Shortly after the lecture Valery spoke with ACN on aspects of her time alongside Ernest Hemingway:

ACN: We understand that you also visited Cuba in 1999.

VALERIE HEMINGWAY: I came back in 1999 because that was the year of the centennial of Hemingway�s birth and that was my personal tribute to him, I wanted to come back where I had spent such a good time with him.

ACN: What are your impressions this time in Cuba?

Valerie: Well, I think there are differences because we ourselves change. When I first came to Cuba I came directly from Ireland, it was, and it still is, a charming island. An island of music and sunshine and I love it. It´s a little different now because I�m living in the United States and when I come to Cuba I have to be very careful because it´s not so accepted there to come; I think Cuba still has the same heat, the same music, the same wonderful weather, it just looks a little older.

ACN: Could you briefly tell us about some values that you, as a journalist, inherited from Ernest Hemingway.

Valerie: Well, the first thing I think was discipline and dedication to write. Sometimes people think and I personally do think that writing is a pleasant occupation. And I didn´t realize it was really a task.

Hemingway called it "his trade." He was very proud of his trade and the skills that you develop. Writing only becomes better the more you write, that was a lesson I learned from him. I also learned that as he wrote he checked all the facts. He physically calculated what he would need to know to write about it, so that´s another thing; you most know to write about something, you most know what you are writing about.

Hemingway had another theory that everything that you write is like an iceberg. What the reader reads is only one eighth of the mass; underneath is the real meat of the matter and the more the people know the more they gain from the reading because they use what is within themselves within their own knowledge when they read. That´s why sometimes Hemingway seems very simplistic, and people who are simplistic themselves think there is nothing to it, you know, they have comfort reading Hemingway or writing Hemingway. And people think is so easy, you know, get some literal words and string them together and then you have Hemingway. But in fact, those literal words have meaning underneath.

ACN: I was recently reading an article by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

Valerie: He is one of my favorite writers.

ACN: He was recalling in that article that during one of his visits to Cuba, as he was touring some places with President Fidel Castro in Havana, when he was going to sit in Fidel�s car, the first thing he saw was a book by Hemingway. Can you recall any phrase any memory dealing with the relationship that existed between Fidel and Ernest?

Valerie: Well, I know Hemingway did admire Fidel Castro when he came. I remember I met him the year after Ernest died. He was very learned.

Castro was humble when he met Ernest. He was the president of this country, but he behaved with Ernest as if Ernest was the greater man. He showed great admiration for Hemingway and Hemingway returned that complement. Because, and that�s another thing I learned from him, it doesn�t matter what you do if you do it well and Castro was doing very well. And Hemingway knew he was doing well. Hemingway admired Castro because he knew Castro was doing such a fair job in the Revolution and turning this country around.

ACN: Cultural exchange is so important for the people of different countries to get to know one another better and share knowledge and experience. However, as you mentioned previously during this conversation, the US government continues to unilaterally prohibit that exchange of US citizens with the Cuban people, what is your opinion in that regard?

Valerie: Well I feel sad about it. I feel both countries are losing. The word in America is we are going to free, we are going to liberate the people and we then restrict our own citizens, we prevent them from the freedoms that we claim. So, there is a contradiction. I think this is a restriction which is not worthy of the country where I am living.

ACN: And about the refurbishing project for the Finca Vigia, Hemingway´s house. We understand that it has been another target of the restrictive US policy in terms of blocking the financing of the project; however efforts have been made to preserve the house. Could you comment on it?

Valerie: It´s a very short-sighted system because in the end it is going to hurt America. If the Finca Vigia gets lost, and I don´t think it will, it will get lost to the public. And I think that is not going to happen because there is such a spirit here and I went to see it yesterday and it is looking beautiful. And they have great plans, but it will be America, the empire with the first military power in the entire world who would have lost out. So, it is a short-sighted policy.

ACN: Is there any personal anecdote you can tell us about the time you spent with Hemingway?

Valerie: There are so many little things, but one of the things that was so nice occurred when I was at the finca on St. Patricks´ Day and I was presented with my own little cat. All in the family had a cat and Hemingway had a cat too, called Christopher Columbus. Then on my first day I felt I was part of a family because I was given a little cat. When they gave it to me they told me its name was Pelusa.But then Ernest said "no, it has to be an Irish name", so he called it Shamrock. Shamrock is the emblem of Ireland, and the little cat meant that I was a fully flesh member of the Hemingway family at Finca Vigia.

ACN: Thank you very much.

Valerie is also the author of a memoir of her years as Ernest Hemingway’s secretary and then as wife of the famous author´s youngest son Gregory; the book is titled "Running with the Bulls."

In 1959, Valerie Danby-Smith was a young Irish journalist. She first met Ernest Hemingway in Spain when he was 59 years old. After that meeting Valerie traveled around Europe with the author and lived in his home in Cuba, the Finca Vigía, during the last two years of his life. Ernest Hemingway took his life on July 1961 in Ketchum, Idaho.

Authors: Luis Chirino and Alejandro González Herrera

Cuban Agency News
La Agencia Cubana de Noticias (ACN) es una división de la Agencia de Información Nacional (AIN) de Cuba fundada el 21 de mayo de 1974.

Cuban News Agency