Sunday, October 16, 2011

Farewell to Arms, Hello Obscenity!

When Scribners published Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms in 1929, the publishing house replaced all potentially offensive words with a series of dashes. This intriguing fact is part of an article, “Up In Arms,” by Ethan Trex in the hilarious magazine Mental_Floss (where knowledge junkies get their fix), the 2011 Golden Lobe Awards issue. No, my IQ is nowhere near Mensa levels, but I still get a huge kick from cleverly written stories about mind-boggling facts.

Back to Hemmingway. Although the author was understandably miffed that even such mild obscenities as “balls” weren’t permitted in a novel about war and sex, he caved in order to get the work published.
And then (get this) he grabbed up a few copies and reinserted the vulgarities by hand. Mr. Trex knows of at least two corrected texts that survive today. One copy went to French literary translator Maurice Coindreau; the other to Irish novelist and poet James Joyce. Joyce’s copy now resides at SUNY-Buffalo’s library in upstate New York.

Wouldn’t Hemingway love writing in this modern atmosphere of obligatory and gratuitous obscenity? Well, maybe not. Where’s the shock value?

No comments: