Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899 – 1961) was an American writer who had an immense influence on 20th century literature. He worked as a journalist for a number of years before becoming a novelist. His first published novel The Sun Also Rises received mixed reviews but is now considered an iconic modernist work. He went on to produce some of the best known novels and short stories of 20th century American literature. His last major work in fiction, The Old Man and the Sea, won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and is widely regarded as a 20th century classic. Hemingway also wrote a number of non-fiction works including Death in the Afternoon and A Moveable Feast. His short stories like The Killers and Hills Like White Elephants, continue to be hugely popular. Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. After suffering from depression in his later years, he committed suicide in 1961. Here are the 10 most famous works of Ernest Hemingway including his best known novels, short stories and non-fiction books.
#10 Death in the Afternoon
Type: Non Fiction
Ernest Hemingway was fascinated by bullfighting. He wanted to write a comprehensive book on the subject as he believed it was “of great tragic interest, being literally of life and death.” This resulted in him writing Death in the Afternoon, which covers the history and traditions of Spanish bullfighting. The book also covers his thoughts regarding the nature of fear and courage. Death in the Afternoon is still considered one of the best written books on bullfighting and it is one of the most renowned non fiction works of Hemingway.
#9 The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Type: Short Story
Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa. This short story is about a couple, Harry and his wife Helen, who are stranded while on an African safari. Harry, the central character of the story, is a writer who is living on his wife’s wealth. He is infected with gangrene and waiting for help to arrive. First published in Esquire magazine, The Snows of Kilimanjaro is considered one of the best short stories by Hemingway and it is often included in his collections.
#8 The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
Type: Short Story
Like The Snows of Kilimanjaro, this short story is also about a couple, Francis Macomber and his wife Margaret, who are on an African safari. They are guided by a professional hunter named Robert Wilson. The story begins against the backdrop of an act of cowardice by Francis during which he had panicked when a wounded lion charged him. The central theme of the tale is courage. The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber has been acclaimed as one of Hemingway’s most successful artistic achievements primarily due to the complexity of its characters and their motivations.
#7 A Moveable Feast
Published: 1964 (posthumously)
Type: Non Fiction
Published posthumously, A Moveable Feast is a memoir by Hemingway about his years as a struggling journalist and writer in Paris in the 1920s. The title of the book comes from Hemingway’s quote: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” After the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks in which 130 people were killed, the book saw renewed interest and became a bestseller in France rising to the top spot on Amazon’s French site. A Moveable Feast is perhaps Hemingway’s most famous non-fiction work.
#6 The Killers
Type: Short Story
Written at a time when organized crime was at its peak during Prohibition, The Killers is a story in which two hit men, Max and Al, are planning to kill a boxer named Ole Andreson. It features Nick Adams, a popular character who appears in many short stories written by Hemingway. The Killers is one of the most popular and anthologized stories by Ernest Hemingway. It has been the basis for a number of films including two Hollywood movies and a Russian student film.
#5 For Whom the Bell Tolls
For Whom the Bell Tolls tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American volunteer fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. As a dynamiter, he has been assigned to blow up a nearby bridge in three days’ time as part of a surprise attack on the fascist forces there. The primary focus in the novel is on war and death with almost all of the main characters contemplating their own deaths and pondering about what it means to be responsible for inflicting death on others. The title of the book refers to funeral tolling in which a single bell is sounded very slowly with significant gap between strikes. It is in keeping with the themes of death in the novel.
#4 Hills Like White Elephants
Type: Short Story
This story is primarily a conversation between an American man and his girlfriend at a Spanish train station while waiting for a train to Madrid. At one point, the girl compares the nearby hills to white elephants. The male and female in the story are simply referred to as “the man” and “the girl”. There are no physical descriptions of the characters; and the reader is also left to interpret their backgrounds and attitudes through their dialogues. The conversation between the two characters remains tense and there is frequent referral to an operation, presumably an abortion. Hills Like White Elephants is known for its irony and symbolism. Many consider it as the best short story written by Hemingway and it remains one of his most popular works.
#3 A Farewell to Arms
Set against the backdrop of the First World War, A Farewell to Arms tells the tale of American lieutenant Frederic Henry. Written in first-person, it focuses on his love affair with Catherine Barkley amid the fighting during the war. The title of the novel is taken from a poem by 16th-century English dramatist George Peele. A Farewell to Arms was the first bestseller of Ernest Hemingway which established him as a prominent modern American writer. It is considered one of his greatest works and has been described by his biographer Michael Reynolds as “the premier American war novel from that debacle World War I.”
#2 The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises was the first published novel by Ernest Hemingway and it is regarded by many, including his biographer Jeffrey Meyers, as his greatest work. Initially receiving mixed reviews, it is now regarded as an iconic modernist novel. The book is based on Hemingway’s 1925 trip to Spain; its characters are based on real people of Hemingway’s circle; and the action is based on real events. The novel relates the account of a group of people who travel from Paris to Spain to attend the Festival of San Fermín, famous for the running of the bulls and the bullfights. The novel’s protagonist Jake Barnes is a man whose war wound has made him impotent while its heroine Brett Ashley is a twice-divorced promiscuous Englishwoman. Brett, a liberated modern woman, is regarded as one of the most interesting and influential female characters of 20th-century American literature. The Sun Also Rises has been in print continuously since its publication, and is said to be one of the most translated titles in the world.
#1 The Old Man and the Sea
The last major work of fiction by Hemingway that was published during his lifetime, The Old Man and the Sea is a short novel which tells the story of an aging Cuban fisherman named Santiago who is involved in a struggle to catch a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Real life fisherman Gregorio Fuentes is often regarded as the model for Santiago, the protagonist of the novel. The Old Man and the Sea was an instant success and won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was also cited by the Nobel Committee as a factor in awarding Hemingway the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. It has been adapted for the screen three times; continues to be popular; and is widely regarded as a 20th century classic. Though The Sun Also Rises is often rated as his greatest book, The Old Man and the Sea is undoubtedly the most famous work by Ernest Hemingway.