The last time America slept over, America left something behind that Cuba has been using as a bitter conversation-starter every time both countries accidentally show up to the same awkward party: Ernest Hemingway's house and all of his old papers.
Hemingway beat Castro once in a fishing contest, and Castro has been mad ever since.
Even still, Hemingway willed away his famous home at Finca Vigia and all of its contents to the Cuban government when he killed himself in 1961 after leaving for Idaho as a result of Castro's revolution. The Cuban government has been holding these properties hostage, claiming that they do not have the money to keep the house in good repair or to analyze, restore, digitize, and collate his old manuscripts. Yet, the Cubans have been unwilling to turn the papers over to those who can take care of them.
Among Hemingway's final papers are:
1). A rejected epilogue to "For Whom the Bell Tolls!"
2). His personal screenplay for "The Old Man and the Sea!"
3). Coded letters about hunting for U-boats off the coast of Cuba during World War 2!
4). Over 3000 other documents and letters, probably including love letters to Marlene Dietrich and letters to F. Scott Fitzgerald apologizing for "that whole 'Moveable Feast' scene."
After Maxwell Perkins' granddaughter went down to Cuba and saw that Hemingway's house and the documents were falling apart due to neglect, a joint U.S. / Cuban task force went in and restored things to keep them from disappearing forever. American writers, actors, and politicians from both parties joined in the fund-raising to show their support for The Man with the Beard who Wrote True Things.
Now, next week, the Cuban government is planning on releasing these papers online.
However, these documents -- though digital -- will not be available for free.
Doesn't this run counter to both the spirit of a free, democratic society and the spirit of a controlled, anticapitalist commune?
There is a rationale behind this mercenary decision: Cuba wants to make money from American tourism, but the American government won't allow this because it doesn't want hard currency flowing into a country without free speech and which brutally represses dissent. So Cuba is trying to get money from American universities by making Hemingway's documents only available through an expensive subscription.
President Obama! Supposedly "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is your favorite book! Don't you want to know how it REALLY ends? Your first bold stroke of presidential foreign-policy genius ought to be the following gambit: you should temporarily allow Americans to visit Hemingway's house by declaring it a joint American-Cuban landmark, but only if Cuba makes Hemingway's documents available for free, so that every man, woman, and child in the world can read them at their leisure.
Let's have lunch together, Cuba. Just lunch. JUST LUNCH.
And then we'll see where this whole thing goes.
We're NOT getting back together. But wear that red dress; the one with the sequins; the one you wore that night; that night we gambled, danced, and swore till dawn...
Posted by miracle on Mon, 05 Jan 2009 09:21:21 -0500 -- permanent link