“It is already beginning to seem unreal. That is the boon of our memories” Hemingway writes from Thrace after witnessing the forced migration of Greeks out of Turkey.
Below are excerpts from an article from the The Toronto Star and a chapter in In Our Time. Can you tell what is real and what is fiction?
“Minarets stuck up in the rain out of Adrianople across the mud flats. The carts were jammed for thirty miles along the Karagatch road. Water buffalo an cattle were hauling carts through the mud. No end and no beginning. Just carts loaded with everything they owned. Th old men and women, soaked through, walked along keeping the cattle moving. The Maritza was running yellow almost up to the bridge. Carts were jammed solid on the bridge with camels bobbing along through them. Greek cavalry herded along the procession. Women and kids were in the carts crouched with mattresses, mirrors, sewing machines, bundles. There was a woman having a kid with a young girl holding a blanket over her and crying. Scared sick looking at it. It rained all through the evacuation.”
"Adrianople: In a never-ending staggering march the Christian population of Eastern Thrace is jamming the roads towards Macedonia. The main column crossing in Maritza Ricer at Adrianople is twenty miles long. Twenty miles of carts drawn by cows, bullocks, and muddy flanked water buffalo, with exhausted, staggering men, women and children, blankets over their heads, walking blindly along in the rain beside their worldly goods…. A husband spreads a blanket over a woman in labour in one of the carts to keep off the driving rain. She is the only person making a sound. Her little daughter looks at her inn horror and begins to cry. And the procession keeps moving.”
The two passages are remarkably similar and yet presented as two different genres. This first passage is fiction, the second is historical record. Both are “unreal.” In such moments of tragedy perhaps the “boon of our memories” is that reality inevitably and necessarily blurs into fiction. In Our Time is therefore, the result of memories that have, over time, become fictionalized precisely to be remembered or archived. This is the most raw example of the way Hemingway retells history in his fiction preserving authenticity and respecting his memory.