The Garden of Eden (novel)

The Garden of Eden

First edition cover
Author Ernest Hemingway
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Charles Scribner's Sons
Publication date
Media type Print (Book)
Pages 247
ISBN 0-684-18693-4

The Garden of Eden is the second posthumously released novel of Ernest Hemingway, published in 1986. It was begun in 1946, and Hemingway worked on the manuscript for the next 15 years, during which time he also wrote The Old Man and the Sea, The Dangerous Summer, A Moveable Feast, and Islands in the Stream.

Plot summary

The novel is fundamentally the story of five months in the lives of David Bourne, an American writer, and his wife, Catherine. It is set mainly in the French Riviera, specifically in the Côte d'Azur, and in Spain. The story begins with their honeymoon in the Camargue. The Bournes soon meet a young woman named Marita, with whom they both fall in love, but only one can ultimately have her. David starts an affair with Marita, while his relationship with his wife deteriorates. The story continues until the apparent separation of David and Catherine.

Major themes

The Garden of Eden indicates Hemingway's exploration of male-female relationships, shows an interest in androgynous characters, and "the reversal of gender roles."[1]

Hemingway biographer James Mellow argues the "ideas of sexual transference" did not become clear in Hemingway's fiction until he wrote The Garden of Eden. Catherine Bourne convinces David to dye his hair the color of hers, "so they are twins, summer-tanned and androgynous."[2]

Background and publication history

Mellow argues the genesis of the story began during Hemingway's honeymoon with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, and shortly after his divorce from Hadley Richardson. The male protagonist's depiction as a young writer, and the woman's depiction as "attractive, exciting, wealthy" mirrored the days spent in Le Grau-du-Roi with Pauline.[3]

The novel was published posthumously in a much-abridged form in 1986.[4] Hemingway began The Garden of Eden in 1946 and wrote 800 pages.[5] For fifteen years he continued to work on the novel which remained uncompleted.[6] When published in 1986, the novel had 30 chapters and 70,000 words. The publisher's note explains that cuts were made to the novel, and according to biographers, Hemingway had achieved 48 chapters and 200,000 words. Scribner's removed as much as two-thirds of the extant manuscript and one long subplot.[6]

The Garden of Eden, Hemingway's ninth novel, was published in 1986, a quarter century after his death. Scribner's published the novel in May 1986 with a first print-run of 100,000 copies.[7]


The publication of The Garden of Eden is controversial because of the editing done to the manuscript. Susan Seitz argues that in this novel Hemingway was forging a new direction in his fiction which was lost in the editing process. She believes the editing to have been substandard, with "substantial cuts of lines, scenes, and whole chapters, the addition of manuscript material that Hemingway had discarded, and transposed scenes and dialogue." The result, she claims, does not "represent Hemingway's intentions in these works as he left them."[1]

Film adaptation

A film adaptation of The Garden of Eden was released in 2008 at the RomaCinemaFest and had a limited investors' screening in the UK. Screen International dubbed the film "a boundaries-breaking erotic drama." The film went on general release in select theaters in December 2010. The ensemble cast featured Jack Huston, Mena Suvari, Caterina Murino, Richard E. Grant, and Carmen Maura. It was directed by John Irvin. The adaptation was by James Scott Linville, former editor of The Paris Review. In March 2011, the film went on sale on iTunes and with other vendors.


  1. 1 2 Susan M Seitz. "The posthumous editing of Ernest Hemingway's fiction" (January 1, 1993). Electronic Doctoral Dissertations for UMass Amherst. Paper AAI9329667. Retrieved 2010-05-17
  2. Mellow 1992, p. 382
  3. Mellow 1992, p. 349
  4. McDowell, Edwin (December 17, 1985). "New Hemingway Novel To Be Published in May". New York Times.
  5. Meyers 1985, p. 436
  6. 1 2 Doctorow, E.L (May 18, 1986). "Braver Than We Thought". The New York Times.
  7. Oliver, pp. 113-115


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