Book Review: Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts From a Life


I have yet to meet anyone who has not heard of Ernest Hemingway. Most know Hemingway to be the author of four of his most notable novels: The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea. Others may remember Hemingway as the man who set the world record in 1938 for catching seven marlins in one day. While others may recall he was a great big game hunter. Some would say Hemingway was a womanizer who had four wives and multiple lovers. And others would remember Hemingway to be a father, soldier, ambulance driver, expat, etc.. All would be right, as Hemingway was all of these things combined. But foremost of all else he was an Iconic American Author.

Hemingway aficionados know all of this and are just as familiar with all his writings, whether novel, short story or poetry. We also know that after being nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature (1947, 1950, 1953) he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 for The Old Man and the Sea, and his contribution to contemporary literature. However, what we know about Hemingway, from the novels, short stories and poetry he wrote, or through our college studies, and the biographies that continue to be written about Hemingway is we never really knew Ernest Hemingway. We read we discussed, and we surmised, but that was it, until now in Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts From a Life by Michael Katakis.

There are times in life when you know some things are meant to be. Patrick Hemingway, Hemingway’s middle son, recognized this after getting to know Michael Katakis and becoming friends. Patrick asked Michael “if he would be interested in managing his father’s literary estate.” After turning Patrick down twice, Michael relented and Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts From a Life is the result of Michael Katakis spending nineteen years listening to Patrick’s stories about his father while pouring through the artifacts of Ernest Hemingway’s life. The artifacts known as the Hemingway Collection are maintained in a room dedicated to Ernest Hemingway in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, MA.

The collection represents “over eleven thousand photographs, bullfighting tickets and scraps of paper with lists of books a struggling writer should read. There were airline, train, and steamship tickets… There are letters, thousands of them … that record the goings-on in his and his friend’s lives.” And the list goes on and on.

Many may wonder why President John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Library and Museum would host Ernest Hemingways collections from his life. After all, the two men, from the outside, looking in, seem so polar opposite and ran in very different circles. Sometimes, as in this case, things are not always as they seem. Just as how the author Michael Katakis, the son of an immigrant, fits into the tale of John F. Kennedy and Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts From a Life will answer all your questions and leave you feeling as if you have finally met the man Ernest Hemingway. Regardless of how much reading and studying you’ve done on Hemingway, there was never a clearer picture of the man until now thanks to Michael Katakis. Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts From a Life is edited and has an introduction by the manager of the Hemingway estate. And features a forward by Hemingway’s son Patrick and an afterword by Hemingway’s grandson Seán.

What has not been said of this original book that needs to be brought into the light is how Michael Katakis tied the events of the time taking place in Ernest Hemingway’s life to the actual events taking place in the world whether of literary nature or worldly. I found this made an already informative book to be even more didactic, a real historical piece of work worked into an in-depth biography.

As provided by the publisher: “This rich and illuminating book tells the story of a major American icon through the objects he touched, the moments he saw, the thoughts he had every day. Featuring over four hundred dazzling images from every stage and facet of Hemingway’s life, many of them never previously published, this volume is a portrait unlike any other. From photos of Hemingway running with the bulls in Spain to candid letters he wrote to his wives and his publishers, it is a one-of-a-kind, stunning tribute to one of the most titanic figures in literature.

I strongly recommend this book to be read whether you’re a scholar or Hemingway fan. The book is full of history, whether it’s Hemingway’s history, literary history, or world history. Where there is history, there is learning and perspective.


From the first Hemingway book I ever picked up, I became an instant fan. As a writer, I studied Hemingway. As one of the influences of contemporary writers, I found him to be brilliant. I could not overlook how times have changed; you can’t miss it in this book. I never thought of Ernest Hemingway as a womanizer or sexist. At least he married more of the women he bedded then his friend Pablo Picasso did not marry. However, while reading Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts From a Life, especially when I read Hemingway’s letter to Charles Scribner in 1947 upon hearing of Charlie’s death I felt Hemingway was in his day a sexist. In the letter, Hemingway writes, “Anyway, he doesn’t have to worry about Tom Wolfe’s chickenshit estate anymore, or handle Louise’s business, nor keep those women writers from building nests in his hat.”

Sometime between 1921-1922 Gertrude Stein said, “Paris was the place that suited us who were to create the twentieth-century literature.” Einstein moved to Paris in 1922 “with letters of introduction to Stein, Ezra Pound, and Sylvia Beach.” “He would later acknowledge that he “learned a lot” from Stein, “though not half as much as he learned from Ezra Pound or one-tenth as much as he learned from James Joyce.” When Stein would not write a review for Hemingway’s In Our Time in 1925 as she said stories like Up in Michigan were pornographic and unpublishable, this seemed to be the end of any friendship there may have been. I will admit I googled this, and there are many pages to suggest Ernest Hemingway was a sexist, but he was skillful with pen in hand.


About the Author: Michael Katakis

From the Publisher: “Michael Katakis is the author of a number of books, including Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts From a Life, Despatches (special limited edition), The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, A Thousand Shards of Glass: There Is Another America, Traveller: Observations From an American in Exile and Photographs and Words (with Kris L. Hardin). He is the editor of Sacred Trusts: Essays on Stewardship and Responsibility and Excavating Voices: Listening to Photographs of Native Americans. His work has been translated into multiple languages, and his writing and photography have been collected by a wide range of institutions, including The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC; the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Library in London; and Stanford University’s Special Collections Department. In 1999, Michael was elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He lives in Paris and Carmel.”

Author’s Website:

Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts From a Life is available for pre-order:


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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts From a Life

    • This book tells a story of a man we have been reading and rereading for years. An author that we saw glimpses of in his writing, until Michael Katakis delivers us a photograph of this man…Ernest Hemingway.

      Liked by 1 person

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