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The Pilar leaving the Havana harbor. Hemingway is standing on the flying bridge.


Hemingway and his third wife, the journalist Martha Gellhorn, lived between assignments at the Finca Vigía, an estate outside Havana that Hemingway bought in 1940 and occupied for more than 20 years.

Hemingway spent his mornings wrestling with his typewriter and his afternoons wrestling with marlins in the Gulf Stream. He downed daiquiris at The Floridita bar, shot pigeons at the Club de Cazadores, and trolled the Caribbean for German submarines (inspiration for 1970's Islands in the Stream, about an American artist who pursues German U-boats in Cuba). The writer often sailed to Havana to buy international newspapers (material for 1937's "To Have and Have Not," about a rum runner shuttling between Cuba and Key West).

Hemingway met Martha Gelhorn, a journalist who became the third Mrs. Hemingway in Key West.

Much of Hemingway's time in Cuba was spent writing thousands of letters, for which he kept a second desk. In 1944, Martha convinced him to leave scribbling behind and join her in covering World War II in Europe. In London, he met Mary Welsh, the petite Minnesota journalist who was to become his fourth and final wife. After Hemingway's 1946 divorce from Martha, the pair returned to Cuba, exchanged vows, and shared their home with some 57 cats.

In 1951, Hemingway hammered out a story that had occupied him for two decades -- the tale of an old Cuban fisherman who spent four days fighting a swordfish only to lose it to sharks. "The Old Man and The Sea," published in a single issue of Life magazine, won him up to ninety fan letters a day -- plus the 1953 Pulitzer Prize and the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Hemingway wrote about what he saw while reporting on the war against Franco in "For Whom the Bell Tolls," a play called "The Fifth Column" and a number of short stories. "The Old Man and the Sea" appeared in Life magazine and sold out immediately. He worked on "Islands in the Steam" during his time in Cuba, but it was not published until after his death.

Nobel Prize Audio

Listen to Hemingway's acceptance speech for the 1954 Nobel Prize. He didn't attend the ceremony and read his speech over Cuban radio.

Photo credits: Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection/John F. Kennedy Library, ©Earl Theisen/John F. Kennedy Library 2000. Book covers: Princeton University Library. Audio © Harper Audio