Hemingway, The Old Man and The Sea – part 2

Culture/English
Photographer: BarbeeAnne via Pixabay

LIFE. The legend says that Gregorio Fuentes is the alter ego of the old Santiago, from the novel ”The Old Man and The Sea”, that he has delivered version-myths: once they were navigating through Pinar del Río and they saw an old boat with an elder and a boy.

 

The elder was fighting with a swordfish bigger than his boat. They approached to help him. As they approached, the old man started yelling: ”American, son of a bitch, get out here”. Hemingway told him:” don’t mind him”. When they were away, he said: ”I am going to write a book about this story”.

Everything could be doubted. But, what we cannot doubt in is that there in Cojimar, between fishers, was spawned ”The Old Man and The Sea”. We must also believe in the legend, that he wrote it, as usual, standing up and in his portable Royal typewriter.

The last time Gregorio saw Hemingway in 1960, he told him: ”take care of Pilar as you have been doing.” Then he came back to his country and the next year he committed suicide. That it was a case of suicide, for respect to the dead, we cannot doubt. Neither I hesitate to believe that the writer left the yacht El Pilar to Gregorio in his will. I think it was an act of brotherhood.

Gregorio Fuentes has said too that he named the novel. Hemingway would have asked him: ”What title should I give it, Gregorio?” And he answered: ”haven’t we met an elder? And wasn’t he in the middle of the sea? So, there you have the name”.

Everything could be doubted, but I don’t have any doubt that the old Gregorio knew Hemingway better than his 4 wives. In the 1950s,  Hemingway was a star. But his works were suffering the sourness of the critic. His editor returned him some manuscript because it was not publishable. But he liked the story about an old Cuban man and his dramatic story, 84 days in the sea obsessed with catching a swordfish.

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In 1952 in Life magazine, The Old Man and The Sea was published. It was a success. Critics were talking about a classic then. The Old Man and The Sea won Pulitzer Prize. In 1954, Hemingway won Nobel Prize. That distinction was dedicated to the fishers, and he deposited the medal before the Virgin of Charity of The Copper, Catholic Patron of Cuba.

The last time Gregorio saw Hemingway in 1960, he told him: ”take care of Pilar as you have been doing.” Then he came back to his country and the next year he committed suicide. That it was a case of suicide, for respect to the dead, we cannot doubt. Neither I hesitate to believe that the writer left the yacht El Pilar to Gregorio in his will. I think it was an act of brotherhood.

But Gregorio could not guarantee the yacht security. He says that he talked to Fidel Castro when he went to visit it. The truth is that shortly the Comandante sent a crane and a van, took it away. The ship where he caught needlefish and ”hunted” German submarines along with Gregorio Fuentes sits now at the Vigia Ranch, in its yard, between ferns, mango trees, and the sons of his cats.

That is the truth.

(Translated by: Fernanda Manzano and Claudia Pérez)

OMAR PÉREZ SANTIAGO

 

 

 

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