeler, HEMINGWAY’S HAVANA
Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba for more than two decades, longer than anywhere else. He bought a home―naming it the Finca Vigia―with his third wife, Martha Gellhorn and wrote his masterpiece The Old Man and the Sea there.
In Cuba, Papa Hemingway found a sense of serenity and enrichment that he couldn’t find anywhere else. Now, through more than a hundred color photographs and accompanying text, Robert Wheeler takes us through the streets and near the water’s edge of Havana, and closer to the relationship Hemingway shared with the Cuban people, their landscape, their politics, and their culture.
Wheeler has followed Hemingway’s path across continents―from La Closerie des Lilas Café in Paris to Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West to El Floridita in Havana―seeking to capture through photography and the written word the essence of one of the greatest writers in the English language. In Hemingway’s Havana, he reveals the beauty and the allure of Cuba, an island nation whose deep connection with the sea came to fascinate and inspire the writer.
From the foreword by América Fuentes, the granddaughter of the late Gregorio Fuentes, Hemingway’s friend and the captain of his boat Pilar, the reader will be captivated by Robert Wheeler’s vision of Cuba as Hemingway lived and breathed it.
HEMINGWAY’S HAVANA follows Wheeler’s triumphant photo journal, HEMINGWAY’S PARIS. These collections give us glimpses of the streets and vistas of Hemingway’s haunts from the exact places he stood. The views are informed by what Hemingway wrote about them and, because of this, offer special and humanizing insight into the writer who continues to fascinate.
Throughout, there is emphasis on Fuentes’s words about her grandfather, the Cuban people, and Hemingway that they lived por el mar, y para el mar: because the sea exists, and as servants to the sea. This current sets the sound of the sea in the reader’s ear. It is an anchor and a reminder that poverty in the presence of such majesty feels less poor.
“Both Hemingway and the Cuban people were simple in actions and in work and in expression, yet not simplistic.” Robert Wheeler, HEMINGWAY’S HAVANA
In the beauty of crumbling architecture and faded colors, antique cars and cracks in the walls where flowers grow, however, there is a romanticism that tends to the idealistic. Wheeler is clear that Hemingway was a romantic and that he is a romantic. While there is beauty in truth, simplicity, and even poverty, I was uneasy with the romanticizing of political figures. Wheeler does remind us that the photographs are meant to show Cuba as Hemingway saw it, at the time he saw it, so there is room for this idealism.
Overall, Wheeler’s eye for color and the arrangement of the photos take the reader on an emotional and a visual journey. The most moving images are of the Cuban people, particularly the old. Wheeler has a knack for capturing their timelessness, their sadness, and their wisdom.
Wheeler’s words and images are immersive and captivating, and he reveals Hemingway and the places he traveled as well as–or better than–any biographer. I hope Robert Wheeler gives us many more glimpses of Hemingway’s life from the fascinating places he lived and worked. For the Hemingway aficionado to the lover of art and place, I highly recommend HEMINGWAY’S HAVANA.