Ernest Hemingway came to Sun Valley in 1939, shortly after concluding his time reporting on the Spanish Civil War and only months before Europe erupted into World War II.
During his time in Sun Valley, he famously worked on “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” which is based largely on his experiences in Spain and went on to become, by many critics’ reckoning, his greatest work.
This immensely influential novel, much of which he wrote at the Sun Valley Lodge, will serve as the primary focus of this year’s Ernest Hemingway Seminar at The Community Library.
The annual event brings together literary enthusiasts, authors and Hemingway scholars from across the planet for three days of authorial analysis, book discussions, lectures, film screenings, historiographies and more.
For many years previously, the seminar picked a particular theme, such as “Hemingway in Paris” or “Hemingway and Women,” but event organizers shifted focus onto individual novels a few years ago.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls,” obviously, has a noteworthy local connection that few other Hemingway works possess, and library director Jenny Emery-Davidson believes it offers the best opportunity to consider Hemingway as a valley resident. After all, he did make a home in Ketchum, he ended his life here and his final resting place is in the Ketchum Cemetery.
“Our community has a special history of an iconic literary figure, and he is integral to our sense of identity,” Emery-Davidson said. “This is an opportunity to reflect on Hemingway and how he influenced our local history.”
The 2019 seminar kicks off Thursday, Sept. 5, with an already sold-out preconference writing workshop directed by Clyde Moneyhun, a professor at Boise State University.
Registration and an opening reception follow, after which Hilary Justice of the Hemingway Archive in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum will present the opening remarks.
Friday and Saturday are packed full to the brim with lectures, poster presentations, book discussions and more. Friday evening will include a screening of “The Spanish Earth,” a 1937 pro-Republican, anti-Fascist propaganda film that Hemingway co-wrote during the Spanish Civil War. Cinematic luminaries Orson Welles, Jean Renoir and Joris Ivens also worked on the film.
The conference resumes Saturday with discussions of “The Spanish Earth” and further contextual analysis of the Spanish Civil War. At 10:30 a.m., Spanish artist Pilar Pobil will speak to the seminar participants on her art and her experiences growing up during the Spanish Civil War—a conflict that claimed her father’s life.
Later in the day, further readings and lectures will take place, as will an introduction to the library’s newly released Hemingway Walking Tour app, which highlights local points of interest in relation to the famous author.
The seminar’s proceedings will conclude with a paella cookout catered by Boise restaurant Basque.
“I think people yearn for substantial learning experiences—things that go beyond a single event and allow us to examine a particular topic intensively from many different angles,” Emery-Davidson said. “This multiday program allows for that to happen. It ends up feeling like a kind of summer camp for grownups in the way the community of participants bonds around shared conversations.”
Between the seminar, the new walking tour app and the first-ever writers in residence at the Hemingway House, the Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winner is at the forefront of library programming and ongoing initiatives.
Those who want to learn more about this American literary giant can visit the library’s regional history department or swing by the Regional History Museum in Ketchum’s Forest Service Park, where a permanent exhibition of Hemingway artifacts is on display.
The Hemingway House is not open to the public, but as the new app demonstrates, there are plenty of other important locations around town where Hemingway fans can follow in the author’s footsteps.
The walking tour app is free to download from both the Apple App Store and Google Play.
As much as Hemingway has been built up as a local celebrity in Ketchum, the goal of the Hemingway Seminar is not hagiography or apotheosis, but something more in keeping with the philosophies of the author, who so humbly felt he did not deserve the Nobel Prize for Literature.
“We’re a library,” Emery-Davidson said. “What we want is for people to read and to think about the connections we can make to the world through reading.”
Online registration is now live at comlib.org, and will remain open for the seminar. Even walk-ins will be welcome. Full weekend registration requires a fee of $75 to cover the costs demanded by mounting a conference of this scale.
For a full schedule of seminar happenings, visit comlib.org.