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Hemingway Adventure

Havana, Cuba (third day)

Havana, Cuba 
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Hemingway poses with multi-horned baggage after second African safari. No wonder taxidermists loved him.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureHemingway’s ghost is in a mischievous mood today. In order to set up our filming, a small number of us are allowed over the cordon and into the precious interior. We fall silent. So perfect is the feat of preservation that it conveys the eerie impression that the Hemingways might have left the room only five minutes earlier. I stare at the armchair with its most un-macho pattern of leaves and blossoms and try to shift my imagination back forty years and put Hem in there and me opposite watching him pour a huge Gordon’s gin from the tray that is still there with all his bottles on it, when my reverie is abruptly broken by a clatter, followed by a sharp intake of breath. Our thorough, careful, utterly mortified director has dislodged a piece of Venetian pottery from its precarious stand and it now lies in several pieces on the floor. Shock, horror, apology. We expect to be sent home immediately.

The curator gives a stern lecture, mercifully tempered by his admission that this particular piece has been broken once before. By Raisa Gorbachev. Our director, now a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, feels a little better.

Hemingway’s love of animals, dead or alive, permeates the house, from the stuffed heads of impala and kudu projecting from the dining room wall to lion skulls from Africa, pickled lizards in the bathroom and books on cats and cat care beside the bed. There were as many as fifty-seven cats living at the Finca, all of them given names with an ‘s’ or a ‘z’ in - Crazy, Christian, Ecstasy, Funhouse, Fats, Friendless. Hemingway had a theory that this enabled them to hear their name called more easily.

Boise, the most spoiled cat of them all, was, as far as I can tell, the only living creature Hemingway ever allowed in the room when he was writing, apart from his beloved Black Dog.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Havana, Cuba (third day)
  • Country/sea: Cuba
  • Place: Havana
  • Book page no: 206

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