"Under Kilimanjaro" by Ernest Hemingway Kent State University Press, 456 pp., $34 In 1999, under the title "True at First Light," Patrick...
by Ernest Hemingway
Kent State University Press, 456 pp., $34
In 1999, under the title “True at First Light,” Patrick Hemingway published some of his father’s manuscripts on Papa’s African safari of the early 1950s. That material plus much of what Patrick omitted has now been edited by Robert Lewis and Robert Fleming into “Under Kilimanjaro.”
The introduction refers to “True at First Light” as an “abridged” version of the present volume; better to call “Under Kilimanjaro” a bloated version of the earlier one.
Shoot, shoot, shoot. Drink, drink, drink. And talk. In even the best Hemingway it can be hard to tell who’s talking because all the characters talk alike. Here, some of the African characters speak a dialect of English that can only be called “Tonto”: “Maybe hunt be very long. You eat now,” says a servant.
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The rest speak short clauses connected with “and” or “but,” sans punctuation, and often so elliptically that the reader has no idea what’s being said or who’s saying it.
And yet. The first half of the book narrates the effort of Mary, Hemingway’s fourth wife, to shoot a marauding lion, and there are glorious, evocative passages: “The day that Miss Mary shot her lion was a very beautiful day. That was about all that was beautiful about it. White flowers had blossomed in the night so that with the first daylight before the sun had risen all the meadows looked as though a full moon was shining on new snow through a mist.”
Miss Mary’s problem is that she isn’t tall enough to see over the high grass through which they stalk the lion. The second half of the book likewise gets lost, wandering here and there in search of a plot. Fragments of narrative appear — a paragraph, a few pages — and then disappear. “Under Kilimanjaro” is best reserved for an expert tracker.