Despite the persistence of Hemingway mania, there has until now been relatively little discussion of his love for Africa and his African books. Nor have most critics used the writer’s Africa experience as fully as they might to point out that one of Hemingway’s fundamental aesthetic principles was that fiction must be based on actual experience.
Hemingway’s two short stories from the 1930’s, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and The Snows of Kilimanjaro are rightly judged to be among his best work, but his non-fiction book Green Hills of Africa remains underrated, and the posthumously published True at First Light is often dismissed as the ramblings of an ageing man only capable of flashes of his former brilliance.
Now Christopher Ondaatje, the author of the best selling Sindh Revisited and Journey to the Source of the Nile has produced new material and an intriguing insight into the important African phase of Hemingway’s life.
Africa was an obsession for Hemingway all his life and Ondaatje, through several personal journeys into both the physical and literary aspects of Hemingway’s safaris, has produced a startling and controversial documentary of the man and the myth. With new information on the alarming fact behind the fiction, his inspirations, his women, and the disastrous conclusion to his last safari, this book goes a long way to solving the mystery of why Hemingway sought to link artistic pursuit with immortality and why Africa seems particularly to have allowed for an exploration of the theme. Against the backdrop of this astonishing land with its absurd beauty the natural world gained for Hemingway a terrifying force.