Scribner–former cynosure of the fast-fading age of print and proud publisher of modern mainstays Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Wolfe (not to mention such diverse souls as Edith Wharton and Kurt Vonnegut, a dinner conversation between whom it is great fun to imagine!)–is set try to go home again, again. Taking a cue from the major film studios who constantly strip mine their catalogs for fresh profits, burnishing old titles with new technologies and re-releasing the enhanced product to a hungry public, Scribner will publish this week a new edition of Ernest Hemingway’s famous 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms. The burnishing? This edition will include for the first time all forty-six endings the author attempted before settling on his final formulation. Among the discarded codas is one in which Catherine–the doomed lover of protagonist Lieutenant Frederic Henry–survives, as well as one suggested by the aforementioned F. Scott Fitzgerald, before the jazz-age eminence was cast out of Hem’s inner circle.
“It was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.” This ending, which Hemingway settled upon for the original publication, is among the most famous in all American literature for its laconic bleakness. But perhaps it is not important which ending we read, after all. As the author confided in his waning years, “I know now that there is no one thing that is true–it is all true.” Hemingway, of course, killed himself with a shotgun in a house in Idaho while his fourth wife slept in an adjacent room, an ending without alternatives. It was early in the morning.