Quotations by Hemingway, Ernest


I used to try to write better than certain dead writers of whose value I was certain. For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
“Interview with Ernest Hemingway,” George Plimpton, The Paris Review #18 (Spring 1958)

Reprinted in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises: A Casebook, ed. Linda Wagner-Martin (2002)
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They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
“Notes on the Next War,” Esquire (Sep 1935)
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No catalogue of horrors ever kept men from war. Before the war you always think that it’s not you that dies. But you will die, brother, if you go to it long enough.

Hemingway - horrors of war - wist_info quote

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
“Notes on the Next War: A Serious Topical Letter,” Esquire (Sep 1935)
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All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
“Old Newsman Writes: A Letter from Cuba,” Esquire (Dec 1934)
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If the book is good, is about something that you know, and is truly written, and reading it over you see that this is so, you can let the boys yip and the noise will have that pleasant sound coyotes make on a very cold night when they are out in the snow and you are in your own cabin that you have built or paid for with your work.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
“Old Newsman Writes: A Letter from Cuba,” Esquire (Dec 1934)
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Always do sober what you said you would do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
(Attributed)
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Grace under pressure.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
(Attributed)

How Hemingway defined "guts," quoted by Dorothy Parker in The New Yorker (30 Nov 1929)
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Write drunk, edit sober.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
(Attributed)
Added on 5-Jul-12 | Last updated 29-Jun-12
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There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
(Attributed)
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The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the 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.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
A Farewell to Arms, ch. 34 (1929)
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Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
A Moveable Feast (1964)
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All things truly wicked start from an innocence.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
A Moveable Feast, ch. 17 (1964)
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I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Death in the Afternoon, ch. 1 (1932)

Cf. Lincoln.
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About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Death in the Afternoon, ch. 1 (1932)

See Lincoln.

 

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There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Death in the Afternoon, ch. 11 (1932)
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Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Death in the Afternoon, ch. 11 (1932)
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When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Death in the Afternoon, ch. 16 (1932)
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Every damn thing is your own fault, if you’re any good.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Green Hills of Africa
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Cowardice, as distinguished from panic, is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Men at War, Introduction (1942)
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Never confuse movement with action.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir, to A.E. Hotchner (1967).

Remark to Marlene Dietrich, quoted by her.
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We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
In New York Journal-American (11 July 1961)
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Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
In A. E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway, Pt. 1, ch. 4 “Havana, 1951-53” (1966)

When told Faulkner said Hemingway was not courageous enough to use words a reader might need to look up in the dictionary. Full text.

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My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Letter (15 May 1925)

In C. Baker (ed.), Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961 (1981)

Added on 29-Jul-09 | Last updated 29-Jul-09
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The real reason for not committing suicide is because you always know how swell life gets again after hell is over.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Letter (1926)
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You see it’s awfully hard to talk or write about your own stuff because if it is any good you yourself know about how good it is — but if you say so yourself you feel like a shit.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Letter to Malcolm Cowley (17 Oct 1945)

Published in C. Baker (ed.), Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917-1961 (1981)

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There are events which are so great that if a writer has participated in them his obligation is to write truly rather than assume the presumption of altering them with invention.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Preface to Gustav Regler, The Great Crusade (1940)
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No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the Prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Speech accepting the Nobel Prize (10 Dec 1954)

Full text.

Added on 14-Oct-09 | Last updated 14-Oct-09
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How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Speech, accepting the Nobel prize (10 Dec 1954)

Full text.

Added on 30-Sep-09 | Last updated 30-Sep-09
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