News | September 1, 2023

Rare Hemingway Letter On Surviving Plane Crashes Sells for $237,055

Nate D Sanders Auctions

The Hemingway letter outlining his crash injuries

A cache of letters by Ernest Hemingway shedding light on his harrowing experiences surviving two consecutive plane crashes and the devastating injuries he sustained went under the hammer at Nate D Sanders Auctions yesterday. 

In 1953, Hemingway and his wife Mary embarked on a journey to Africa where they found themselves entangled in a sequence of plane crashes. Initially, rumors circulated that the author had died following the first crash during a sightseeing excursion to the Murchison Falls in Uganda. In fact, Hemingway and the other passengers managed to escape the crash unscathed. Stranded in the jungle, the group ultimately found rescue by boat, reaching Lake Albert at Butiaba. Subsequently, Hemingway and Mary boarded a rescue plane, only for it to catch fire and crash during takeoff. 

The letters, spanning 1939 to 1958, provide a firsthand account of the ordeal, with an April 1954 letter addressed to his lawyer Alfred Rice revealing the extent of his injuries. Hemingway disclosed that he had suffered a ruptured kidney, spleen injuries, and was "weak from so much internal bleeding." His right arm was described as "burnt to the bone," while his wife experienced a significant shock, affecting her memory.

In addition to recounting his survival and injuries, Hemingway's letter encompasses diverse topics, including his experience shooting his first lion in Kenya. He lamented the loss of his personal firearm due to shipping mishaps, forcing him to use a decrepit gun that required tape to keep it together.

The four-page handwritten letter, chronicling the aftermath of the crashes, was the centerpiece of a collection of nine letters. It eventually realized $237,055. Another letter with Hemingway's views about the price of To Have and Have Not went for $6,875.