True At First Light

A Fictional Memoir

True At First Light

Both a revealing self-portrait and dramatic fictional chronicle of his final African safari, Ernest Hemingway's last unpublished work was written when he returned from Kenya in 1953. Edited by his son Patrick, who accompanied his father on the safari, True at First Light offers rare insights into the legendary American writer.

A blend of autobiography and fiction, the book opens on the day his close friend Pop, a celebrated hunter, leaves Ernest in charge of the safari camp and news arrives of a potential attack from a hostile tribe. Drama continues to build as his wife, Mary, pursues the great black-maned lion that has become her obsession, and Ernest becomes involved with a young African girl whom he supposedly plans to take as a second bride. Increasingly enchanted by the local African community, he struggles between the attraction of these two women and the wildly different cultures they represent. Spicing his depictions of human longings with sharp humor, Hemingway captures the excitement of big-game hunting and the unparallel beauty of the landscape. Rich in laughter, beauty and profound insight. True at First Light is an extraordinary publishing event -- a breathtaking final work from one of our most beloved and important writers.
  • Scribner | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780684865720 | 
  • July 2000
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Reading Group Guide

1) Hemingway completed just one draft of True at First Light, and after his death it remained under lock and key for decades. Did these circumstances affect the way you read the book? How should True at First Light be judged within Hemingway's complete canon of work? If he had finished writing and editing book himself, in what ways might it have been different?
2) Perhaps the most controversial aspect of True at First Light is Hemingway's purported "marriage" to Debba. Do you believe that this relationship is truthfully rendered, or one of the "fictionalized" elements of this memoir? Could Debba be an amalgamation of a few different women? A metaphor for Hemingway's love of Africa itself?
3) On the surface, Hemingway perpetuates the notion that he and Mary are very happy. They frequently take great pains to reassure one another that they are content. Are they trying to convince themselves they are still in love? If so, why? Is their bickering a sign that they are unhappy, or is this just the way they communicate? Discuss his assertion that "love is a terrible thing...[and] fidelity does not exist nor ever is implied except at the first marriage" (282).
4) Hemingway often mocks the white man's presence in Africa, noting how many are willing to pay inflated prices for an authentic African hunt, and even joking that a Hilton should be built for the comfort of such people. Doe see more

More Books from this Author

The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
Green Hills of Africa
The Sun Also Rises
A Farewell to Arms

About the Author

Ernest Hemingway
Earl Theisen, 1953

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway did more to influence the style of English prose than any other writer of his time. Publication of The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms immediately established him as one of the greatest literary lights of the 20th century. His classic novella The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He died in 1961.