Ole Ernest Hemingway. A name almost everyone in America knows because you had to at least pretend to read his books in high school. "A Farewell To Arms", "Old Man And The Sea", and "For Whom The Bell Tolls" are books that made him famous the world over. He was a throwback. Served in WWI and signed up to do so at the age of 16. The guy loved to fight, booze, chase women, and write. And he did those things all over the world. He was a man's man. He was probably a pretentious fuck based on his portrayal in "Midnight In Paris" and some other quotes/interviews I've seen, but he wasn't a little intellectual bitch boy you think of when someone says that they're a "writer". Over Thanksgiving someone was asking me about my job and they were like 'oh so you're a writer', and I said…
I am not a writer. I blog. I don't even know how to use a semicolon. I ain't no bitch. Hemingway was a writer, arguably the 20th century's best, he won a Noble Prize, and…apparently he was a fucking SPY for the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This is not super surprising because the USSR and KGB were obsessed with American media and pop culture. If you remember earlier in this blog series they tried to assassinate John Wayne. It's only natural that they'd try to recruit some of our biggest icons in entertainment to work for them. They came knocking for Ernest and he answered.
The Soviets approached Hemingway in 1941 and before they could finish their pitch Hemingway answered
Everyone has their price apparently. If you're wondering how much money the Soviets gave Hemingway to spy for them the answer is…NOTHING. Zero dollars. Hemingway was just about that action. In fact the only thing they gave him was a code name which was "Argo" which is pretty sweet as far as code names go. Argo was a ship in Greek Mythology and Hemingway loved being associated with the ocean. He had the code name before "The Old Man And The Sea" was published, but Hemingway was always fishing and loved being on the water. The code name fed into his ego.
Hemingway HATED fascism from his time covering the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s as a journalist. He saw Communism as the natural rival to Fascism. Which was a position also held by Hitler and Stalin so there you go. Hemingway didn't like what Francisco Franco did to his own people and he decided to align himself with the Communists. Apparently he didn't know that the communists collectivized the farms in Ukraine at around the same time and let 6 million Ukrainians starve to death, but that is neither here nor there.
Hemingway would galavant all over the world. He was famous for his travels to Cuba, England, Paris, Japan, etc. And when he was stopping over at these places he often had secret meetings with the Soviets. And what did Hemingway produce for the Soviets? Literally nothing. He SUCKED at being a spy. His KGB file said that he never produced anything of value politically or militarily. It sounds like Hemingway just liked saying he was a spy and having secret meetings. He loved the action even though he was really just playing pretend. He also approached the CIA to spy for them as well and they accepted, but he didn't do anything for them either. Hard to be a great spy when you're constantly getting shit hammered in bars or on your boat.
As Cold War tensions rose in the 1950s with McCarthyism and witch hunts, Hemingway started to FREAK out that he would prosecuted and brought before a committee to explain his ties to the Soviets. He never felt like he betrayed his country and all of his meetings and work with the Soviets technically took place while the US and USSR were allies fighting against Fascism and Hitler. Hemingway wrote to friends explaining that he thought the CIA and FBI were after him and his paranoia grew and grew. He eventually committed suicide in 1961 and some attribute his suicide to the paranoia he had from always looking over his shoulder.
Hemingway is probably near the top of the list for people I'd want to have large amounts of brown liquor with throughout history. The man had stories, clearly. He also had demons. He sucked at being a spy, thankfully, but it's tragic that his shitty run as a spy may have contributed to him ending his life way too early. Anyways, that is your story for the day. Have a good one.