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 Robilantâ€™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 â€” 18, jet black wet hair, slender legs â€” who had been waiting for hours at the crossroads. In the car, on his way to a duck shoot, was Ernest Hemingway â€” 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 â€˜beat-up, old-looking bastardâ€™, encounter the siren he called â€˜my last and true loveâ€™: Adriana Ivancich, a mingling of Lolita and Tadzio, who appeared to him â€˜as fresh as a young pine tree in the snow of the mountainsâ€™ and who went on to serve as Hemingwayâ€™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.