Love in Ernest
by Catherine Gianaro
The intimacies of a wartime romance, scribbled in the diary of a young
Red Cross nurse, might never have attracted more than the misty eyes
of her lover. Except that the lover was Ernest Hemingway.
Since the discovery of Agnes von Kurowsky's private journal, the diary
has become the basis for such diverse projects as scholarly research
and a Hollywood film.
"People are as interested in Hemingway's life as they are in his writing," said
James Nagel, the UGA professor of American literature whose book on the diary
has been translated into 11 languages and has become the basis of a major motion
Hemingway in Love and War: The Lost Diary of Agnes von Kurowsky was adapted
into the recently released film In Love and War, which stars Sandra Bullock
as the nurse and Chris O'Donnell as the young writer.
"It's pretty unusual for a scholarly work to be so popular among the [general
public]," Nagel said. "The book is aimed at scholars of American literature
and other scholarly audiences."
Hemingway was wounded during World War I and spent nine months in a Milan hospital,
where he fell in love. That fabled romance led the renowned author to write
A Farewell to Arms.
In 1986, Nagel discovered that Kurowsky had left a diary of those years. It
was owned by Henry Villard, a well-known American diplomat who happened to
be a patient in the hospital with Hemingway in July 1918. Villard became friends
with Kurowsky, and years later she gave him the diary as a keepsake. Villard
then tracked down Nagel, who was lecturing in Europe on Hemingway.
It was clear from the beginning that this was a document of vital importance
to Hemingway scholars worldwide, Nagel said. For the next three years, the
Hemingway guru researched and co-wrote the book with Villard.
"The diary changed everything," Nagel said. "It corrected the
scholarly record of biographies of Hemingway."
Kurowsky's diary - far more matter-of-fact than her previously documented love
letters - was the impetus for Nagel's discovery of such details as the wound
to Hemingway's knee (Nagel found the X-rays and the bullet that was removed
from Hemingway's knee) and where in Italy he was hospitalized (previous scholars
had him in the wrong hospital).
Nagel has been studying the author for 35 years. Four of the 17 books Nagel
has written about American literature are on Hemingway's work. The Hemingway
family invited Nagel to speak at the first annual Hemingway festival, which
was held this past July in Sanibel
For more information, e-mail James
Nagel at firstname.lastname@example.org.