Ernest Hemingway, 1950. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons).
Ernest Hemingway took his own life in 1961. It was a tragic end to the life of a great writer. His suicide is believed by many to be a result of depression or perhaps even a psychosis that developed late in his life. However, declassifed FBI files might reveal a different story.
Hemingway did suffer from depression
During the last 13 years of his life, Hemingway became close friends with his biographer, Aaron Edward Hotchner. In a 2011 interview with the New York Times, Hotchner revealed the most likely causes for Hemingway’s suicide.
One thing he mentioned is that writer suffered from a depression stemming from the thought that his best writing years were long gone. A pained Hemingway had told Hotchner that he was afraid he would never be able to produce a great literary work again.
Was Hemingway’s paranoia founded?
Hotchner also mentioned in the interview that Hemingway had an intense paranoia that the FBI was following him in his final years of life. This fear took over him, which in the end, drove him to suicide. Hemingway claimed the FBI was bugging his phone and intercepting his mail, and he was thoroughly distraught by this. Hotchner even recalls a time out to dinner with Hemingway when the writer insisted they leave early, sure that men sitting near them were federal agents watching him.
While these may seem like the insane ramblings of an aging writer, in 1983, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, an English professor at the University of Colorado uncovered a 124-page FBI file on Hemingway. The file contained information that not even Hemingway’s closest friends knew about.
The truth about the FBI files
Hemingway’s time in Cuba during World War II resulted in an agreement between himself and the former US ambassador in Havana. The plan was for Hemingway to keep tabs on Spanish citizens in Cuba and look out for ties with Franco, the Spanish fascist dictator. They thought Spain may have been trying to get Cuba to join the Axis powers.
Even after the operation ended, the FBI still kept an eye on Hemingway. J. Edgar Hoover himself made sure he was aware of Hemingway‘s whereabouts. As it turns out, there was a substantial FBI file on Hemingway for a good part of his life. They reveal that Hemingway was right. His phones were tapped and his actions were being monitored after all. His suicide, then, was likely not merely a result of mental illness. His fear that the FBI was watching him was founded and may have been a contributing factor in his tragic death.