Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

Hemingway was what!?

Ernest Hemingway was a failed KGB spy? So reports the Guardian:

Last week, however, saw the publication of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale University Press), which reveals the Nobel prize-winning novelist was for a while on the KGB’s list of its agents in America. Co-written by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, the book is based on notes that Vassiliev, a former KGB officer, made when he was given access in the 90s to Stalin-era intelligence archives in Moscow.

Its section on the author’s secret life as a “dilettante spy” draws on his KGB file in saying he was recruited in 1941 before making a trip to China, given the cover name “Argo”, and “repeatedly expressed his desire and willingness to help us” when he met Soviet agents in Havana and London in the 40s. However, he failed to “give us any political information” and was never “verified in practical work”, so contacts with Argo had ceased by the end of the decade.

Fun quote pulled by Hitchens (plus his interpretation) in his recent Atlantic review of A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition:

Again, there is nothing to complain of here in point of terseness and economy, but it sent me back again to that supremely unsatisfactory moment in the original collection, in the chapter titled “A Matter of Measurements,” when Fitzgerald invites Hemingway to lunch at Michaud’s restaurant and tells him:

“Zelda said that the way I was built I could never make any woman happy and that was what upset her originally. She said it was a matter of measurements. I have never felt the same since she said that and I have to know truly.”

By his own account, Hemingway thereupon leads the author of The Diamond As Big As the Ritz out to the men’s room, conducts a brief inspection, and reassures (or, to be more exact, fails to reassure) his pal that all is well, and that he’s looking down on his penis, literally and figuratively, rather than taking the sidelong perspective. I have never trusted this story, if only because—as Hemingway himself later admits—“it is not basically a question of the size in repose. It is the size that it becomes.” So, unless the viewing in the Michaud pissoir was of an engorged and distended “Scottie”—which it plainly was not—then Papa was offering Fitzgerald a surrogate form of consolation.


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