Hemingway wasn’t a household name without taking a few risks not only in his art but also in his own life. From early on he brushed close up to death on multiple occasions, mostly because he embraced character traits that were very similar to some of his crazy fictional characters. We know that he was fascinated with death since he came up against it on the Italian battlefield of World War I. Although he eventually took his own life at the age of 61, when he was dealing with several mental and disabling physical illnesses – it is safe to say he was quite lucky to make it to that age.
The idea of facing death at the hands of a soldier or a charging bull had long been seen in his writing. The newspaper TIME once wrote in 1961 that everything you saw in Hemingway seemed to show that he was a man on the verge of death. It was true that he courted death on at least five occasions, and reacted quite funnily to it.
During World War I, he was hit by an Austrian mortar when serving as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross. Somehow he emerged alive with 237 bits of shrapnel and an aluminum kneecap. In 1935, he accidentally shot himself in both calves while he was wrangling with a shark off the coast of Key West.
During the Second World War from 1942 to 1943, it is thought that Hemingway did not spend much time writing. Reports say that he mostly spends time on his fishing boat in the Gulf Stream, hoping to come across German U-Boats that he planned to attack with grenades and his submachine gun. Hemingway believed if they ever did spot an enemy submarine, the navy would never make it in time – so he was the defense.
And then the last two brushes he had with death happened within two days when he was in a plane crash – twice. On an African safari in 1954, reports state that Hemingway survived two plane crashes into the jungle within two days. These were single-engine Cessna planes, the first crash he was flying with his wife and the pilot had to make an emergency landing. They spend the night surrounded by elephants. The second crash was more sinister, with the plane catching fire, everyone believed Hemingway had died – with many newspaper reports confirming it.
He then came walking out of the jungle with a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin, with the iconic quote “My luck, she is running very good.”