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True at First Light: A Fictional Memoir

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  2,134 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
Both a revealing self-portrait and dramatic fictional chronicle of his final African safari, Ernest Hemingway's last unpublished work was written when he returned from Kenya in 1953. Edited by his son Patrick, who accompanied his father on the safari, True at First Light offers rare insights into the legendary American writer.

A blend of autobiography and fiction, the book
ebook, 320 pages
Published July 25th 2002 by Scribner (first published 1999)
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May 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
"Africa took them and changed them all in some ways. If they could not change, they hated it."
That was the most important line in the book. Those who could not see the narrator become "village," have missed that line and applied their ugly American prudence to Africa, like the countless before who could not change. And they hated it.
I will say I changed. Not while reading this, for it was not riveting on its own. No. I changed when I lived and worked in the villages of Kenya. I was changed in so
Daniel Villines
Apr 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is even better, probably like most good books, the second time through. With the story and themes put aside, the second glance provides the reader with the opportunity to dig through all the bologna that forms the Hemingway persona.

I get the sense that Hemingway is saying, "Here I am and it's all true but it’s also all a lie. But of course, I cannot come out and tell a true story about myself. Therefore, I leave my lies a bit thinner in the sincere hope that you will see through them a
Feb 04, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This book didn't make me think much of Hemingway as a man. I disliked just about every part of this story, although it was beautifully written. The most irritating part was his courting of a young woman from the village. I think I would have been driven mad if I were stuck in a foreign country while my husband flitted about with another girl. Even so, the book didn't really make me sympathetic with his wife, Mary though. She comes off as a little dim in my opinion, completely obsessed with killi ...more
John Rouse
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are a Hemingway fan, you should find this unusual book. Edited and published in 1999 by his son Patrick long after his death, this largely autobiographical work provides an account of an African safari Hemingway went on with his fourth wife Mary in 1953-54 a year after he had received the Nobel Prize for Literature. A lot of the book is about safari life and hunting in Tanzania, and is written in a rambling wordy style unlike Hemingway's other works. Nevertheless, the book also provides i ...more
Brian Willis
Nov 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This unpublished, theoretically unfinished book, edited down to 1/3 of its original length by his son Patrick for 1999 publication, feels largely finished to me. It feels like Hemingway and mainly, it feels like Hemingway evolved. A larger focus on completely foreign cultures, the book categorizes a large safari hunt that Papa took in 1953 after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is technically a fictionalized version of real events but the names are not changed (I assume that if Hemingw ...more
Grady Miller
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gradylicious
Must Hemingway reading. It's time to embrace late Hemingway. His late works have been much maligned and it's baloney. Nature lives and breathes here in Hemingway's Africa; his humor, romance and deep perceptions after a lifetime are in ample evidence. I say take it as it is and forget that silly confusing label 'fictional memoir.' Late Hemingway is great Hemingway, too--there's a great warmth and articulatenes in the memoirs that warmed me to his writing. Just because it's a different game from ...more
Kelly Paprocki
Aug 24, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hemingway rolled over in his grave when this horrible mess was published.
The dead don't edit. Seems they can't.
Hemingway might have saved this if he had been around to rework and publish it. My guess is he had no intention of ever releasing this pitiful, ignorant, hypocritical, self-aggrandizing, typical male fantasy mess. It is one giant stereo-type and utterly unenjoyable.
His son should be ashamed. Not only for letting his father appear even more narrow minded but for publishing it without it
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
This is only the second Hemingway book I've read, the other being Fiesta (or, The Sun Also Rises) which I quite enjoyed except for the ending. True at First Light is an account of his second safari in Africa, in 1953, with his fourth wife, Mary, which he wrote a year later. It was first published posthumously by his son Patrick, who edited it from a much longer manuscript. This is all in the introduction by Patrick Hemingway, which is best to read first. There's also a handy list of characters a ...more
Apr 10, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two works bracketing Hemingway’s life were both published after his death: A Moveable Feast, which chronicles his youthful days in Paris at that time of creative fervor, and this ‘fictional memoir’ culled by his son Patrick from a massive draft that the author gave up on after the two plane crashes that cut into his vigor and may well have been the beginning of the end for Hemingway. The story tells of the Hemingway’s last safari in Africa on the eve of Kenyan independence. First there is the st ...more
Dec 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ernest hemingway fans
Recommended to Liz by: self
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. First Hemingway I have read, and I dug it. There was a melancholy mixed in though all the joking, drinking, and adventuring, and I found that to be rather touching, especially towards the end. The idea that this was a paradise for Hemingway, but he knew it would end- that sense of finality permeates the book and makes it much more than a travel log/diary. Recommended.
This was one of those gray area books, I didn't dislike it enough to say I hated it yet I didn't like it enough to say I liked it either. I felt like I was reading the dialog from a 1950s B movie. I see why this one went unpublished. If you like Hemingway or old African safari stories give it a shot, otherwise there's other books to read.
Jan 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected Hemmingway or Mary to die in a plane crash or be killed by a lion anytime. A should read for H fans. He must have been truly and soundly and completely a tortured soul.
Dan Yost
Hemingway was a huge dick, huh?
Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-classics
That Ernest was up his own arse a bit. The excitement of the hunt is well conveyed, and he sets the scene well, but his arrogant tone begins to grate after a while.
Paul Westwood
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books
Unfortunately, this book was a disappointment for me. I've only read one Hemingway before and didn't choose this particular one for any reason other than I found it in a charity shop. It was published posthumously and I think it shows. It was written as a semi-autobiographical journal of his time on a game reserve in Kenya and reads very much like a journal. It rambles along without much structure and there aren't really any narrative devices for creating and relieving tension. So it feels to me ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some books are tied inextricably to place and I know True At First Light is one of them, because I had the good fortune to pick it up in Africa and if I had read it anywhere else it would not have resonated nearly as much. Guinea and Kenya are too very different places ("Africa is a very diverse place," I said rather pompously), but I think Africa as a continent bears some constant things throughout. "In Africa a thing is true at first light and a lie by noon and you have no more respect for it ...more
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Ma avere un cuore da bambino non è una vergogna. È un onore. Un uomo deve comportarsi da uomo. Deve sempre combattere, preferibilmente e saggiamente, con le probabilità in suo favore, ma in caso di necessità deve combattere anche contro qualunque probabilità e senza preoccuparsi dell'esito. Deve seguire fin dove possibile i propri usi e le proprie leggi tribali, e quando non può, deve accettare la punizione prevista da queste leggi. Ma non gli si deve dire come un rimprovero che ha conservato u ...more
A mixture of autobiography, biography, memoir, history, fiction and reality. Hemingway's second son, Patrick, took possession of the partially finished manuscript after his father's death and completed this story of Papa Hemingway's second trip to Africa with his fourth wife, Mary.
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot imagine the potential trauma of missing this one. Absolutely essential reading. Left me wishing for access to the original manuscript.
Saleh MoonWalker
A major literary event. In addition to the book's intrinsic pleasures, it provides a new window into the tantalizing, unsettling, oceanic world of his experimental, unfinished late work.
Paula Dembeck
I did not know all the history behind this book when I first picked it up. It has been a controversial one, with both critics and readers weighing in on its merits.

The book presents a fictional narrative of Hemmingway’s last African safari, a trip in 1953-54 with his fourth wife Mary. It was underwritten by LOOK magazine for which he was doing a feature complete with glossy photographs. Following his trip and recovering from two plane crashes, he went to Cuba to recover from his multiple injurie
Ron Charles
Several years ago Patrick Hemingway went over to New York with a memoir that his father had written, and it was accepted by a fairly good publisher.

His deal made an awful row I heard, and I think that was where we lost the truth, because when his father's book came out it was quite changed. It was more odd than ever, and it was not so graceful, and it was not so nice. The publishers had praised this memoir pretty highly and it rather went to their heads.

It is not really such a bad book as the cr
Marcos Tavares
Hemingway e sua família tinham por hábito fazer alguns safáris na África, sobretudo no Quênia. Em uma dessas aventuras, em sua última para ser mais exato, o autor se viu em uma história digna de ficção e resolveu contá-la com suas próprias palavras. No entanto, jamais a publicou em vida, deixando um manuscrito inédito que seu filho só tornou público no ano de seu centenário de nascimento.

A história, que mescla biografia e ficção, e não se sabe até que ponto de uma e de outra, começa quando o caç
P. 156. One of the books we had brought with us was Alan Paton's Too Late The Phalarope. I had found it almost unreadable due to the super-biblical style and the amount of piety in it. The piety seems to be mixed in a cement mixer and then carried in hods to the buildings of the book and it was not that there was an odor of piety; piety was like the oil on the sea after a tanker had been sunk.

P. 228. It is amazing to me that a group of people could award you the Pulitzer Prize. At least everyone
Diane Warrington
I approached this with a little bit of skepticism. Hemingway is after all a 'man's man". After making allowances for the time that this was written in, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this glimpse into a vanished world. I had forgotten what a good writer he is: descriptive and concise.
It is supposedly the journal of his year in East Africa on Safari at the time of the Mau Mau uprisings in Kenya. He is with his 4th wife Mary. The journal was edited and published by his son Patrick, posthumously.
E Wilson
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

I haven't read that much Hemingway and I think this was a poor
choice. I should have read one of his novels.

First of all, I believe if a book is not published in the author's
lifetime, there's probably good reason to leave it that way.

Second, a fictionalized memoir? I can deal with historical novels,
but a fictionalized memoir is neither fish nor fowl. Is it 99 percent
true? 15 percent? I don't care for the premise.

Third, if there's anything I dislike as much or more than battle scenes, it's h
I need some Hemingway.

And Hemingway I got. While this book was controversial due to its editing at release (I just found out that Under Kilimanjaro is a fuller version of the same African book), this really contains a lot of quintessential Hemingway: seeking out and confronting danger, complex (of his own making) relationships, and an overwhelming curiosity about the world. This was a slow starter, but overall I enjoyed it. Once I moved beyond the initial start-up the book was really interestin
Feb 23, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite enjoyed parts of the prose and elements of the story (drinking, hunting, bantering), but considering how long it took me to finish, despite its short length, probably not one of my favorites. But anything about Africa gets at least 3 stars.

Memorable quotes:
"Something, or something awful or something wonderful was certain to happen on every day in this part of Africa."

"I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke that I was not happy."

"Tell her there is no such word as love. Just as ther
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, nonfiction
I don't really consider myself a Hemingway "fan", though I have read enough of his work to have been both entertained and bored by it. Even at his worst, he is generally worth most of his acclaim, just not my favorite.

"True At First Light" was the fictionalized memoir on which Hemingway worked as long as he felt himself able to write. It chronicles his last safari (the one that ended in his being reported dead--twice--after each of two plane crashes in which he was involved within weeks of each
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Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short story collec ...more
More about Ernest Hemingway...
“Something, or something awful or something wonderful was certain to happen on every day in this part of Africa.” 11 likes
“We were no longer, technically, children although in many ways I am quite sure that we were. Childish has become a term of contempt.
"Don't be childish, darling."
"I hope to Christ I am. Don't be childish yourself."
It is possible to be grateful that no one that you would willingly associate with you say, "Be mature. Be well-balanced, be well-adjusted."
Africa, being as old as it is, makes all people except the professional invaders and spoilers into children. No one says to anyone in Africa, "Why don't you grow up?" . . .
Men know that they are children in relation to the country and, as in armies, seniority and senility ride close together. But to have the heart of a child is not a disgrace. It is an honor. A man must comport himself as a man. . . . But it is never a reproach that he has kept a child's heart, a child's honesty and a child's freshness and nobility.”
More quotes…