Ernie and Me
Ernie and Me

One of the main reasons I initially decided to leave the safety of my home country and move out abroad, teaching English as a second language (ESL) to foreigners overseas was for a mental focus that comes with only working one full-time job instead of three or four part-time jobs. I have been blessed since leaving to have completed two novels and started work on two more in addition to a handful of short stories and articles. Writing has become an avenue of creativity and solace for me.

So when I moved to Pamplona, Spain and realized that one of the all-time greats lived, and wrote, here, I was flabbergasted. I was beside myself with giddy joy. Here I was, just doing my own thing, and I followed in the footsteps of arguably one of the greatest prose writers of all time: Ernest Hemingway. I was in good company.

Hemingway and the Bullfighter
Hemingway and the Bullfighter

Hemingway lived a life of adventure. He was a resident of not only Pamplona, but of Paris as well (and eventually Key West, the southernmost point in the contiguous United States). He spent a great deal of time hanging out with people, smoking and drinking and just soaking up life (Thoreau would have been proud). Having expatriated when he did, he became a member of the Lost Generation in the 1920s, a term that he coined, referring to artists who came of age during World War I (and included F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, T.S. Eliot, Franz Kafka, Aldous Huxley, Isadora Duncan, George Gershwin, and Aaron Copland).

Like these great names, I have embarked upon my own adventure to see the world, meet interesting people, and witness exotic cultural traditions, while at the same time learning and polishing my craft as a writer. In addition to my fiction, I have also had articles published in newspapers and magazines about my experiences living abroad. Look for my work in the Courier Post, the South Jersey Times, and Global Living magazine (to name a few).

Cafe Iruna - and their memorialized Hemingway in Bronze
Cafe Iruna – the first building in Pamplona to be outfitted with electricity, and their memorialized Hemingway in Bronze

And like me, Hemingway thoroughly enjoyed his time in Europe. In 1921, he was hired by a Canadian newspaper as their foreign correspondent and left immediately for Paris. It is said that he wanted a life in Europe because of the comforts such a life provided (at the time the exchange rate was profitable for Americans overseas). He first visited Pamplona for the San Fermin festival, aka the Running of the Bulls in 1923. He and his family returned for the next three consecutive years, Ernest becoming obsessed with bullfighting and bullfighters.

The Working Title was Fiesta (the Spanish word for "party")
The Working Title was Fiesta (the Spanish word for “party”)

It was during this period of the mid-1920s that he wrote what is his greatest work of fiction: The Sun Also Rises. It’s the story of a group of expats who go to San Fermin for the festivities. They also sit around in many cafes drinking wine, something we have done quite a bit since adopting the European lifestyle. Hemingway drew on his personal experiences while visiting the festival and wrote aspects of his friends into the characters: two things necessary for good fiction. The details he paints jump off the page and make the readers feel like they’re right there with him.

I’ve spent some time writing in the bar/cafe where Hemingway relaxed. It’s called Cafe Iruna, and yes I have sipped both wine and coffee whilst sitting with my laptop. I can only hope that someday, my writing is remembered half as much as Ernest’s. That’s what’s important to me. But my adventure, getting there, is a lot of the fun too.

Hasta La Proxima…

-Justin

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One thought on “The Importance of Being Ernest

  1. Good blog. Southern most point in US is actually on the Big Island. I don’t think we can even say continental US for Key West.

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