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Hotchner Remembers Ernest Hemingway ... and the Feds That Pursued Him

Posted on Jul 25, 2011
Flickr / Robert Burdock

Ernest Hemingway died in July 1961.

Earlier this month, on the 50th anniversary of his friend’s death, A.E. Hotchner penned a tender letter in remembrance of Ernest Hemingway.

He expressed remorse for not taking more seriously Hemingway’s suspicions that he was being watched by the FBI; fear, combined with the loss of his talent and feelings of alienation from his friends and family, drove the aging writer to suicide, Hotchner believes. Decades after the novelist’s death, the bureau released records showing that J. Edgar Hoover was uncomfortable with Hemingway’s power as a celebrity and uncertain about his loyalties, and ordered his agents to follow him. —ARK

A.E. Hotchner in The New York Times:

This man, who had stood his ground against charging water buffaloes, who had flown missions over Germany, who had refused to accept the prevailing style of writing but, enduring rejection and poverty, had insisted on writing in his own unique way, this man, my deepest friend, was afraid — afraid that the F.B.I. was after him, that his body was disintegrating, that his friends had turned on him, that living was no longer an option.

Decades later, in response to a Freedom of Information petition, the F.B.I. released its Hemingway file. It revealed that beginning in the 1940s J. Edgar Hoover had placed Ernest under surveillance because he was suspicious of Ernest’s activities in Cuba. Over the following years, agents filed reports on him and tapped his phones. The surveillance continued all through his confinement at St. Mary’s Hospital. It is likely that the phone outside his room was tapped after all.

In the years since, I have tried to reconcile Ernest’s fear of the F.B.I., which I regretfully misjudged, with the reality of the F.B.I. file. I now believe he truly sensed the surveillance, and that it substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide.

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, July 27, 2011 at 2:57 am Link to this comment

“I have tried to reconcile Ernest’s fear of the F.B.I., which I regretfully misjudged, with the reality of the F.B.I. file. I now believe he truly sensed the surveillance, and that it substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide.”

Certainly it deepened his anguish and had an effect on his death.
Just as it magnefies the frustration of anyone, knowing that you are being surveilled by police-types. Especially when you have violated no laws. You don’t have to be a “sensitive” to perceive such abuse, which is amplified for those who are “sensitives”. Added to this is conflation by associates, especially shills, such as with Sean Hoare, and the Murdoch scandal. Use of alcohol and other drugs is often magnified into abuse, by insight into being surveilled – about which one can do nothing- and is lied to by the police-types doing the surveilling.  And the very Murdoch news media guilty of the journalism abuse and dishonesty amplify, post-decease, the concept of “drug abuse” and “paranoia” in the Hoare case, distracting from the core of the debacle, and the evil-doers responsible for all the dishonesty.

In the beginning 1960s, I was strongly impressed with J. Edgar Hoover and “Masters of Deceit.” The tons of information released via FOIA in the last ten years provides extensive clarification and insight into the period 1945-2008. Not only did the German master spy, SS General Gehlin, revamp the OSS into the CIA. He subsequently generated all the false information about communism and Russian plans to invade the West, and fed it through the C.I.A. to American authorities. If Hoover were still alive, I would return the autographed copy of his “spy novel” he gave me about fifty years ago, after spitting on it in front of him.

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By frecklefever, July 26, 2011 at 10:31 am Link to this comment


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By SoTexGuy, July 26, 2011 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

If it’s been maybe twenty years since the works of Hemingway first captivated you
do yourself a favor and grab those dusty volumes from the shelf and enjoy a quiet
time with the man, his experiences and imagination. I did this myself a few years
back and was filled with new emotions and insight into Hemingway and his

For the newer students of literature.. Cliff-Notes won’t cut it! Nor will a Wiki-
search of impressions and ten sentence critiques of the man and his astounding


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By Ralph Kramden, July 25, 2011 at 5:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Perhaps someday, J.Edgar will be seen as the total villain that he was. Hoover was even worse than that Cardinal Richelieu in the Three Musqueteers and that was a quasi-fictional character. Few people have contributed more to the destruction of our democracy and civil liberties than the nefarious Hoover. He tried to get ML King to committ suicide, he probably was involved in the murder of Malcom X, his agents were present when those freedom riders were murdered in Mississippi. He was a closet queen who left the Mafia alone because Meyer Lansky had incriminating photos of J. Edgar with young boys. I don’t usually use the word, but J.Edgar was an evil man.

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kerryrose's avatar

By kerryrose, July 25, 2011 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment

A little too late.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, July 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment

So-called bull fights are disgusting. This I am sure has nothing to do with Hemingway’s suicide, but I just thought I would mention it.

Not a fan.

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