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True at First Light: A Fictional Memoirby Ernest Hemingway
Synopses & Reviews
Both revealing self-portrait and dramatic fictional chronicle of his final African safari, Ernest Hemingway's last unpublished work was written when he returned from Kenya in 1953. Edited by his son Patrick, who accompanied his father on the safari, "True at First Light" offers rare insights into the legendary American writer in the year of the hundredth anniversary of his birth.
A blend of autobiography and fiction, the book opens on the day his close friend Pop, a celebrated hunter, leaves Ernest in charge of the safari camp and news arrives of a potential attack from a hostile tribe. Drama continues to build as his wife, Mary, pursues the great black-maned lion that has become her obsession. Spicing his depictions of human longings with sharp humor, Hemingway captures the excitement of big-game hunting and the unparalleled beauty of the scenery — the green plains covered with gray mist, zebra and gazelle traversing the horizon, cool dark nights broken by the sounds of the hyena's cry.
As the group at camp help Mary track her prize, she and Ernest suffer the "incalculable casualties of marriage," and their attempts to love each other well are marred by cruelty, competition and infidelity. Ernest has become involved with Debba, an African girl whom he supposedly plans to take as a second bride. Increasingly enchanted by the local African community, he struggles between the attraction of these two women and the wildly different cultures they represent.
In "True at First Light, " Hemingway also chronicles his exploits — sometimes hilarious and sometimes poignant — among the African men with whom he has become very close, reminisces about encounters with other writers and his days in Paris and Spain and satirizes, among other things, the role of organized religion in Africa. He also muses on the act of writing itself and the author's role in determining the truth. What is fact and what is fiction? This is a question that was posed by Hemingway's readers throughout his career and is one of his principal subjects here.
Equally adept at evoking the singular textures of the landscape, the thrill of the hunt and the complexities of married life, Hemingway weaves a tale that is rich in laughter, beauty and profound insight. "True at First Light" is an extraordinary publishing event — a breathtaking final work from one of this nation's most beloved and important writers.
Both a revealing self-portrait and a dramatic, invented chronicle of Hemingway's final African safari, this fictional memoir recounts the splendor of daily life in Kenya and tells of his love affair with a young African woman. National publicity to tie in with the 100th anniversary of Hemingway's birth, July 21, 1999.
About the Author
Ernest Hemingway ranks as the most famous of twentieth-century American writers; like Mark Twain, Hemingway is one of those rare authors most people know about, whether they have read him or not. The difference is that Twain, with his white suit, ubiquitous cigar, and easy wit, survives in the public imagination as a basically, lovable figure, while the deeply imprinted image of Hemingway as rugged and macho has been much less universally admired, for all his fame. Hemingway has been regarded less as a writer dedicated to his craft than as a man of action who happened to be afflicted with genius. When he won the Nobel Prize in 1954, Time magazine reported the news under Heroes rather than Books and went on to describe the author as "a globe-trotting expert on bullfights, booze, women, wars, big game hunting, deep sea fishing, and courage." Hemingway did in fact address all those subjects in his books, and he acquired his expertise through well-reported acts of participation as well as of observation; by going to all the wars of his time, hunting and fishing for great beasts, marrying four times, occasionally getting into fistfights, drinking too much, and becoming, in the end, a worldwide celebrity recognizable for his signature beard and challenging physical pursuits.
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