I am an admirer of Ken Burns’s documentaries, from his revelatory series on the American Civil War to his recent very enjoyable take on Country Music.

His Hemingway (now showing on BBC4) is well up to standard in most respects, clearly explaining the life and work of this remarkable writer.

One thing jarred. During the First World War, Hemingway served as an ambulance driver on the Italian front. Why does Ken Burns illustrate this with clips and images from the Somme and Passchendaele? Hemingway never went near those battlefields. The fighing on the Italian front was very different. Usually he’s much more careful than this.


  1. Tom Deveson
    Posted July 8, 2021 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Yes, bizarre although not unknown in other works.

    But H’s explicit setting of A Farewell to Arms is hard to ignore – mountains and a king in Udine in the very short first chapter, and then many more Italian references to follow.

  2. Steve Paradis
    Posted July 21, 2021 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    Not for want of footage. Some of it looks re-enacted, but then so is a lot of Western Front footage.

    If I can find that in five minutes . . . Then again, every Great War battle is the Somme, and it’s always the first day.

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