That Summer in Paris--MEMORIES OF TANGLED FRIENDSHIPS WITH HEMINGWAY, FITZGERALD, AND SOME OTHERS, by Morley Callaghan
. . . And after being out all night we had slept till past noon, had eaten some croissants and coffee in our hotel room, and were sitting around when a knock came on the door. It was Hemingway. With him was his six-year-old boy, Bumbi. Ernest was wearing a dignified dark gray suit. He still had that old sweet charming smile. On his forehead was a new scar.
. . . We talked a few minutes about Bumbi, a handsome boy. Ernest said he was on his way to Hadleys' place with Bumbi; Hadley was the wife he had had in Toronto; we could go with him, he said, then we could go to a cafe' and have a drink. . .
. . .. . . Suddenly he told us he had become a Catholic. The girl he had married, Pauline, was Catholic. So there we were, three of the faithful. Perhaps I should have clasped his hand warmly. I only looked reflective. Then Loretto asked him how he had been able to get a divorce and marry within the Church. Wasn't it always difficult? It hadn't been difficult, he said, since his first wife, Hadley, had never been baptized. Oh yes, a bit of luck, we agreed. He felt very good about being a convert. But converts had always bored me. At the time in France there were many conversions among the intellectuals. Christian artists were finding new dignity and spiritual adventure in the neo-Thomism of Jacques Maritain. Most converts I had known had changed their faith but not their personalities or their temperaments, and since they usually gained enormous self-assurance from the new faith, I would find myself disliking them more than ever. Too often a dualism remained in them. A beautiful writer like Mauriac would have one of his women characters, while holding a lover in her arms, be aware of the blackheads on his nose, a reminder that even in an ecstatic moment the flesh ought to be seen in its worst light. He made me feel exuberantly pagan. My own problem was to relate a Christian enlightenment to some timeless process of becoming. A disgust with the flesh born of an alleged awareness of an approaching doomsday bored me, as did the flash of light that gave a man the arrogant assurance that he was the elect of God.
I remember how I looked at Ernest, ready to question him, then I shrugged and smiled. There he sat, so full-blooded and healthy. And he had been so unassertive in telling about his conversion, no one could have imagined he would ever think of himself as the elect of God. Perhaps he saw I was neither impressed nor enthusiastic, for his manner changed. I mean he suddenly was with me in my feeling about converts, he seemed to be saying that he called himself a Catholic now because he recognized that he really had been Catholic for some time--by temperament. In New York later, I heard someone at a party say mockingly, "Hemingway became a Catholic because all the Spanish bullfighters were Catholic." No. There was much more to it than that. At the cafe' that day, reflecting, watching his face as he talked, it struck me that by some twist of temperament, in spite of his puritan family, he was in fact intended to be a Mediterranean Catholic. And as it turned out, the older he got, the more often death kept hovering over his stories; he kept death in his work as a Medieval scholar might have kept a skull on his desk, to remind him of his last end. . .
photo: Ernest Hemingway in Paris 1928
(The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)