“For Whom the Bell Tolls” is one novel that did not just bring Ernest Hemingway in to the limelight but also helped cement his reputation as one of the most respected American writers. But even as his book continued to top sales, Hemingway was secretly doing what many wouldn’t have dared thought of – holding meetings with Soviet spy organization.
But that secrecy is no longer a secret as Nicholas Reynolds chronicles Hemingway’s suspected spy work in his book “Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961.” The spy work is said to have been done during the cold War both for the US intelligence agencies and Soviet.
With military experience after having been a U.S. Marine colonel, Reynolds is well versed with the Cold War in which he worked as a CIA officer.
He began an ambitious move in 2010 to curate an exhibition regarding the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) for the CIA Museum. The OSS was America’s first intelligence agency.
In the course of his work, he started to wonder on the possibility of the famous adventure-seeking Hemingway having been involved with the OSS. After, traces of his links showed that the forerunner of the CIA had at one time contacted John Ford, Julia Child among other top ranking Americans.
So Reynolds started looking into the matter and encountered evidence proving Hemingway had worked with the OSS and a number of U.S. agencies such as the FBI, the State Department and the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).
His investigation got a twist when he realized that in 1940, Hemingway took on several spy work for a different organization – the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), a predecessor to the current KGB – Soviet intelligence agency.
This was a revelation of betrayal for Reynolds. He viewed him as his literary hero and wouldn’t have dared imagine such an occurrence. Reynolds describes in his book that he felt as though he had been hit deep in the gut.
Reynolds continues to recount that Hemingway wasn’t political until 1937 when the Spanish Civil War broke out. At that time, Hemingway reported the conflict for the American Newspaper Alliance and became passionately attracted to the anti-fascist cause. His passion was strong to the extent he became part of the republican guerrillas fighting Francisco Franco’s nationalist forces. This is a conflict that would inspire him to write a much acclaimed novel, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
His Spanish work threw him into a revolutionary cause and in the process attracted the Soviets attention – the only foreign power supporting Spanish rebels.
The NKVD agents recruited Hemingway by 1940, according to “verbatim excerpts from Ernest Hemingway’s official Soviet file that Vassiliev had smuggled out of Russia.” As much as the excerpts don’t clearly show what the agency wanted from Hemingway, his access and ability as a propagandist may have been their motivating factor.
He got approached by a top NKVD agent, Jacob Galos, who gave him the code name “Argo”.
The two sealed the deal somewhere in Lower East Side, reports CBS News.although Hemingway met with the agency a number of times in the 1940s, he may have been of little help to them.
But Reynolds doesn’t entirely castigate him and says Hemingway may have been influenced by his opposition to fascism as opposed to communism ideologies.