Illustration by Stefano Marra


Ernest Hemingway is one of the best-known writers of the 20th Century. Born in 1899, his most famous works include A Farewell to Arms, A Moveable Feast and The Old Man and the Sea and he partied like no other, with F Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso. Here are a few things you might not know about the writer.


1. He probably didn’t write his most famous short story.
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

These six words are arguably Hemingway’s most famous, but it’s unlikely that he actually wrote this piece of flash fiction. It was said to be written after a bet between writers but many similar stories predate the writer.

Hemingway's short story - baby shoes


2. He married four times.
Hemingway maybe have been a great writer but he wasn’t great at being faithful. He married four times, at one point living with his first wife Hadley Richardson and his lover Pauline “Fife” Pfeiffer. He then married war correspondent Martha Gellhorn after they met in Spain covering the civil war before he finally marry once more. He was survived by his fourth wife Mary Hemingway.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Ernest and Pauline Hemingway


3. Perhaps his greatest work was lost
In December 1922, Hadley Richardson boarded a train to Switzerland to meeting Hemingway who was working on an assignment. She had a pile of his manuscripts with her. She left her luggage when she went to get some water and when she returned the case was gone. Hemingway offered a reward for their return but they were never returned.

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

Hemingway lost work


4. He was more than a little accident prone
Amazingly, Hemingway managed to survive two plane crashes that were just days apart. He also fought off malaria, exposure to anthrax, pneumonia, hepatitis and skin cancer and diabetes. As well as these illnesses, he suffered from a fractured skull as well as a ruptured spleen and liver.

“Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”

Hemingway airplane crashes


5. The FBI had a file on him
Hemingway would often talk about the FBI keeping tabs on him and he became increasingly paranoid about it, enough to have electroshock therapy several times. However, it turns out that he wasn’t just being paranoid. The FBI did have a file on him because he had previously been in contact with the KGB with the code name Argo. He had met with Soviet spies but never actually produced any official intelligence and “Argo” was no longer active by the 1950s. It’s impossible to say that his fears over the FBI watching him played a significant part in him taking his own life in 1961.

Hemingway- FBI file

6. He once stole a urinal
After deciding that he had “pissed away” enough money in his favourite bar, Sloppy Joe's, Hemingway stole the urinal and displayed it in his home in Key West. He converted it into a garden fountain and it’s still on display in the grounds of the Hemingway museum. Now cats drink water from it.

Ernest Hemingway stollen urinal