In Our Time (short story collection)
In Our Time is the first collection of short stories written by Ernest Hemingway, published by Boni & Liveright in New York in 1925. A earlier edition titled in our time (without capitals), had been published a year earlier in Paris, in 1924. The Parisian edition consisted of only 32 pages, printed in a small print-run of 170 copies, contained vignettes that Hemingway would use as interchapters for the expanded 1925 New York edition of In Our Time. He rewrote of the earlier vignettes, "A Very Short Story" and "The Revolutionist', into short stories for the New York collection.
The 1925 volume includes several of Hemingway's better-known stories depicting the semi-autobiographical Nick Adams, such as "Indian Camp", "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife", "The Three-Day Blow", and "Big Two-Hearted River". Hemingway's distinctive style is apparent in these early stories. He wrote the story "On the Quai at Smyrna" for a subsequent edition published in 1930. Ezra Pound suggested the title for the collection, from the English Book of Common Prayer: "give us peace in our time, O Lord". Upon publication the collection was immediately seen as a significant development in prose fiction, with its spare language and the oblique depictions of the emotions the characters portrayed.
In 1921, soon after his marriage to Hadley Richardson, the couple moved to Paris, following Sherwood Anderson's advice that the city was inexpensive and a good place for a young writer to live. There Hemingway met Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce. He worked for the The Toronto Star as an international correspondent, and traveled around Europe reporting on the Greco-Turkish War and sporting events in Spain and Germany. He continued to write fiction and a few pieces of juvenilia he brought with him to Paris such as "Up in Michigan", which Gertrude Stein judged unfit for publication.
In 1922, all of his manuscripts were lost when Hadley packed them, including the duplicates, in a single suitcase. The suitcase was stolen at Gare de Lyon train station, and never recovered. Hemingway was furious with his wife and distraught at the loss of his work but Pound declared he had lost only the time it should take to rewrite the pieces. Hemingway took Pound's advice and either rewrote the pieces, or he wrote entirely new work so that by the end of 1923 he produced the 18 sketches to become the volume in our time.
It was a work that grew, all the while keeping the same title, with sections published in 1923, 1924 and 1925. The first pieces published in April 1923 were six vignettes, none over 200 words, appearing in the April edition of The Little Review under the title "In Our Time". These were later republished along with 12 more in the Paris edition of in our time, and as "interchapters" in the 1925 American edition. Late in 1924 he had finished the stories that were published in the American edition of In Our Time, at that time saying of his work, "I've worked like hell most of the time and think the stuff gets better."
Bill Bird's Parisian high-end printing company, Three Mountains Press, founded in the early 1920s, employed Pound as editor who sought to "keep the series strictly modern". Their aim was to publish well-produced limited private editions by a handful of modern authors, including Pound himself, and Joyce, in small print-runs. Hemingway, who was unpublished, gave Bird the manuscript of vignettes that Hemingway titled Blank, which he later titled in our time from the Book of Common Prayer. When American editors queried him about the lower-case title, Hemingway said it was "silly and affected".
The book was first published in Paris in 1924, printed on handmade paper in a 38-page volume. A printing mistake ruined many of the copies so only 170 of the 300 printed were released for sale; the rest were sent to reviewers and friends. It was the last in series printed by Bird and edited by Pound. The volume included 18 vignettes written the year before, presented as untitled chapters. Because the pieces were meant to convey a sense of journalism or news, Bird designed a distinctive dust-jacket showing a collage of newspaper articles, and a woodcut of Hemingway was made for the frontispiece.
The American edition of In Our Time was to include a collection of short stories as well as the vignettes printed in the Parisian edition. Most of the stories were written in 1924. Sixteen of the vignettes from the earlier Parisian edition were kept as numbered interchapter sketches; two had been published in his first book "Three Stories and 10 poems"; two were from in our time; six had been published in literary magazines. Four had never been published before. Hemingway planned to end the volume with the two-part short story "Big Two-Hearted River" that he wrote in the summer and fall of 1924. Boni & Liveright published the book in 1925, with a print-run of 1335 copies, costing $2 each. Hemingway was unhappy that Boni & Liveright published the volume with such a small print-run but he was contractually bound to the company who held first refusal rights for three more books.
in our time
The 18 vignettes written in 1923 were presented as numbered chapters. They were based on contemporary news items (Chapters 3, 6, 9, and 17), war experiences and bull-fighting. One seven paragraph vignette—published as Chapter 10—about a World War I soldier's love affair with a Red Cross nurse, was based on Hemingway's affair with Agnes von Kurowsky during his hospitalization in Milan after an injury sustained at the Italian front during WWI. The other WWI pieces (Chapters 1, 4, 5 and 7) may have been based on stories told him by his friend Chink Dorman-Smith. The piece about a robbery and murder in Kansas City (Chapter 9), was inspired by a newspaper story Hemingway covered while still a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star. Chapters 2, and 11 – 16 were written after his first trip to Spain and depict the world of bullfighting.
In Our Time
Sixteen of the 18 vignettes published in in our time were incorporated into In Our Time as interchapter pieces and renumbered; two were rewritten as short stories—one was rewritten as the short story "The Revolutionist", and the love story was rewritten as "A Very Short Story". In Our Time includes 14 short stories, almost all written in 1924, and many are considered some of Hemingway's best short fiction.
The volume as originally published began with two stories linked thematically, set in Michigan, introducing young Nick Adams: "Indian Camp" and "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife". "The End of Something" is a story about Nick as a teenager breaking up with a girl; the next story, "Three-Day Blow", has Nick and a friend Bill spending three days at a lake, drinking and talking. In "The Battler", as he returns home from WWI, Nick meets a prize-fighter. This is followed by "A Very Short Story", a WWI love story set in Italy; "Soldier's Home" is set in Kansas; and "The Revolutionist" again is set in Italy. Three marriage stories follow: "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot", "Cat in the Rain" and "Out of Season". Nick reappears in "Cross Country Snow", set in Switzerland. "My Old Man" is set in Paris. The volume ends with the two-part Nick Adams story "Big Two-Hearted River", set in Michigan. Newer editions of the volume begin with "On the Quai at Smyrna".
Themes and style
According to Hemingway scholar Wendolyn Tetlow the vignettes, interchapters and short stories published as different permutations of "In Our Time" are united thematically. In August 1923, after the publication of first six and the finalization of the next 12, Hemingway described them in a letter to Pound: "When they are read together, they all hook up....The bulls start, then reappear, then finish off. The war starts clear and noble just like it did...gets close and blurred and finished with the feller who goes home and gets clap." He went on to tell Pound, "it has form all right".
The first interchapter was written as a single paragraph and first published in The Little Review. Reflective of the style of the finished work, it is tightly compressed showing Hemingway's utilization of Pound's imagist theories, and in its detachment, echoes T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. The small paragraph shows Hemingway, as Pound had done in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, treating WWI with bitterness. Moreover, Hemingway took Pound's advice and used words sparingly—achieving the spareness of style for which he was to become famous.
Hemingway biographer James Mellow believes In Our Time to be Hemingway's most experimental book in that it transcends a mere collection of stories, and that it presents a "narrative form in which seemingly disconnected episodes and events made up a chronicle of events". He believes that in this, Hemingway's first published book, he established the primary themes to which he returned during his career as an author. The stories in the book establish themes such as initiation rites and early love, marriage problems, disappointment in family life, and the importance of male comradeship. The in our time vignettes, or interchapters, concern war, bullfighting and crime—all topics Hemingway returned to in his later work. Mellow believes the invention of Nick Adams was "vital to Hemingway's career". From the first story, "Indian Camp", which introduces Adams as a young boy, the character is a doppelgänger, a conduit through whom Hemingway expresses his own experiences. The second story, "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife", considered by Mellow as one of Hemingway's major stories, is important because through Nick, Hemingway regales his childhood experiences with his parents.
"The Big-Two Hearted River", a two-part story, finishes the collection. It was designed and written to be the concluding and climatic piece of In Our Time. In describing the piece to Gertrude Stein, Hemingway wrote he was "trying to do the country with Cézanne." Nothing much happens in the story—nothing much is meant to happen. The surface details mask the deep inner turmoil Nick Adams feels after returning from the war; the sojourn on the river is to function as a place of tranquility and rehabilitation for him.
Reception and legacy
Hemingway's writing style attracted attention when in our time was published. Edmund Wilson described the writing as "of the first destinction", writing in The Dial that the bullfight scenes were reminiscent of Francisco Goya paintings, that the author "had almost invented a form of his own", and of the book as whole that it had "more artistic dignity than any written by an American about the period of the war."
The American edition of In Our Time was praised by literary critics when it was published in 1925, and Mellow says of the book that it is one of Hemingway's masterpieces. His parents, however, hated it and referred to it as "filth".
- Mellow (1992), 252, 314
- Fleming, Robert E. In Our Time. The Literary Encyclopedia. March 17, 2001. Retrieved September 30, 2011
- Desnoyers, Megan Floyd. "Ernest Hemingway: A Storyteller's Legacy" JFK Library. Retrieved September 30, 2011
- Smith (1996), 40–42
- Tetlow (1992), 18
- Mellow (1992), 188
- Mellow (1992), 239
- Mellow (1992), 188
- Waldhorn (2002), 259
- Baker (1972), 17
- Meyers (1985), 141
- Meyers (1985), 145
- Mellow (1992), 271
- Oliver (1999), 168–169
- According to Michael Reynolds the print-run was 1100 copies. See Reynolds (2000), 29
- Reynolds (2000), 29
- Oliver (1999), 168–169
- Oliver (1999), 342
- Mellow (1992), 97, 81
- Oliver (1999), 52–53
- Mellow (1992), 43, 239–240
- Oliver (1999), 52–53
- Oliver (1999), 52
- Oliver (1999), 168–169
- Tetlow (1992), 23
- qtd in Mellow (1992), 240
- Tetlow (1992), 20
- Mellow (1992), 266
- Mellow (1992), 266–268
- Mellow (1992), 272
- qtd in Wagner-Martin (2002), 5
- Reynolds (1989), 243
- Mellow (1992), 266–267
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- Strong, Paul (1991). "The First Nick Adams Stories". Studies in Short Fiction. 28. pp. 83–91
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