Norman Lewis
Ernest Hemingway
He was nervous of celebrity well before he met Hemingway in Cuba. The meeting transformed doubt into a profound precept. For the rest of his life he retold the encounter as one of his key stories, referring to it as "an experience which was to change my outlook on life, not instantly but slowly over a period of time. There was something biblical about the meeting with Hemingway, Lewis wrote, like having the old sermon on the vanities shoved down your throat in the middle of whatever you happened to be doing with your life in the workaday world.
"They give funny names to the buses in this town [Havana] and there's one that runs past the hotel that says, 'We just ran short of greatness,' which just about sums him up, although perhaps understating the case. This man has had about everything a man can ever have wanted, and to meet him was a shattering experience of the kind likely to sabotage ambition --- which may or may not be a good thing. You wanted to know his opinion on the possible outcome of what is happening here. The answer unfortunately is that he no longer cares to hold opinions, because his life has lost its taste. He told me nothing, but he taught me more even than I wanted to know."

--- From a review of Semi-Invisible Man:
The Life of Norman Lewis

Andrew O'Hagan
The London Review of Books
25 September 2008
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