A New Edition of ‘A Farewell to Arms’ Contains Over 40 Alternate Endings


In a 1958 interview with The Paris Review, Ernest Hemingway admitted that the final lines of A Farewell to Arms , his 1929 semi-autobiographical WWI masterpiece, had been rewritten some “39 times before I was satisfied.” Needless to say, those alternate endings have been the subject of much speculation and literary treasure-hunting, not to mention interest from writers who thrill at seeing the literary great’s behind-the-scenes process. Though they’ve been floating around, the draft variations have never been collected, until now — all of the endings, plus alternate drafts of earlier passages, will be published in a new edition from Scribner next week.

As it turns out, Hemingway was rather underselling himself by guessing at 39 — his grandson Seán Hemingway found 47 variations, which range from a short sentence to paragraphs, among his manuscripts. Some are very bleak (“That is all there is to the story. Catherine died and you will die and I will die and that is all I can promise you.”) and some intertextually fascinating (in one ending suggested by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway writes that the world “kills the very good and very gentle and the very brave impartially… If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”), but we have no doubt that they will all shed a little more light on our dearly beloved Papa. [via NYT]