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CSMS Magazine Staff Writers

Last Monday, Cuba began accepting requests for electronic access to more than 3,000 documents from the legendary American writer, Ernest Hemingway. Many unpublished documents, including the epilogue of “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” will be available. Even coded messages Hemingway sent when using his yacht to hunt for German submarines during World War II will also be available. A lot of the authors and researchers—many of them are diehard worshipers—jumped to their feet upon hearing the news.  

According to The Associated Press, many unedited manuscripts, including a screenplay for the “The Old Man and the Sea” will be put on electronic display. Also included in this dazzling offer are special, never-seen-before letters to Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway was one of the most famous American writers of the 20th century. He was also a Nobel Prize winner for literature. He spent many years in Cuba, from 1939 to 1960, where he lived at Finca Vigia, a hillside historic house now turned into a museum on the eastern outskirts of Havana.

There are in all 3,197 documents. All have already been scanned and organized electronically as part of a 2002 agreement between Cuban national heritage authorities and the New York-based Social Science Research Council, which also provided acid-free boxes and other storage materials to better protect the originals, said Ada Rosa Alfonso, director of the museum at Finca Vigia, who confirmed that academics, researchers and others interested in Hemingway’s works can send a request to the island’s heritage council in order to receive electronic copies of their requests.

However, according to AP, Alfonso said the collection “does not include any newly discovered, previously unreleased literary works because the author’s widow, Mary Welsh, took most of those back to the United States following his suicide in 1961.”

An other indication that Cuba and The United States have been cooperating in important matters not necessarily related to politic, Sarah Doty, Cuba program coordinator for the Social Science Research Council, said authorities handed CDs and microfilm images from the Finca Vigia to the John F. Kennedy library in Boston, which will announce their arrival later this month. “The council is still working with Cuba as to who will be able to access the information,” she said.  

Also in the agenda at Finca Vigia is a computer room where many visitors, roughly estimated at 50,000 annually, can view the documents. One of the thrilling assets for the visitors is the collection of coded messages Hemingway compiled when he used his fishing boat, El Pilar, to ply the waters north of Cuba during World War II, believing German U-boats were using the area to refuel. “A lot of people ask, ‘What was Hemingway’s life in Cuba like?,’” Alfonso said. “This answers some of those questions.”

Finally, researchers can also find maps, newspaper articles “Hemingway clipped, receipts and carefully worded, diffident letters to Hemingway from his editors. The correspondence is one-sided since Hemingway’s replies were either mailed or taken out of Cuba by Welsh.”
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