The woman who gave Hemingway luck – 24 Hours Puebla


In April 1956, the Nobel Prize for Literature winner Ernest Hemingway visited Peru, along with a Warner Bros. film crew, to film the fishing scenes for the first version of the film. The old man and the sea. Cabo Blanco was a paradise for deep-sea fishing and the writer was determined to capture the best specimens for the film; but the initial efforts were unsuccessful, until a German photographer appeared who changed everything.

He finished reading the newspaper and could not contain his anger, he could not understand how it was possible that the journalist who traveled to the north of Peru to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, Ernest Hemingway, referred to him so lightly and that he stood out in his note that he was a drunk, a bon vivant and has barely made a reference to his powerful literature.

Modeste von Unruh, a German photographer who by chance of fate had stayed to live in Peru, was passionate about the work of the North American writer and reading that newspaper dispatch of April 17, 1946, had incensed her until the end. point of making the decision to buy a plane ticket to fly to the north of the country to speak with Ernest Hemingway himself.

The note that led to this meeting was that of the Peruvian journalist Jorge Donayre Belaunde, known in the Lima journalistic environment as “El cumpa” Donayre, who at that time worked in a very old newspaper called La Prensa and had been one of the three journalists who traveled to the north of the country to welcome the award-winning writer who arrived at a fishermen’s cove, called Cabo Blanco, in search of the giants of the sea.

The first dispatch published by the special envoy appeared on the front page with the title: “Ernest Hemingway arrived; he is a self-confessed drinker, fisherman and adventurer”, to be honest, it is very likely that that infamous headline was put in the newspaper’s editorial office, since Donayre’s dispatch was a detailed description of the arrival of the North American writer, to the El Pato airport of the US air base, located in Talara, about a thousand kilometers north of the Peruvian capital, very close to the refinery of the oil company International Petroleum Company, which existed in Peru in those years.

Donayre relates that Hemingway arrived at eight in the morning aboard a plane from Panagra, along with his fourth wife Mary Welsh, his friend Eliseo Argüelles and his inseparable Cuban captain Gregorio Fuentes. “Within two minutes of talking to him, of being by his side, of witnessing his sparkling retorts, you can see the depth of his talent, the brilliance of his remarkable personality. But the most important thing, perhaps, is that the character who is considered one of the greatest storytellers in history, and who brings together in his 57 years all the vicissitudes that can be conceived in his multifaceted life as a writer, journalist, boxer, fisherman , hunter, amateur bullfighter, confessed drinker, passionate lover and hero of two wars; he turns out to be, at first glance, a simple man, without boasting or pretensions ”, reads the first page of La Prensa.

The paragraph in which he refers to the taste for drink, is much later on page two of the newspaper where the text continued and says: “The formidable novelist —who is fluent in Spanish, since he has lived in Cuba for several years— declared that He did not deny that he likes the drink. And he said —while adjusting the long strap that encircles his voluminous abdomen— that he had been fond of drinking since he became a journalist. ‘We journalists,’ he said smiling, ‘have to put up with so much that only drinking calms us’ ”.

As the German journalist Wolfgang Stock says – who has just published the book White Cape. With Ernest Hemingway in Peru, where he makes a detailed account of the 36 days that Hemingway was in Peru— that this malicious portrait of the press perhaps had to do with the anti-imperialist and anti-American sentiment that existed in Peru during those years; although it should be noted that this newspaper was conservative and supported US investment.

Donayre’s chronicle is extensive and also gives an account of the first day of fishing in the Peruvian sea and that the two trophies of the first day were enormous corvinas, “with a little more luck I would have caught a great marlin,” Hemingway told the audience. journalists that day; and curiously he made reference to luck, as a kind of premonition of what would happen days later.

By Omar Zevallos / @omarzev

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The woman who gave Hemingway luck – 24 Hours Puebla