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First edition cover
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
First edition cover
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
A Farewell to Arms is a novel written by Ernest Hemingway set during the Italian campaign of World War I. The book, published in 1929, is a first-person account of American Frederic Henry, serving as a Lieutenant ("Tenente") in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army. The title is taken from a poem by 16th-century English dramatist George Peele.
A Farewell to Arms is about a love affair between the expatriate American Henry and Catherine Barkley against the backdrop of the First World War, cynical soldiers, fighting and the displacement of populations. The publication of A Farewell to Arms cemented his stature as a modern American writer, became his first best-seller, and is described by biographer Michael Reynolds as "the premier American war novel from that debacle World War I."
The novel was first adapted to stage by Laurence Stallings in 1930, then to film in 1932, with a 1957 remake. The 1996 film In Love and War, directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Sandra Bullock, depicts Hemingway's life in Italy as an ambulance driver in the events prior to his writing of "A Farewell to Arms".
The novel is divided into five books. In the first book, Rinaldi introduces Frederic Henry to Catherine Barkley; Frederic attempts to seduce her, and their relationship begins. While on the Italian front, Frederic is wounded in the knee by a mortar shell and sent to a hospital in Milan. The second book shows the growth of Frederic and Catherine's relationship as they spend time together in Milan over the summer. Frederic falls in love with Catherine and, by the time he is healed, Catherine is three months pregnant. In the third book, Frederic returns to his unit, but not long afterwards the Austrians break through the Italian lines in the Battle of Caporetto, and the Italians retreat. Frederic kills an engineering sergeant for insubordination. After falling behind and catching up again, Frederic is taken to a place by the "battle police", where officers are being interrogated and executed for the "treachery" that supposedly led to the Italian defeat. However, after seeing and hearing that everyone interrogated is killed, Frederic escapes by jumping into a river. In the fourth book, Catherine and Frederic reunite and flee to Switzerland in a rowboat. In the final book, Frederic and Catherine live a quiet life in the mountains until she goes into labor. After a long and painful birth, their son is stillborn. Catherine begins to hemorrhage and soon dies, leaving Frederic to return to their hotel in the rain.
In early editions, the words "shit", "fuck", and "cocksucker" were replaced with dashes. There are at least two copies of the first edition in which Hemingway re-inserted the censored text by hand, so as to provide a corrected text. One of these copies was presented to Maurice Coindreau; the other, to James Joyce. Hemingway's corrected text has not been incorporated into modern published editions of the novel; however, there are some audiobook versions that are uncensored.
Also, the novel could not be published in Italy until 1948 because it was considered detrimental to the honor of the Armed Forces by the fascist regime, both the description of the Battle of Caporetto, and for a certain anti-militarism implied in the work. The Italian translation had in fact already been written illegally in 1943 by Fernanda Pivano, leading to her arrest in Turin.
The novel was based on Hemingway's own experiences serving in the Italian campaigns during the First World War. The inspiration for Catherine Barkley was Agnes von Kurowsky, a real nurse who cared for Hemingway in a hospital in Milan after he had been wounded. He had planned to marry her but she spurned his love when he returned to America. Kitty Cannell, a Paris-based fashion correspondent, became Helen Ferguson. The unnamed priest was based on Don Giuseppe Bianchi, the priest of the 69th and 70th regiments of the Brigata Ancona. Although the sources for Rinaldi are unknown, the character had already appeared in In Our Time.
Biographer Reynolds, however, writes that Hemingway was not involved in the battles described; because his previous novel, The Sun Also Rises, was written as a roman à clef, readers assumed A Farewell to Arms to be autobiographical.
Some pieces of the novel were written in Piggott, Arkansas, at the home of his then wife Pauline Pfeiffer, and in Mission Hills, Kansas while she was awaiting delivery of their baby. Pauline underwent a caesarean section as Hemingway was writing the scene about Catherine Barkley's childbirth.
The novel was first serialized in Scribner's Magazine in the May 1929 to October 1929 issues. The book was published in September 1929 with a first edition print-run of approximately 31,000 copies. The success of A Farewell to Arms made Hemingway financially independent.
The Hemingway Library Edition was released in July 2012, with a dust jacket facsimile of the first edition. The newly published edition presents an appendix with the many alternate endings Hemingway wrote for the novel in addition to pieces from early draft manuscripts.
The JFK Library Hemingway collection has two handwritten pages with possible titles for the book. Most of the titles come from the Oxford Book of English Verse. One of the possible titles Hemingway considered was: In Another Country and Besides. This comes from The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe. The poem Portrait of a Lady by T.S. Eliot also starts of by quoting Marlowe: "Thou hast committed/ Fornication: but that was in another country,/ And besides, the wench is dead.". Hemingway's library included both works by Eliot and Marlowe.
The novel has been adapted numerous times for stage, cinema, radio and television: There was a 1930 stage adaptation; a 1932 screen adaptation that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture; a 1957 film adaptation; various radio adaptations between 1938 and 1950; a 1955 television adaptation by Gore Vidal, for the "Climax!" TV series and a 1966 adaptation.
A Farewell to Arms was the first book read by Pat Solitano, Jr. (Bradley Cooper) in the film Silver Linings Playbook. The character reads the book and is greatly disappointed by the ending, so he hurls it through an attic window in the middle of the night.