03 Sep 2018

“The Old Man and his Muse”

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Ernest Hemingway’s infatuation with the teen-age Venetian Adriana Ivancich inspired the great writer’s only awful book, “Across the River and into the Trees,” which reads, alas! like the cruelest kind of parody.

It’s nearly 60 years since Hemingway self-administered two ounce-and-a-quarter loads of number six shot, but books about him keep on coming. A bit earlier this summer, Andrea Di Robilant’s Autumn in Venice: Ernest Hemingway and His Last Muse hit the shelves.

In the Spectator, Nicholas Shakespear greets the British release with the kind of savage wit that the Brits are famous for.

One rainy evening in December 1948, a blue Buick emerged from the darkness of the Venetian lagoon near the village of Latisana and picked up an Italian girl — 18, jet black wet hair, slender legs — who had been waiting for hours at the crossroads. In the car, on his way to a duck shoot, was Ernest Hemingway — round puffy face, protruding stomach and, at 49, without having published a novel in a decade, somewhat past his sell-by. He apologised for being late, and offered the rain-sodden girl a shot of whisky which, being teetotal, she refused.

So did Papa, that ‘beat-up, old-looking bastard’, encounter the siren he called ‘my last and true love’: Adriana Ivancich, a mingling of Lolita and Tadzio, who appeared to him ‘as fresh as a young pine tree in the snow of the mountains’ and who went on to serve as Hemingway’s regenerative muse for his remaining 12 years.

Of course, snark is only good when it is accurate snark. Adriana Ivancich did marry well, to a rich Count, despite her youthful flirtation with the aged Papa, and her suicide in 1983 obviously had little or no connection to events nearly 40 years earlier.


3 Feedbacks on "“The Old Man and his Muse”"


I’ll be darned, a shotgun? I always thought he had used a pistol.


He placed his forehead on the muzzle of his Boss 12 gauge Double and reached down and pushed the triggers. (Sylvio Calabi thinks the gun was a W.C. Scott.)


While others dispute that she was in love with Hemingway I would beg to differ. She had stated that Mary should’ve been grateful that she didn’t run off with Hemingway, as she easily could have. “Could have” because she didn’t really need to as she had him right in front of Mary. The only thing that seemingly stopped their relationship was the impropriety of their situation. She flouted convention but seemingly curtailed her desires for the sake of her mother as well as Mary Hemingway’s, though begrudgingly in the latter instance.

There’s also a passage in “Hemingway’s Venetian Muse Adriana Ivancich” by Jobst C. Knigge which suggests that she never got past the loss of Hemingway:

“Adriana’s last years were dominated by depression. Giuseppe Tropeano, a Roman psychiatrist, met her in 1981 in Venice. She told him about her mental problems. Among others, she said, she suffered from the loss of “mio uomo” (my man), meaning Hemingway. Tropeano diagnosed manic depression, the same disorder Hemingway had been treated for.


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