Ken Burns’ Hemingway


Ernest Hemingway, the iconic literary figure considered one of the greatest American writers and among the first to live and work at the treacherous nexus of art and celebrity, is the subject of an upcoming three-part, six-hour documentary series directed by award-winning filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

Hemingway paints an intimate picture of the writer who captured on paper the complexities of the human condition in sparse and profound prose and whose work remains deeply influential around the world while also penetrating the myth of Hemingway as the man’s man to reveal a deeply troubled and ultimately tragic figure. The film also explores Hemingway’s limitations and biases as an artist.

The documentary series, written by Geoffrey C. Ward and produced by Sarah Botstein, both long-time collaborators of Burns and Novick, interweaves a close study of the biographical events of the author’s life with excerpts from his fiction, nonfiction and short stories, informed by interviews with celebrated writers, scholars and Hemingway’s son, Patrick. The filmmakers explore the painstaking process through which Hemingway created some of the most important works of fiction in American letters, including novels The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea; short stories “Hills Like White Elephants,” “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” “Up in Michigan,” “Indian Camp” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro;” as well as the nonfiction works Death in the Afternoon and A Moveable Feast.

Hemingway is both an intimate, turbulent family saga and an examination of some of the greatest works of American literature in the 20th century,” Burns said in a press release. “The documentary attempts to go beyond prevailing assumptions about Ernest Hemingway and his writing. At the same time, we are unsparing in our inquiry into less well-known aspects of his character and writing. Our intent is to offer viewers an honest portrayal of a complex and conflicted writer who left an indelible mark on literature.”


Monday, April 5 through Wednesday April 7, at 8pm on CET**
Wednesdays, April 21 through May 5, at 8pm on CET Arts

**Each episode also encodes at 10pm on the same night.

A Writer (1899-1929)
Monday, April 5, at 8pm & 10pm on CET

Hemingway, yearning for adventure, volunteers for the Red Cross during World War I. He marries Hadley Richardson and moves to Paris, publishes The Sun Also Rises and finds critical and commercial success with his second novel, A Farewell to Arms.

The Avatar (1929-1944)
Tuesday, April 6, at 8pm & 10pm on CET

Having achieved a level of fame rarely seen in the literary world, Hemingway settles in Key West with Pauline Pfeiffer, but can’t stay put for long. He reports on the Spanish Civil War and begins a tempestuous romance with Martha Gellhorn.

The Blank Page (1944-1961)
Wednesday, April 7, at 8pm & 10pm on CET

Hemingway follows the Army as they advance through Europe. Afterwards, he tries to start a life with Mary Welsh, but is beset with tragedies. He publishes The Old Man and the Sea to acclaim but is overcome by his declining mental condition.