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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.In the Second World War, he was at the Normandy landings and the liberation of Paris.After the war he retired with his fourth wife to Cuba, where he fished for marlins and wrote The Old Man and the Sea, won the Nobel Prize, was lionised wherever he went – but was killed in an unfortunate firearm accident. In the years after his death, however, the jigsaw pieces of a counter-life gradually began to emerge. Hemingway was only 18 when he signed up for the First World War – but it was as a non-combatant.In Madrid, despite the bombardment, he had the time of his life – enjoying caviar and vodka at the Gaylord Hotel, the Russian HQ, making a movie called The Spanish Earth and supplying its gravelly commentary, writing his broadly fictional dispatches for newspapers that criticised them as "very inefficient".He looked the part of a hunky warrior, but he was a lucky dilettante, who could have left Spain any time he liked.They might have been reminded of the words of Shakespeare's Cleopatra, just before she applied the asp to her flesh: "Give me my robe. His widow Mary told the media that it was an unfortunate accident, that Ernest had been cleaning one of his guns when it accidentally went off.The story was splashed on the front page of all American newspapers. Successive biographers – AE Hochtner, Carlos Baker, KS Lynn, AJ Monnier, Anthony Burgess – have chewed over the available facts, his restless travelling, his many amours, the peaks and troughs of his writing career.

He went to Italy to man the Red Cross canteens and evacuate the wounded.Wounded on the Italian front in the First World War, he was a handsome convalescent who fell in love with a pretty nurse and wrote A Farewell to Arms as a result.In the 1920s, he was at the forefront of American writers and artists who hung out in Paris, "being geniuses together".Driven by a thirst for adventure, he was a swashbuckling, hard-drinking pugilist who loved being in the thick of the action, whether in the front line of battle or within charging distance of a water buffalo.He also happened to be the finest writer around, disdaining the grandiose wordiness of Victorian prose for a clean, stripped-back simplicity, conveying emotion by what was not said as much as by what was.