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Ed. The Modern Library, 1938. Hard cover. Size 21 x 14,5 cm. Sate: Used, very good. 598 pages
By Ernest Hemingway
THE PLAY was written in the fall and early winter of 1937 while we were expecting an offensive. There were three major offensive projects for the Army of the Center that year. One of them was Brunete. It had been fought, had started brilliantly and ended in a very bloody and undecisive battle, and we were waiting for the first of the other two. They never came; but while we waited I wrote the play.
Each day we were shelled by the guns beyond Leganes and behind the folds of Garabitas hill, and while I was writing the play the Hotel Florida, where we lived and worked, was struck by more than thirty high explosive shells. So if it is not a good play perhaps that is what is the matter with it. If it is a good play, perhaps those thirty some shells helped write it.
When you went to the front, at its closest it was fifteen hundred yards from the hotel, the play was always slipped inside the inner fold of a rolled up mattress. When you came back and found the room and the play intact you were always pleased. It was finished and copied and sent out of the country just before the taking of Teruel.
It was written to be produced, but one producer died after he had signed the contract to put it on and had gone on to California to cast it. Another producer signed another contract and had trouble raising money. Reading it over I thought it read well, no matter how it might play, and so decided to put it in with this book of stories. It makes one story more and brings them a little closer to the present. Later some one may want to produce it.
The title refers to the Spanish rebel statement in the fall of 1936 that they had four columns advancing on Madrid and a Fifth Column of sympathizers inside the city to attack the defenders of the city from the rear. If many of the Fifth Column are now dead, it must be realized that they were killed in a warfare where they were as dangerous and as determined as any of those who died in the other four columns.
The four columns advancing on Madrid shot their prisoners. When members of the Fifth Column were captured inside the city in the early days of the war they were also shot.
Later they were to be tried and given prison or labor camp sentences or sentenced to execution depending upon the crimes they had committed against the Republic. But in the early days they were shot. They deserved to be, under the rules of war, and they expected to be.
Some fanatical defenders of the Spanish Republic, and fanatics do not make good friends for a cause, will criticize the play because it admits that Fifth Column members were shot. They will also say, and have said, that it does not present the nobility and dignity of the cause of the Spanish people. It does not attempt to. It will take many plays and novels to do that, and the best ones will be written after the war is over.
This is only a play about counter espionage in Madrid. It has the defects of having been written in war time, and if it has a moral it is that people who work for certain organizations have very little time for home life. There is a girl in it named Dorothy but her name might also have been Nostalgia. Perhaps it would be best now for you to read it and for me to stop talking about it. But if being written under fire makes for defects, it may also give a certain vitality. You who read it will have a better perspective on this than I have.
About the stories there is not much to say. The first four are the last ones I have written. The others follow in the order in which they were originally published.
The first one I wrote was Up in Michigan, written in Paris in 1921. The last was Old Man at the Bridge cabled from Barcelona in April of 1938.
Beside The Fifth Column, I wrote The Killers, Today Is Friday, Ten Indians, part of The Sun Also Rises and the first third of To Have and Have Not in Madrid. It was always a good place for working. So was Paris, and so were Key West, Florida, in the cool months; the ranch, near Cooke City, Montana; Kansas City; Chicago; Toronto, and Havana, Cuba.
Some other places were not so good but maybe we were not so good when we were in them.
There are many kinds of stories in this book. I hope that you will find some that you like. Reading them over, the ones I liked the best, outside of those that have achieved some notoriety so that school teachers include them in story collections that their pupils have to buy in story courses, and you are always faintly embarrassed to read them and wonder whether you really wrote them or did you maybe hear them somewhere, are The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, In Another Country, Hills Like White Elephants, A Way You’ll Never Be, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, A Clean Well- Lighted Place, and a story called The Light of the World which nobody else ever liked. There are some others too. Because if you did not like them you would not publish them.
In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dulled and know I had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.
Now it is necessary to get to the grindstone again. I would like to live long enough to write three more novels and twenty- five more stories. I know some pretty good ones.
The Fifth Column
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
The Capital of the World
The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Old Man at the Bridge
Up in Michigan
On the Quai at Smyrna
The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife
The End of Something
The Three-Day Blow
A Very Short Story
Mr. and Mrs. Elliot
Cat in the Rain
Out of Season
My Old Man
Big Two-Hearted River Part I
Big Two-Hearted River Part II
In Another Country
Hills Like White Elephants
Che Ti Dice la Patria?
A Simply Enquiry
A Canary for One
An Alpine Idyll
A Pursuit Race
Today Is Friday
Now I Lay Me
After The Storm
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
The Light of the World
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen
The Sea Change
A Way You’ll Never Be
The Mother of a Queen
One Reader Writes
Homage to Switzerand
A Day’s Wait
A Natural History of the Dead
Wine of Wyoming
The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio
Fathers and Sons