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Hemingway Adventure

Ketchum, Idaho (first day)

Ketchum, Idaho, USA 
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The sitting-room at night. With big picture window and stairway to bedroom at right of fireplace.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureTrish has let us into the house which is owned by the Nature Conservancy and not open to the public. Since Mary Hemingway’s death in 1986 it has been maintained, like other Hemingway houses, in the way it was when he lived here. Apart from allowing us access, the Nature Conservancy are happy for me to be filmed spending the last night of my journey here. I know, as soon as I enter the house, there is no question of my doing that.

To someone who has spent ten months of the past year recreating Hemingway’s life it’s bound to come as a bit of a shock to be faced with the place where that life ended, but I feel something more than shock. Just as the sitting-room in his house in Havana gave me the feeling that he and his friends had only just left, so I find myself inside his house in Ketchum, standing in the eight- by five-foot porch-way where he shot himself as if it had just happened and I were the first man on the scene.

Yet it is nothing special, a perfectly ordinary entrance to a house, the sort of place where you slip off your hiking boots or muddy shoes, calling for a cup of tea after a long walk. It has a light brown lino floor, a small window with wild flowers in a jar on the sill. The crew are passing in and out, bringing the gear up the stairs from the garden. But I can’t stop my imagination reminding me, with indecent vividness, of the final moments of Ernest Hemingway, raked over and repeated in all the biographies.

Seven o’clock on a perfect summer Sunday in July 1961. Hemingway, always an early riser, comes down the stairs (there they are - to the right of the fireplace behind me), and crosses the room to the kitchen. Does he ignore or enjoy the wide and wonderful panorama of river, trees and mountains beyond, which he couldn’t fail to have seen through the picture windows?
Ketchum, Idaho, USA 
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Late daylight spills on to the entrance porch where Hemingway took his life on 2 July 1961.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Ketchum, Idaho (first day)
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Ketchum, Idaho
  • Book page no: 249

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