NEW YORK — An Ernest Hemingway novel dealing with bisexuality and a young writer's difficulty balancing marriage and career will be published in May, the late author's publisher said Tuesday.
"The Garden of Eden" has been praised by Hemingway's son, Jack, as containing "as good a writing as my father ever did." Publisher Charles Scribner Jr. said the book "will stand on an equal footing with the other novels he has done."
Hemingway's widow, Mary, gave the manuscript of "The Garden of Eden" to Scribner shortly after her husband's death in 1961 but the publisher said neither he nor any other editor was able to shape it into manageable form until last summer.
That was when Tom Jenks, 35, an editor formerly employed at Esquire magazine, was handed a 1,500-page manuscript of the book.
'Just for Readers'
"I began to see there was in fact a complete novel within the manuscript that should be published, not for fans, scholars or critics, but just for readers," Jenks said. "There was just a really terrific book in there."
In his biography of Hemingway, Carlos Baker wrote that the unedited manuscript was "filled with astonishing ineptitudes" and had "none of the taut nervousness of Ernest's best work."
Jenks said Hemingway left notes in the manuscript that guided his editing.
"Those people who have scorned Hemingway for machismo and a kind of brutality in his public life will have to reassess him," Jenks said, because of the "tenderness and vulnerability" he displays in the book.
Parallels to Life
The novel, set primarily in southern France, has several parallels with Hemingway's first two marriages, examining the difficulties a young writer, David Bourne, has in maintaining his work as well as his new marriage.
"The Garden of Eden" also deals with the themes of bisexuality, having Bourne and his wife attracted to the same woman, and androgyny, as the couple spends evenings pretending to exchange sexual identities.
Peter Griffin, author of the newly published biography "Along With Youth: Hemingway, the Early Years," said the sexual behavior of "The Garden of Eden" also has its basis in Hemingway's life.
"I know from conversations with Mary (Hemingway) that Ernest was involved in androgyny in more than one of his marriages," Griffin said in a telephone interview from Fall River, Mass.
Griffin has not read the manuscript but said Jack Hemingway told him it contains "as good a writing as my father ever did" and is reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was a friend of Hemingway's.
"It has the same locale and some of the same treatment of characters Fitzgerald had in 'Tender Is the Night,"' Griffin said. "He said there's also a wonderful section about a young writer learning to write in an African setting."
"It's really one of the richest novels I have ever read depicting writing," Scribner agreed.
He said Hemingway worked on the book primarily in Cuba from 1946 to 1961, the same period that produced "The Old Man and the Sea," "Islands in the Stream" and "The Dangerous Summer," another manuscript only published this year.
Although Jenks still rates "The Sun Also Rises" as Hemingway's finest work, he said, "This is a very different book, and I would almost say the most unique of his books, especially coming out at this time. It's amazing how modern the book seems."