Hemingway's Alternate Endings to 'A Farewell to Arms' Are Now on Display

JFK Library
JFK Library / JFK Library

In 1958, Ernest Hemingway told the Paris Review that he’d written 39 different endings to his classic World War I novel, A Farewell to Arms. As it turns out, the famed writer had either misremembered or was being modest; historians have since determined that he actually wrote 47 endings to the book, eight of which are now on display at a new exhibit about the author at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. 

"If a person wants to make their mark as a writer they have to work very hard, and this exhibit really shows how hard he worked," Patrick Hemingway, the author's only surviving child, told the Associated Press about the library's Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars exhibit, which runs through December 31.

The exhibit will also feature other rarities from Hemingway’s career, including dozens of photographs, a draft of the first Nick Adams story (which Hemingway wrote on Red Cross stationery while recovering from war wounds in an Italian hospital), and a copy of his first short story, “The Judgment of Manitou,” which was published in a high school literary magazine in 1916.

All 47 endings were included in a special 2012 edition of A Farewell to Arms. The New York Times reports that the alternate conclusions range in length "from a short sentence to several paragraphs." From the Times:

In No. 1, “The Nada Ending,” Hemingway wrote, “That is all there is to the story. Catherine died and you will die and I will die and that is all I can promise you.” The “Live-Baby Ending,” listed as No. 7, concludes, “There is no end except death and birth is the only beginning.” And in No. 34, the “Fitzgerald ending,” suggested by Hemingway’s friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway wrote that the world “breaks everyone,” and those “it does not break it kills.” “It kills the very good and very gentle and the very brave impartially,” he wrote. “If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

Alternate titles, like “Every Night and All,” “Love in War,” “World Enough and Time,” “Of Wounds and Other Causes,” and “The Enchantment,” were also included in the edition.

Why write so many endings? Hemingway told The Paris Review's George Plimpton that he was "[g]etting the words right."

[h/t Associated Press]