A Farewell to Arms & its 20+ Endings

Today the Bookseller reported a new edition of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms including all twenty-nine alternate endings, which will be published in the US in October this year. According to the Telegraph the final number is forty-seven — the reason for this discrepancy seems to arise out of the sheer volume of rewrites (ranging from total overhauls to tiny adjustments); Hemingway himself claimed that he went through thirty-nine variants before he was satisfied.  When he was asked by Paris Review interviewer George Plimpton what had been the reason for so many endings, Hemingway replied: “Getting the words right”.

The final line Hemingway decided on, which has concluded every edition of the novel since its original publication, reads: “After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.”

The Guardian wrote that Hemingway’s US publisher Scribner — an imprint of Simon & Schuster — has managed to come up with forty-seven alternate endings, which range from the grumpily nihilistic (“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”) to one suggested by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in which Hemingway wrote that the world “breaks everyone,” and those “it does not break it kills. It 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.”

The endings, including that suggested by F. Scott Fitzgerald, will be in an appendix in the new 330-page edition, whose cover bears the novel’s original artwork, an illustration of topless lovers:

The Huffington Post reports that the new edition will also include “details of the alternative titles Hemingway had for A Farewell To Arms, including: The EnchantmentLove In WarEvery Night And AllOf Wounds and Other Causes.”

According to the Daily Mail, one ending has (the protagonist) Henry’s son live, though its mother still dies: “He does not belong in this story. He starts a new one. It is not fair to start a new story at the end of an old one but that is the way it happens. There is no end except death and birth is the only beginning.”

Another waxes so romantic it is nearly saccharine: “Finally I slept; I must have slept because I woke. When I woke the sun was coming in the open window and I smelled the spring morning after the rain and saw the sun on the trees in the courtyard and for that moment it was all the way it had been.”

Hemingway tries being uncharacteristically spiritual, as well, writing: “The thing is that there is nothing you can do about it. It is all right if you believe in God and love God.”

However, it’s the ending that the writer finally landed on that still feels the most appropriate, the publishing house’s head says. “Ultimately, I think we have to be glad that he went with the ending that he went with,” Susan Moldow, of Scribner, told the New York Times.

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