Late in his life,
Ernest Hemingway boasted that he would leave behind a steamer trunk of new
books that would continue to be published for many years after he was gone.
Given Papa's dedication to his own larger-than-life image, this sounded like
braggadocio. But it was true. In the 25 years since his suicide, eight books by
Hemingway have been published, and on May 28 Charles Scribner's Sons will bring
out another novel—The Garden of Eden.
It is a strange,
compelling story set in Spain and the South of France during the late 1920s,
and it is very unlike Hemingway's other work. The hero is a young writer named
David Bourne, who is taking an extended summer honeymoon with his beautiful
wife, Catherine. After an idyllic start, the marriage begins to develop warps
and cracks as Catherine becomes obsessed with an increasingly abnormal sexual
menu, including androgyny, role-switching and the seduction of another woman.
Through it all, Bourne, an acclaimed novelist, is trying to get control of his
life so that he can begin to write again.
begins to work on a couple of short stories set in Africa in the early 1900s.
An African Betrayal (our title, not Hemingway's) is one of these. It is the
story of an elephant hunt, and it appears in the last quarter of The Garden of
Eden. The excerpt on the following pages includes several passages from several
parts of the book linked together to make a logical narrative.
worked and reworked The Garden of Eden from 1946 until near his death in 1961.
Ultimately, it ballooned to three separate manuscripts of 1,500, 1,200 and 500
pages. Last July, Tom Jenks, 35, a highly respected magazine fiction editor
(Paris Review, Esquire), went to work at Scribners. Soon after he started, he
was summoned to the office of Charles Scribner Jr., chairman of the house that
has published Hemingway since 1926. Jenks went home carrying two shopping bags
full of The Garden of Eden with orders to see if there was something
publishable there. Working mainly from the longest manuscript, Jenks chipped
away at the mountain of words for four months and ultimately uncovered a
There is bound to
be some controversy over the question of whether a dead man's writing should be
reworked, revised, restructured and then published under his name. Jenks says,
"I did my editing from a story-telling point of view, not from any concern
about what the academic appraisals might be."
magnificently told story it is. Papa was never better.
They had three
rooms at the end of the long low rose-colored Provencal house where they had
stayed before. It was in the pines on the Estérel side of la Napoule. Out of
the windows there was the sea and from the garden in front of the long house
where they ate under the trees they could see the empty beaches, the high
papyrus grass at the delta of the small river and across the bay the white
curve of Cannes with the hills and the far mountains behind. There was no one
staying at the long house now in summer and the proprietor and his wife were
pleased to have them back.
Their bedroom was
a big room at the end. It had windows on three sides and was cool that summer.
At night they smelled the pines and the sea. David worked in a room at the
further end. He started early each morning and when he was finished he would
find Catherine and they would go to a cove in the rocks where there was a sand
beach to sun and to swim.
Catherine was gone with the Bugatti and he would wait for her on the terrace
after his work. He had taken to drinking whiskey and Perrier water.
David had worked
very hard for four days. They had spent all afternoon in the sun on the sand
and they had been in the water until they were both tired and then come home in
the evening with salt dried on their backs and in their hair to have a drink
and take showers and change. That night the breeze came in from the sea. It was
cool and they lay side by side in the dark with a sheet over them.