In A Nutshell
Ernest Hemingway was a man of many talents. When he wasn’t writing classic novels, the world-renowned author spent his time boxing, hunting and . . . spying for the Soviet government? According to recent revelations, Papa Hemingway actually spent a few years working for the KGB, although he wasn’t very good at it.
The Whole Bushel
In the last years of his life, Ernest Hemingway became very, very paranoid. The Nobel Prize–winning novelist started rambling about how the FBI was watching his every move. In 1960, he told his friends the feds had bugged his car, were reading his mail, and regularly listened to his phone calls. He even thought they were going through his bank records. Naturally, everyone dismissed his crazy claims, thinking maybe Papa Hemingway was slipping. Their suspicions were confirmed when the writer started receiving shock therapy at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. It seemed that Hemingway had a few nuts loose.
Only the FBI really was tailing Hemingway. Ever since the 1940s, J. Edgar Hoover had his agents keeping tabs on the author’s plans and whereabouts. After the Bureau released a 127-page report on Hemingway in 1983, some of the writer’s old friends started wondering if the FBI’s actions contributed to Hemingway’s suicide in 1961. However, this bizarre revelation raises a very interesting question. Why on Earth was the FBI investigating Ernest Hemingway?
Well, as it turns out, they had a legitimate reason. In 2010, Yale University Press released a book called Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America. Based on the research of an ex–KGB officer who combed through Soviet archives dating back to the reign of Stalin, the book revealed that Ernest Hemingway was actually a secret agent. Or at least he tried to be. In 1941, the novelist was recruited by KGB agents and was even given his own code name. They called him “Argo.” And he met with Soviet agents on at least two more occasions, once in Havana and once in London.
However, the Russians quickly discovered that while Hemingway knew how to write a mighty fine book, he wasn’t exactly secret agent material. He never came up with any valuable information and, as the KGB delicately put it, wasn’t “verified in practical.” Basically, he was a lousy spy. By the start of the 1950s, the Soviets essentially gave up on Hemingway and totally cut contact with their would-be spook, thus ending the story of the Old Man and the KGB.