by MacDonald Harris.
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.
From the Jacket:
In 1922 a suitcase containing almost everything that the young
Ernest Hemingway had written up to that time was stolen in
a train station in Paris. No trace of this suitcase
or its contents has ever been discovered, despite the fact that the
unpublished stories it contained would be immensely valuable.
In present-day Los Angeles, a wealthy dilettante named Nils-Frederik
Glas returns from Europe and produces some tories that bear
a striking resemblance to Hemingway's early work. So begins MacDonald
Harris' iongenous and provocative new novel,
Hemingway's Suitcase. Nils-Frederik refuses to say
where the stories came from, but he announces his intention to publish
them to his son, Alan, a struggling literary agent. As Alan reads the manuscripts
one by one, he realizes that if they are genuine Hemingway stories, Nils-Frederik
has made the literary discovery of the century. If they are not, he is a clever
forgerer and the perpetrator of a possibly criminal fraud.
When Alan reluctantly agrees to help his father prepare the book for publication,
he finds himself entangled in a web of intrigue and mystery, where the
distinction between genuine and fraudulent is oddly blurred. It is a
web spun by the cunning and duplicitous Nils-Frederik, made even more
sinister by the sexual fantasies played out by his mistress, Charmian,
and the bizarre private visions of Nana, his blind and aged mother.
Alan's wife, Lily, looks for her truth in the stars, and even their
nine-year-old daughter, Kilda, is adept at creating her own realities.
Everywhere--in his convoluted relations with his father, in his curious attempts
to create facsimiles of the "Hemingway" manuscripts, in his encounters with
less-than-ethical academics, opportunistic publishers, and the
ominous private sleuth Klipspringer--Alan is confronted by the question: What is
false, what is real?
Five of the disputed Suitcase stories, all having as their hero the Nick
Adams of Hemingway's early fiction, are included in this witty, cleverly
plotted, and compellingly readable novel. Are they the work of
Hemingway or not? Let the reader decide--as all of the characters in Alan's
world must finall come to terms with the lives they have created--or merely
imagined--for themselves. Hemingway's Suitcase is a fascinating
exploration of the duplicities of human consciousness. But is also
a story with many suspensful twists and turns--a story that will challenge the reader's
imagination and his own sense of reality as it spins towards its
Critical Acclaim for Hemingway's Suitcase
"In the winter of 1922 a suitcase containing part of a novel and
twenty or so stories by Ernest Hemingway was stolen from a train. So
starts this thoroughly enjoyable literary lark by
veteran novelist Harris (The Little People), complete with
five clever 'Hemingway' stories. Always in the foreground is th e
suitcase, a symbol, 'like Pandora's box, or Faust's pact
with the Devil. They're about good and evil...this one is about real and
- "One of the most entertaining novels ever written about writing
fiction...Mr. Harris's premise and its complications are so
diverting, and the stories themselves so
witty and evocative of Hemingway, that...one agrees to be manipulated in the
interest of having a good time."
The New York Times Book Review
- "Harris is primarily a storyteller with a deceptively casual
way of moving along a plot. His characters spring to life with the
greatest of ease, he imparts a sense of mystery with every page, his English
countryside is as exotic as Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Latin America."
Dan Cryer, Newsday
"Harris's range is, in fact, immense. Genuinely cosmopolitan, yet
without pretensions, he deeply knows and loves the many foreign languages,
landscapes, and mythologies that figure in his books. Compared with most
modern tales of K mart angst or upscale introspection, Harris
is an erudite writer, well versed not only in the history and arts of the past
but in science and technology as well."
Michael Malone, Philadelphia Inquirer
- "Mr. Harris is an elegant and fastidious writer,
a thinking man's novelist, with a penchant for international
situations and polyglot dialogue."
James R. Mellow, The New York Times Book Review
- "There can no longer be any question whatever that MacDonald
Harris is one of our major novelists."
Arthur Zilch, Los Angeles Times Book Review
- "MacDonald Harris's clever prose is imbued with generous humor and
subtle wisdom. The seductive magic of literature and legend make this,
Harris's fourteenth novel, another small classic in the gallery
of great American Literature."
The San Francisco Chronicle.
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