Ernest Hemingway’s Madrid with historian Stephen Drake-Jones - Episode 85

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

In this episode I look at the American writer and journalist, Ernest Hemingway's relationship with Madrid and wider Spain and how Spain and the Spanish capital inspired and influenced his writing.

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Ernest Hemingway is commonly associated with a handful of places around the world, most notably Paris, Pamplona, Havana, Key West and Ketchum, Idaho, where he took his own life in July 1961.

But, Ernest Hemingway also had a lifelong love affair with Madrid and many of the city's locations inspired his works such as, The Sun Also Rises, Death in the Afternoon and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

The Dangerous Summer - Hemingway's series for Life Magazine

Don Ernesto, as Hemingway was affectionately called by the Spanish, spent numerous stints in Madrid. He was here for chunks of the late 1920s, late 1930s, and parts of the 1950s, with his last visit in 1960.

Ernest Hemingway and Robert McAlmon attend a bullfight at the Plaza de Toros de la Fuente del Berro in Madrid (1923)
Ernest Hemingway at Las Ventas bullring

Joining me in this episode to help trace Hemingway's footsteps around Madrid is Stephen Drake-Jones. Stephen is a historian, lecturer and tour guide with an encyclopedic knowledge of various periods of Spanish history and is also an expert on Ernest Hemingway's Madrid.

La Cerveceria Alemana - Plaza Santa Ana

Stephen and I met up in one of Ernest Hemingway's favourite Madrid hangouts – La Cerveceria Alemana – on the leafy Plaza Santa Ana and we pulled up two chairs at the exact table in the bar's window where Hemingway often used to sit and drink. In fact it is where he gleaned much information for his classic, Death in the Afternoon. He wrote the appendix to the book in La Cerveceria Alemana, picking the brains of the numerous bullfighting aficionados who would hang out there.  

Hemingway's Table in Cerveceria Alemana

Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.


Death in the Afternoon

1926 The Sun Also Rises (Translated to Fiesta in Spanish.)

This novel is about a group of expats living in Paris, who fit the profile of the ‘lost generation’, that decide to visit Pamplona during the festival of San Fermín.

1932 Death in the Afternoon

A nonfiction book about the art, ceremony, and traditions of Spanish bullfighting, using the ritual as a deeper inquiry into human fear and courage.

1938 The Fifth Column

A lesser known work, this play is set during the Spanish Civil War. The title helped popularise the term ‘the fifth column’, coined by one of Franco’s generals Emilio Mola to refer to any clandestine group of people who work from within to help an outside force overthrow a besieged city (in this case the Siege of Madrid). Five stories were written concerning the Spanish Civil War: The Denunciation, The Butterfly and the Tank, Night Before Battle, Under The Ridge, and Nobody Ever Dies. Chicote's bar and the Hotel Florida in Madrid are recurrent settings in these stories.

1940 For Whom the Bell Tolls

Perhaps his most famous work on Spain, this novel is set during the Spanish Civil War, and is also loosely autobiographical in how it tells the story of an American in the International Brigade. A film adaptation, starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, came out in 1943.

1960 (1985) The Dangerous Summer

A nonfiction series of articles on bullfighting and the Pamplona festivities written for Life Magazine, first published as a serial in 1960, and later republished as a book in 1985.

Hemingway Locations in Madrid

Bar (Museo) Chicote. (Gran Vía, 12)

Hotel Gran Vía. (Gran Vía, 12)

Cervecería Alemana. (Plaza de Santa Ana, 6)

Restaurante Botín. (Cuchilleros, 17)

Hotel Palace. (Plaza de las Cortes, 7)

Plaza de toros de Las Ventas. (Alcalá, 237)

Matadero de Madrid (Plaza de Legazpi, 8)

About Stephen Drake-Jones

Stephen is Chairman of the Wellington Society. His specialty is the period of history covering the Duke of Wellington’s Campaigns on the Iberian Peninsula. Stephen moved to Spain in 1975 where he taught English and subsequently joined the Spanish Navy as a history teacher and then continued to lecture in History at numerous universities.

Stephen Drake-Jones

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