In this letter written from a spring holiday in Austria, Hemingway responds to a letter from Smith, who will soon be arriving in Paris. Smith, who was soon to become John Dos Passos's brother-in-law, was planning on finding work in Paris and was also planning to accompany Hemingway and Hadley to Pamplona for fishing and to see his first bullfights. Hemingway tells him that he has been playing tennis with Paul Nelson, Ezra Pound and Harold Loeb: "… I can play good enuff now to stick wit them. Pound beat me 75 consecutive sets. … Loeb is really good. He and I play doubles together all the time. He is the guy that started Broom. A hell of a good guy." He also patiently answers Smith's questions: toilet paper is available, Bible classes are easy to find, shoes are hard to buy. As for job hunting, Hemingway suggests "librairistic, bartenderical or other employment might be pestled or the time devoted to masterage of the French language."
Apparently Smith had earlier expressed some reservations about bullfighting and about the Spanish in general. Hemingway was having none of this and devoted half of this long letter to the subject: "Re bull fights—and the question of brutalidad. It is like the gladiatorial shows in that respect—I.E. that it is a survival. De way I look at it I didn't start bull fights and they will go on whether I'm there or not. Therefore it ain't for me to judge. All I want is to see them. In the states every amusement is put on a moral basis and the campaign of slander agin the bull fight was started about the time of the Spanish war to prove the Spaniard was a cowardly cruel bastard. Jesus boid he ain't cowardly. … They're cruel. By their own standards no. By ours yes. But it's the standard makes the difference. For instance what seems normal and healthy in bull fight in Spain seems obscene in France. … I seen all the usual atrocity stories—the horses ripped wide open so the gut hung down—It gave me no feeling of horror or disgust. I of course got no pleasure out of it. Only a feeling of curiosity. When a horse that was ripped keeled over bang-dead, I was always pleased he was dead. … Now a horse with his tripe hanging out isn't pitiful. It's funny. But he isn't. He's grotesque. There isn't anything that isn't grotesque about a dead horse. I seen tousands of 'em in Wopland and the ring. That long upper lip—the teeth showing, the whole awkward ugliness. No aesthetic." Americans with delicate sensibilities who get up and leave in the middle of bullfights are deemed to be even worse than dying horses. Of one Yank in San Sebastián, he says, "He gives me a look as though I were some sadistic monster and his wife stares at Hash and Hadley and I climbed down into their front row seats."
Hemingway ends the letter by quoting in full his eight-line poem "The Age Demanded," which he had just sold to the Berlin literary magazine Der Querschnitt for 50 francs. "Not much of a poem. But 50 f. is 50 f. A quart and a quarter of Scotch—75 beers, 2 seats at a good fight. 32 quarts of milk. A good flannel shirt. etc." The version written here ends with a variant couplet than that printed in Querschnitt in February 1925. The variant also survives in a typescript noted by Nicholas Gerogiannis in his edition of 88 Poems by Hemingway (1979).
A remarkable letter in which Hemingway lays out with some harshness his devotion to the spectacle of the bullfight.
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