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And when you inspect the image of Hemingway-as-hero, you uncover an extraordinary sub-stratum of self-harming.You discover that, for just over half of his life, Hemingway seemed hell-bent on destroying himself.Helping a wounded man to safety one evening, he was shot in the leg and hospitalised in Milan, with three other patients and 18 nurses.Though his dalliance with Sister Agnew von Kurovsky was unconsummated, he fell in love with European culture and manners, swanned about in an Italian cloak, drank wine and affected a clipped delivery borrowed from a British officer, Eric Dorman-Smith.
But it's hard to shake off the feeling that what he was doing wasn't bravery, but psychotic self-dramatisation.
He had a defective left eye, inherited from his mother, which kept him out of battle.
He went to Italy to man the Red Cross canteens and evacuate the wounded.
For some reason, he became obsessed with bullfighting: the glorification of blood, the spilt horse-guts, the matador's passes with the cape and sword, the art of killing.
In Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway seemed to be working out some personal philosophy about death, but it was hard to follow.