Ernest Hemingway is one of the most influential authors in American literature. Born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois, the literary icon would become known for his straightforward, honest prose and his use of understatement. But there was so much more about the literary giant than what we know from his popular works.

An American hero

Hemingway discovered a passion for writing during a high school journalism class. He began a career as a reporter for The Kansas City Star, but he only worked at the newspaper for six months until he left the United States to serve as an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I.  This experience would inspire his famous novel, A Farewell to Arms.

When Hemingway returned to the United States, he discovered a passion for fishing and camping, which inspired more writing. None of his journalism jobs mattered to him, so in the 1920s, he left for Paris, France.

Writing his novels

In Paris, Hemingway met and worked with a variety of American writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein. He wrote as often as he could, eventually publishing his 1926 well-received novel, The Sun Also Rises. During the 1930s, Hemingway wasn’t a stranger to traveling abroad—visiting Key West, Africa, Cuba, and his beloved Spain, where he was an active lover of bullfighting.

Many of these travels inspired Hemingway’s famous novels, including his 1940 acclaimed novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls. In 1952, the author published his last significant work, The Old Man and the Sea, a novella about an aging Cuban fisherman that contains many allegories to Hemingway’s personal struggles to preserve his art in the face of his fame.

The end of his life

Hemingway is associated as a cult figure who wasn’t afraid to go on adventures in big-game hunting, fishing, and bullfighting in Spain. He knew he was a good writer—one of the best writers of the 20th century. But despite his fame and his 1954 Nobel Prize for literature, Hemingway became increasingly anxious and depressed towards the end of his life. He wasn’t producing major literary works anymore.

On July 2, 1961, Hemingway committed suicide at his home in Ketchum, Idaho. He was 61 years old. But like many other writers and artists, his legacy has lived on, and in this case, in the form of books.