The Last Days of Ernest Hemingway: He Thought the Feds were Spying on him


Delusional? Mentally deranged? In need of shock therapy and medication to treat persecution fantasies involving mysterious government forces?

Or..100% correct, but no one would listen to him? 

We never got to tell him, “Damn, Earnest. You were right, you were under heavy surveillance. And… we’re really sorry you shot yourself…”

editor-commen-deskI read A.E. Hotchner’s Hemingway Biography, many years ago, and recall being troubled by the passages describing Hemingway’s decline. Hemingway’s delusional state was vividly catalogued. Hotchner, a fellow writer and longtime a pal of Hemingway’s, visited Ernest in the hospital during the period when Hemingway was administered shock treatments. Tortured, in an attempt to “cure” his paranoid delusions.

Hotchner’s tone was in that final chapter was somber. Saddened by his famous mentor’s inability to distinguish paranoid fantasy from reality, Hotchner characterized the great man’s decline without ever considering the possibility that Hemingway’s anxiety was well-founded. His phones–even in the hospital–were tapped by the FBI.

Decades later, when it was revealed that Hemingway was being systematically spied on by his own government, I wondered if Hotchner would address it in print. Will Hotchner update his Hemingway biography to include a rewrite of that misguided last chapter? I can only imagine how mortified Hotchner must have been. The unintended damage to Earnest Hemingway’s legacy is impossible to measure.

The  questions surrounding Hemingway’s suicide, in light of what we now know, could not have been easy for Hotchner to reconcile. Not only was Hemingway harassed by the U.S. Government, he was misunderstood by his closest friends. Hemingway’s pleas for intervention were ignored. Hemingway ultimately took a shotgun and ended his life.

The following item, from, re: Hotcher’s essay in the NYTimes, shows the biographer revisiting these tragic events. Hotchner may have addressed it before, but this is my first time seeing it in print.

If we think Government abuse and surveillance of its own citizens is new, we can recall the life and death of Ernest Hemingway. The abuse is no longer limited to the famous and influential, but extends much further.

4th of July, 2013. Updated October 2nd, 2013The Butcher

Ernest Hemingway’s friend A.E. Hotchner has a moving essay in The New York Times about the closing months of the novelist’s life in 1960 and 1961. At that point Hemingway was anxious, paranoid, convinced the Federal Bureau of Investigation was following him and that his home and car were bugged. He tried several times to kill himself and was put in a mental ward, where he received 11 electroshock “treatments.” Even in the hospital, he insisted that the FBI was spying on him. Finally, 50 years ago yesterday, he ended his life.

Decades later, in a twist you may have seen coming,

“…the F.B.I. released its Hemingway file. It revealed that beginning in the 1940s J. Edgar Hoover had placed Ernest under surveillance because he was suspicious of Ernest’s activities in Cuba. Over the following years, agents filed reports on him and tapped his phones. The surveillance continued all through his confinement at St. Mary’s Hospital. It is likely that the phone outside his room was tapped after all.

In the years since, I have tried to reconcile Ernest’s fear of the F.B.I., which I regretfully misjudged, with the reality of the F.B.I. file. I now believe he truly sensed the surveillance, and that it substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide.”

Via Tom Jackson — via

6 Comments on “The Last Days of Ernest Hemingway: He Thought the Feds were Spying on him”

  1. bullright says:

    Dang you’d think he was on to something.

  2. […] Posted: July 4, 2013 | Author: Pundit from another Planet | Filed under: Mediasphere, Reading Room, The Butcher’s Notebook | Tags: A. E. Hotchner, Cuba, Ernest, Ernest Hemingway, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hemingway, J. Edgar Hoover, New York Times |3 Comments […]

  3. […] The Last Days of Ernest Hemingway: He Thought the Feds were Spying on him ( […]

  4. Dave Theimer says:

    Sad that his friends didn’t listen to him. The government should give a public apology to his family and to him posthumously.

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