The Nobel and the addict
The nurse wheeled Ernest Hemingway into the white room, gave an injection for sleep, put a rubber gag into his mouth, placed electrodes onto a greased patch on his head and turned on a switch. The electroshock treatment was repeated many times in the writer’s last days.
For the last ten years of his life he took Oreton-M, a synthetic testosterone that stimulates the development of male sexual characteristics, in combination with Serpasil, Doriden, Ritalin, Eucanel, Seconal and massive doses of vitamin A and B. The drugs took a devastating toll on the physical and emotional well-being of the writer. Although his doctors prescribed two glasses of wine a day, Hemingway was reported up to a quart of whiskey a day.
This is the other side of Hemingway, the writer who most changed twentieth-century fiction, catapulting him to early fame, success and money, culminating in the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. His fate seemed doomed by the depression which ran in his family: His father and son had committed suicide, while his granddaughter would later do the same. A dark gloom hung over him. He pushed it away with superman adventures as war correspondent and big game hunter, and with a gregarious social life and arduous discipline in writing. Whenever he finished a novel, the emptiness and depression returned. During those moments when his inability to write eclipsed him, anxiety overwhelmed him. He’d become even more obsessed. Hemingway told A.E. Hotchner (see Papa Hemingway):