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Jocko Willink’s Thoughts On Suicidal Depression:

Unable to participate directly in killing bulls, Hemingway decamped to Mombasa where he could legitimately blaze away at lions and kudu. Not content with land-based mayhem, he bought a foot cruiser called the Pilar to fish, in Key West and Havana, for marlin and other aquatic creatures twice the size of himself.

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Between and , he seemed to spend months posing beside up-ended fish trophies, the self-burnished image of the muscular man of action, handsome, tanned, drinking with the sailors in Sloppy Joe's bar. He went to Spain during the civil war, not to fight, like George Orwell, but because he was commissioned to report on it for the North American Newspaper Alliance — and because his new love, Martha Gellhorn, was going there.

He stressed many times that he wasn't taking sides, and didn't want to see the USA embroiled in a foreign war. In Madrid, despite the bombardment, he had the time of his life — enjoying caviar and vodka at the Gaylord Hotel, the Russian HQ, making a movie called The Spanish Earth and supplying its gravelly commentary, writing his broadly fictional dispatches for newspapers that criticised them as "very inefficient". He looked the part of a hunky warrior, but he was a lucky dilettante, who could have left Spain any time he liked. He wrote a play about Madrid in called The Fifth Column, about Dorothy, a plucky female journalist, who falls for Philip, a tough, intrepid, hard-drinking spy masquerading as a war correspondent.

Self-projection turned into self-parody. It was a tough assignment. He took a room at the Dorchester, where he held court as the Great American Writer and went to parties, receiving compliments on his beardy, macho wonderfulness. When he was concussed in a car accident that followed a drunken party with Robert Capa the photographer, Martha Gellhorn — who'd travelled to England in a ship packed with high explosives — visited him in hospital and laughed at his footling mock-heroics. As though stung into action, he headed for the war, joining the invasion fleet to Normandy and, later, General Patton's armoured divisions.

He was a so-so war correspondent who was simultaneously a sort-of-warrior.

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At the liberation of Paris, he was found in a hotel with a small private army. When asked to leave by a French general, he liberated the Traveller's Club and the Ritz, taking a room at the latter to entertain his new love, Mary Welsh It's easy to be spiteful about Hemingway. All his posturing, his editing of the truth, his vainglorious fibbing can obscure his undoubted bravery. He loved being in the thick of the war — the tank advance through the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge — dodging bullets, watching men being shot to hell all around him. But it's hard to shake off the feeling that what he was doing wasn't bravery, but psychotic self-dramatisation.

And when you inspect the image of Hemingway-as-hero, you uncover an extraordinary sub-stratum of self-harming. You discover that, for just over half of his life, Hemingway seemed hell-bent on destroying himself.

It was about the time he was finishing A Farewell to Arms, in , when he learnt that his father Clarence had shot himself in the head with a Civil War revolver, that Hemingway's life first began to crack apart. The most obvious external evidence was a succession of bizarre physical accidents, many of which were bashes on the head. One, in Paris, left him with a split head needing nine stitches, after he yanked the chain in the bathroom, thinking it was the lavatory flush, and pulled the skylight down on top of him.

He became weirdly accident-prone. His car accident that occasioned his row with Martha saw him hurled through the windscreen, lacerating his scalp and requiring 57 stitches. Three months later, he came flying off a motorbike evading German fire in Normandy. He suffered headaches, tinnitus, diplopia, showed speech and memory problems for months. Back in Cuba after the war, he tore open his forehead on the rear-view mirror when his car skidded.

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Five years later, while drinking, he slipped on the deck of the Pilar, and concussed himself. Why, you'd almost think he was trying to emulate his late father, and his self-imposed head wound. The most egregious injury, however, occurred in January He and Mary took off from Nairobi in a small plane, heading for the Belgian Congo.

Near Victoria Falls it crash-landed in a thorn thicket and Ernest sprained his shoulder. As rumours of his death spread, he and his companions were rescued and put in a seater De Havilland Rapide which — incredibly — burst into flames on the runway. Finding the door jammed, Hemingway volunteered to use his head as a battering ram, butted the door twice and got out.

He liked to present it as a classic example of superman pragmatism, but it nearly killed him. He fractured his skull and lacerated his scalp; cerebrospinal fluid seeped from his ear.

In Nairobi he was diagnosed with grave overall concussion, temporary vision-loss in the right eye, deafness in left ear, paralysis of sphincter muscle, first degree burns on face, arms and head, sprained arm, shoulder and leg, crushed vertebra and ruptured liver, spleen and kidney. Astonishingly, he was at it again only a month later: helping to extinguish a small fire, he fell into the flames and suffered second degree burns on legs, belly, chest, lips, left hand and right forearm.

Hemingway's taste for chronic self-immolation was matched by his prodigious feats of drinking: "The manager of the Gritti Palace in Venice tells me," wrote Anthony Burgess later, "that three bottles of Valpolicella first thing in the day were nothing to him, then there were the daquiris, Scotch, tequila, bourbon, vermouthless martinis. The physical punishment he took from alcohol was The drinking got worse after his father shot himself. Ernest went to a doctor in , complaining of stomach pains; liver damage was diagnosed and he was told to give up alcohol.

He refused. Seven years later, in , when Martha Gellhorn visited him in hospital, she found empty liquor bottles under his bed. In , his doctor friend AJ Monnier wrote urgently, "My dear Ernie, you must stop drinking alcohol. This is definitely of the utmost importance. What was bugging Hemingway?


Why all the drinking, the macho excess, the manic displays of swaggering? Why was he so drawn to war, shooting, boxing and conflict? Why did he want to kill so many creatures? Was he trying to prove something? Or blot something out of his life? Some answers were offered in by a long article in the American Psychiatry magazine, called "Ernest Hemingway: A Psychological Autopsy of a Suicide".

Martin had read widely in the 15 or so biographies and memoirs of Hemingway and offered his expert analysis — based, inevitably, at second hand, but still a convincing evaluation. He had no trouble in diagnosing the author as suffering from "bipolar disorder, alcohol dependence, traumatic brain injury, and probably borderline and narcissistic personality traits". He notes that many in the Hemingway family — his father and mother, their siblings, his own son and his grand-daughter Margaux — were prone to manic-depression Margaux's was the fifth, or possibly sixth, suicide in four generations and suggests that it was Ernest's manic episodes that drove him to his astonishing feats of creativity.

But he locates the writer's trauma in two childhood experiences. It seems that it was his mother Grace's habit to dress him, as a child, in long white frocks and fashion his hair like a little girl's. It was a 19th-century custom to dress infants alike, but she took it to extremes.

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She referred to him, in his cute lacy dress, as "Dutch dolly". She said she was his Sweetie, or, as he pronounced it, "Fweetee". Once, when Ernest was two, Grace called him a doll once too often. He replied, "I not a Dutch dolly Bang, I shoot Fweetee". But she also praised him for being good at hunting in the woods and fishing in the stream in boys' clothes. It was too confusing for a sensitive kid. He always hated her, and her controlling ways. He always referred to her as "that bitch".

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He'd spend the rest of his life in a galloping parody of masculinity. Dutch dolly indeed. He'd show the bitch there was no confusion in his head. Clarence Hemingway was a barrel-chested, six-foot bully, a disciplinarian who beat his son with a razor strop. Ernest didn't retaliate directly. He bottled it up and subsumed it into a ritual, in which he'd hide in a shed in the family backyard with a loaded shotgun and take aim at his father's head. Martin speculates that, when Clarence shot himself, Hemingway, aged 29, felt terrible guilt that he'd fantasised about killing him.

Unable to handle this, he took to blaming his mother for his father's death.

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After Clarence's death, Hemingway told a friend, "My life was more or less shot out from under me, and I was drinking much too much entirely through my own fault". He suffered a chronic identity crisis. Henceforth he could be warm and generous or ruthless and overbearing. His friendships were often unstable he could turn vicious or cruel, even with supposedly close pals and his relations with women were full of conflict.