Ernest Hemingway has generated a full-blown biographical industry. His immensely fresh style changed the look of fiction, turning a kind of poetic baby talk into literature. At its best, the work shimmers – I’m thinking of In Our Time (1925), his first collection of stories, which brought into public view half-a-dozen masterworks of American literature. A few of these, such as ‘Soldier’s Home’ and ‘Big Two-Hearted River’, dealt with the after-effects of war on young American veterans of the First World War. Hemingway had seen that war close-up, as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross (he was wounded in both legs by shrapnel and received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery for his efforts).
He wrote about the First World War in A Farewell to Arms (1929), his finest novel, which features Frederic Henry, an American who serves – as his author did – as an ambulance driver. Hemingway was among the most autobiographical writers of the century, and made few efforts