In the fall of 1948, Ernest Hemingway and his fourth wife traveled for the first time to Venice, which Hemingway called “absolutely god-damned wonderful.” A year shy of his fiftieth birthday, Hemingway hadn’t published a novel in nearly a decade when he met and fell in love with Adriana Ivancich, a striking Venetian girl just out of finishing school. Here Andrea di Robilant re-creates with sparkling clarity this surprising, years-long relationship, during which Adriana inspired a man thirty years her senior to complete his great final work.
Hemingway used Adriana as the model for Renata in Across the River and into the Trees, and continued to visit Venice to see her; when the Ivanciches traveled to Cuba, Adriana was there as he wrote The Old Man and the Sea. The illuminating story of writer and muse—which also examines the cost to a young woman of her association with a larger-than-life literary celebrity—Autumn in Venice is an intimate look at Hemingway’s final years.
There are few surprises in this unilluminating account by di Robilant (Chasing the Rose) of Hemingway's infatuation with a vivacious young Italian woman. The story begins in the fall of 1948, with Hemingway and his wife, Mary, setting off for Venice, where he hoped to finish an ambitious writing project. Writing in fits and starts, he went out duck hunting early one morning and met 18-year-old Adriana Ivancich, a socialite from a prominent local family. By the time the Hemingways left Venice the following spring, his writing was flowing on the novel that would become Across the River and into the Trees, and he'd transformed Adriana into his muse. The pair kept up their relationship, corresponding and meeting several more times, while Hemingway modeled the novel's character of Renata on Adriana, and compelled his publisher to use her illustration for its cover, and another later for The Old Man and the Sea's. In addition to Ivancich's journals and Hemingway's letters, di Robilant draws on his own great-uncle Carlo di Robilant's recollections as a member of Hemingway's circle at the time. Despite this personal connection, di Robilant's account of a literary lion famous for his affairs reveals nothing particularly new about a much-written-about writer.