New Ernest Hemingway Center in Havana, Cuba Is Dedicated to Preserving the Author’s Work

Look Magazine, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain
Look Magazine, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain / Look Magazine, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

American author Ernest Hemingway had strong ties with Cuba. He lived on the outskirts of Havana for 21 years in a house called the Finca Vigía (Lookout Farm), which is perched on a hill overlooking the capital city. From this vantage point, he wrote one of his best-known books: The Old Man and the Sea.

Now, nearly 60 years after the writer’s death, a $1.2 million center dedicated to restoring and protecting Hemingway’s works has opened on the grounds of his former home, according to The Boston Globe. The facility has laboratories, an air-conditioned vault, and equipment to clean and preserve the artifacts, many of which have been guarded by Cuban authorities since the 1940s and ‘50s.

In 1960, a year after the Cuban revolution kicked off, Hemingway returned to the U.S. per the American embassy’s advice, perhaps without realizing that he would never again see his Havana home. He died by suicide in Idaho the following year. Back at the Lookout Farm, he left behind roughly 5000 photos, 10,000 letters, and margin notes in about 9000 books from his personal library. Hemingway biographer A. Scott Berg has said the documents were a “CAT scan of Hemingway’s brain.”

“There is Hemingway’s copy of the screenplay for The Old Man and the Sea, with his notations,” The New York Times reported of the collection in 2002. “There is a scrap of paper on which he jotted a profanity-laced conversation from World War II, which he apparently planned to use in a story, but then dismissed, writing about it, ‘too frank.’ There is the start of an epilogue, later rejected, to For Whom the Bell Tolls.” The author “almost obsessively” wrote down his weight and blood pressure on the inside cover of Wuthering Heights.

For years, the Boston-based Finca Vigía Foundation has been working with Cuba's National Cultural Heritage Council to preserve these documents. The center’s opening on March 30 has been hailed as a successful collaborative effort between the U.S. and Cuba, whose relations have been hot and cold in recent years.

“When we come together, when we work together, we can do positive and amazing things,” said Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, who was involved in the center's ribbon-cutting ceremony.

[h/t The Boston Globe]