1 August 2021 Susannah

Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway at his home in Cuba.

Oh, I do hope that all of Australia was watching SBS Australia TV on  Saturday, 24th July – it was honestly the best thing we’ve had to watch for years!

American filmmaker, Ken Burns, was widely acclaimed in 1990 for his superb series on the American Civil War. He has made many more wonderful documentary films, including on the Roosevelts, the Vietnam War, and a brilliant one on Mark Twain. Now he has turned his attention to Ernest Hemingway in a three-part documentary, packed with fabulous photographs, interviews with literary scholars and others, and a script that was simply perfect! It was two hours, and I was riveted for every minute of that and will be glued to the TV for the coming episodes.

It was really enough to make us all just want to give up writing – Hemingway was such a craftsman and got it (most of the time) so right. The full series of 3 episodes is currently viewable on SBS On Demand until 12th December 2021, or it is on free to air TV on Saturdays 31st July and 7th August (in Sydney). DON’T miss this truly awesome programme.

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Featured image credit- Ernest Hemingway at his home in Cuba, from https://www.sbs.com.au/guide/article/2021/07/22/hemingway-and-myth-self-destructive-genius

Comments (6)

  1. John

    I do not like Hemingway as a person at all, his glorifying a kind of manhood that does not appeal to me, but I wholeheartedly agree with you that the series is of incredibly high quality!

    I think it might be six parts rather than three, with the first two parts having been broadcast a week ago, with the hour-long Part 3 broadcast last night, but I have not finished watching the latter yet (I recorded it), so I might be wrong. I agree he was a superb and innovative novelist, albeit clearly not Jane.

    I strongly echo your recommendation.

    Be positive and stay negative!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Totally agree – he was not Jane. There are some standards that no other novelist will ever reach. I wonder if he ever read any Jane Austen.
      I also agree that he was not a very nice man. I hate all that animal killing he did for a start. I would not have wnated to be one of his four wives.
      Yes, the episodes should be broken into two – 6 parts instead of three.
      I get my second vaccination in a couple of weeks – can’t wait, and just hope many others get theirs so that life can start to return to normal.

  2. Fay Jones

    Hi Susannah,

    I couldn’t agree more; it was a wonderful programme on Hemingway. I recall fondly, the first lecture I attended as an Arts student at La Trobe University was his wonderful short story, “Hills like White Elephants”. Our lecturer on the day was none other than Prof. John Wiltshire, who acted out the dialogue between the man and woman in a wonderful American accent. I really felt I had arrived, The second episode last night was also very good but did not have quite the impact of the first. Ken Burns, I agree, makes wonderful documentaries. There was opposition from ABC2 also with the new period drama, “Belgravia”, which is set in England in the Victorian era but it’s main focus is what happened on the eve of the famous Ball given by the Duchess of Richmond on the eve of Waterloo. Episodes are repeated during the week so you can catch up on it then.

    Kind regards,

    Fay Jones

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks Fay. How fabulous that that was your introduction to John Wiltshire. Wish I’d been there too.
      I have seen all of Belgravia and enjoyed it, though there were some factual errors I think.
      Do share the enws about my zoom interview with Adrian Lukis amongst your JA reading friends. Let’s hope that one day life will return to normal and he will get to Australia.

  3. Hi Susannah

    I totally agree with you and the other commentators about Ken Burns’ “Hemingway”. As you know, I am an huge Hemingway fan, as is our mutual friend John Byrne… close but no cigar!

    I suspect that I would not have liked Hemingway the man, but Hemingway the writer is in my view one of the stars of the 20th century, whose style is often imitated but rarely bettered. Like one of our other common interests, Kipling, Hemingway is, in my view, best in the short story/novella format, rather than his longer novels. I read and re-read “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, “The Old Man and the Sea”, both of which I find to be stunning, and I also like almost every story in “Men without Women.”

    I am also a huge fan of Ken Burns. Foxtel are replaying his “Civil War” series currently, which I have watched at least twice before and am enjoying for the third time… absolutely the most moving series about the tragedy of war that I know. If the USA has National Living Treasures, he would be my #1 pick.

    Why can no one in Australia produce a documentary about our culture and history using still pictures, music and voice that is so arresting and effective? There’s a project for you , Susannah!

    Best wishes
    Chris

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, there are so many documentary makers who could learn important lessons from Ken Burns. So many of them intrude their own presence in to the programme, or spend so much time focusing on the glamorous presenter that you get little real information. Ken Burns does it so brilliantly.
      I would have hated to be married to Hemingway, and I agree about The Old Man and the Sea and The Snows of K – both incredibly powerful.

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