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Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest…

Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures,…

by Nicholas Reynolds

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Before this book, I knew only the hazy outlines of Hemingway's life and I appreciated the way this book fleshed out the details of Hemingway's life from the 1930s to his suicide in 1961. Hemingway's spying activities (if they could be called that) provide insight into how the famous writer thought and perceived the world around him. Considering the big events of the period - the Spanish Civil War, the Japanese invasion of China, World War II, and Castro's revolution in Cuba - this book also reads as a fascinating history of a tumultuous era. I'd recommend this to Hemingway fans and those interested in the history of the period. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Dec 7, 2017 |
This is a fascinating take on Hemingway's political self, and Reynolds does a fine job of distilling the background needed to grasp where Papa was coming from at any given time from the Spanish Civil War through the Cold War without drowning the reader in detail. I've read a number of other biographies of Hemingway, and have always found his personal life more interesting than his fiction. This one may turn me back to the iconic novels I've brushed aside since my 20's, because now I feel I may "get" them better. I'm sure I'll still find them a bit too macho for my taste, but I've never been entirely comfortable with my attitude toward his work. The premise of WSSS is that Hemingway flirted with spying for Russia, even while he was doing some low-grade espionage in an unofficial capacity for the US. Although he was demonstrably never a communist, or even a sympathizer, he was fiercely anti-fascist, and believed for decades that the United States needed to have better relations with Russia for the good of Europe and North America. He was most definitely contacted by the NKVD (pre-cursor to the KGB) as a potential spy, and the FBI kept a file on him, without actively investigating him. These two facts weighed on Hemingway's mind in his later years, and fear of eventual consequences of his activities may have contributed to the paranoia he suffered before his suicide. ( )
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | May 31, 2017 |
It is a great time to be a Papaphile as the flow of Hemingwayiana is seemingly endless these days.

I had no sooner finished "Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy" than already "The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War" was released at the end of March 2017, "The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Hemingway Library Edition" with previously unavailable material will arrive this summer and "The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 4, 1929-1931" will follow in September 2017. The letters alone will keep the industry going until 2043 with its expected total 17 volumes being issued at the current biennial rate.

“Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy” does recycle a lot of previously available material, but it does so in the light of one additional bit of information. Notes* from temporarily declassified archives of the NKVD (the 1930’s/1940’s predecessor of the KGB) reveal that they had counted Hemingway as a recruited agent from 1941 to 1949, going so far as to assign him the codename “Argo.” Although his spying career in the files is summed up with a final: “Did not give valuable info,” it is entirely possible that his flirtations with the Soviets from the Spanish Civil War period onwards did contribute to the paranoia of his final years which combined with a likely bipolar disorder and alcoholism led to his 1961 suicide.

Nicholas Reynolds was working for the CIA in their history museum when he came across this info and in “Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy” (a nice appropriate riff on John le Carré’s spy-fiction title: “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) he looks back at Hemingway’s days of reporting on the Spanish Civil War, the trip to China with Martha Gellhorn, the days of the Crook Factory (Hemingway’s own network of anti-Nazi spies in Cuba) and the Hooligan Navy (Hemingway’s U-Boat patrols), the WWII Invasion of France and the Liberation of Paris and finally Hemingway’s relationship to Cuba and especially Castro. I think any Hemingway buff will find it all newly fascinating with this extra layer of spying intrigue added in, even if Hemingway was likely only doing it for writing research just as he did in Spain.

*Further information and links:
The NKVD tie-in is not entirely new, it was reported in The Guardian in 2009 (see https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/jul/09/hemingway-failed-kgb-spy) when "Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America" was published using the information from Aleksandr Vassiliev's notes.

In the Vassiliev Notebooks (http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/collection/86/vassiliev-notebooks) at the Cold War International History Project, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars the original Russian notes with English translations can be seen online. A few sample links follow:
Pg. 178 in the Vassiliev Notebooks Concordance(http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/113863) gives a listing of all of the Hemingway references made in the notebooks:
"Hemingway, Ernest: Soviet intelligence recruit, 1941-49. Popular American novelist. Cover name in Vassiliev’s notebooks: “Argo”. As Hemingway: Vassiliev Black Notebook, 81, 83, 89, 95; Vassiliev White Notebook #1, 25, 28-30; Vassiliev White Notebook #2, 139. As “Argo”: Vassiliev black Notebook, 81, 83, 89, 95-96, 102; Vassiliev White Notebook #1, 30."

Pg. 81 in the Black Notebook (http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/112860) gives this summary:
“pg. 67 List of agents in the Wash. Station with whom ties were not renewed (from 23.12.49): among them “Argo” – U.S. citizen. well-known journalist. recruited in 1941. Did not give valuable info.” ( )
1 vote alanteder | Apr 1, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062440136, Hardcover)

An international cloak-and-dagger epic ranging from the Spanish Civil War to the liberation of Western Europe, wartime China, the Red Scare of Cold War America, and the Cuban Revolution, here is the stunning untold story of a literary icon's dangerous secret life -- including his role as a Soviet agent code-named "Argo" -- that fueled his art and his undoing

In 2010, while he was the historian at the esteemed CIA Museum, Nicholas Reynolds, a longtime American intelligence officer, former U.S. Marine colonel, and Oxford-trained historian, began to uncover clues suggesting Nobel Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway's involvement in mid-twentieth-century spycraft was far more complex, sustained, and fraught with risks than has been previously understood. Now Reynolds's deeply researched and captivating narrative, Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy, reveals his discoveries for the first time, bringing to light the whole story of this hidden side of Hemingway's life: his troubling recruitment by Soviet spies to work with the NKVD, the forerunner to the KGB, followed in short order by a complex set of secret relationships with American agencies, including the FBI, the Department of State, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a precursor to the CIA.

Starting with Hemingway's sympathy to antifascist forces during the 1930s, Reynolds illuminates Hemingway's immersion in the life-and-death world of the revolutionary left, from his passionate commitment to the Spanish Republic; his successful pursuit by Soviet NKVD agents, who valued Hemingway's influence, access, and mobility; his wartime meeting in East Asia with communist leader Chou En-Lai, the future premier of the People's Republic of China; and finally to his undercover involvement with Cuban rebels in the late 1950s and his sympathy for Fidel Castro. Reynolds equally explores Hemingway's participation in various roles as an agent for the United States government, including hunting Nazi submarines with ONI-supplied munitions in the Caribbean on his boat, Pilar; his command of an informant ring in Cuba called the "Crook Factory" that reported to the American embassy in Havana; and his on-the-ground role in Europe, where he helped OSS gain key tactical intelligence for the liberation of Paris and fought alongside the U.S. infantry in the bloody endgame of World War II.

As he examines the links between Hemingway's work as an operative and as an author, Reynolds reveals how Hemingway's secret adventures influenced his literary output and contributed to the writer's block and mental decline (including paranoia) that plagued him during the postwar years -- a period marked by the Red Scare and McCarthy hearings, which destroyed the life of anyone with Soviet connections. Reynolds also illuminates how those same experiences played a role in some of Hemingway's greatest works, including For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea, while also adding to the burden that he carried at the end of his life and perhaps contributing to his suicide.

A literary biography with the soul of an espionage thriller, Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy is an essential contribution to our understanding of the life, work, and fate of one of America's most legendary authors.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 23 Jan 2017 07:31:47 -0500)

A former CIA officer and curator of the CIA Museum reveals the untold story of Ernest Hemingway's secret life as a spy for both the Americans and Soviets before and during World War II, and explores how his espionage activities influenced his literary work.… (more)

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