From the summer of 1942 until the end of 1943, Ernest Hemingway spent much of his time patrolling the Gulf Stream and the waters off Cuba’s north shore in his fishing boat, Pilar. He was looking for German submarines. These patrols were sanctioned and managed by the US Navy and were a small but useful part of anti-submarine warfare at a time when U boat attacks against merchant shipping in the Gulf and the Caribbean were taking horrific tolls. While almost no attention has been paid to these patrols, other than casual mention in biographies, they were a useful military contribution as well as a central event (to Hemingway) around which important historical, literary, and biographical themes revolve.
One of celebrated novelist Ernest Hemingways more quixotic exploits opens a window into his soul in this sprightly biographical study. During WWII, Hemingway and a volunteer crew ran patrols on his boat, Pilar, looking for German submarines along the Cuban coast. They never found any, and his wife, Martha Gellhorn, whose eye-rolling presence pervades the book, deemed the operation just a grandiose excuse to go fishing and drink with cronies. Mort (The Reasonable Art of Fly Fishing) notes that U-boats were a real threat, though he allows that Hemingways plan to attack with grenades and tommy guns could only have made the Germans die of laughter. Mort also gives an interesting rundown of the submarine war. But the patrols real significance, in his estimation, lies in their resonance with Hemingways imagination and literary oeuvre. The resulting analysis can be a bit blunt (the U-boats were the sharks in The Old Man and the Sea... the bulls in the ring at Pamplona). But this colorful, subtle portrait offers insights into Hemingway, making him as vivid as his fictional heroes, a tribe of romantic existentialists: domineering, brave, foolhardy, secretly vulnerable, larger than life. (Aug.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.