Arts Books

Green Hills of Africa

green hills of africa

Green Hills of Africa is a nonfiction book written by Ernest Hemingway.  It is his second piece of nonfiction and follow-up to Death in the Afternoon.  The story was published and released by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1935 as a serialization in Scribner’s Magazine.  The first edition was available later that Fall and divided into four sections.  Green Hills of Africa received mixed reviews.

Pursuit and Conversation is the title of the first narrative.  Hemingway and the boys return from a failed hunt.  The author is on an African safari and searching for a rare species of antelope called a kudu.  He details an encounter with an Austrian man who has car troubles.  They talk. It is riveting. The man recognizes Ernest as the author of The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms.  He offers to help with the automobile.  The man declines.  The two have a debate about literature.

Night falls on the terrain.  The man visits Hemingway’s camp.  He wants to continue the debate.  The author is lost in his own thoughts.  The evasive kudu dominates his mind.  Frustrations with his hunting companion grow.  The debate restarts.  Hemingway claims that Mark Twain, Stephen Crane and Henry James are the best American writers.  He says The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the greatest novel and the birthplace of American diction.  The discussion ends after evaluating the German novelists Thomas Mann and René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke.  The first part closes.

green hills of africa cover
Green Hills of Africa book cover – Photo Credit: cdrummbks


Pursuit Remembered takes the reader into the past to understand the author’s kudu obsession.  Karl and Hemingway make a friendly bet on who will slay one first.  The author kills a rhino.  Karl does too.  His rhinoceros is bigger.  The defeat upsets Ernest.  He compares literature to hunting and says writing is about emotion and art.  The desire to outdo the competition and resulting environment is similar to pursuing an animal.

The dialog shifts to European writers.  Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Gustave Flaubert and Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle) are examined.  Time passes.  Karl hunts a kudu.  Hemingway tries to console himself.  He fails and turns to liquor instead.  The drink helps.  The whiskey sedates his anger.  The trip was supposed to be fun.  The friendship is fractured.  Where did it all go wrong?  There is no answer.  The drinking continues.

Pursuit and Failure starts.  Ernest talks to M’Cola in the present.  The two companions bond over their disdain for their hunting guides and mutual disgust towards Karl’s success.  The dialog progresses.  M’Cola is less bitter than the author.  The revelation brings forth depression.  M’Cola suggests switching the whiskey to some soothing tea.  The advice is ignored.  Hemingway uses the liquor to fall into an angry sleep.

Kudu – Photo Credit: Steve from washington, dc, usa


Days later a deluge soaks through Hemingway’s gun.  M’Cola promises to clean it.  He forgets.  The author is livid.  He hides his anger and decides that forgiveness is more powerful than letting negative emotions fester.  The positivity helps.  He learns that an unblemished hunting ground filled with kudu was found.  The third segment ends.

The author is overjoyed at the start of Pursuit and Happiness.  Everyone arrives at the untouched hunting ground.  Abundant wildlife is spilling into the horizon.  The kudus are everywhere.  It seems too easy.  Hemingway creates a new challenge and switches his sights to the sable antelope.  The animal is scarcer than the kudu.  The adventure begins.  The writer gets close and is able to wound one.  It is able to escape.  The anger returns.  The proximity to success amplifies the negative outcome.  Hemingway drowns in thought. 

He is able to stabilize.  The day concludes.  He learns that Karl has killed a kudu with bigger horns than his.  Jealousy forms.  The writer overcomes it and congratulates Karl.  Everyone gets along.  Green Hills of Africa ends.  The split reviews from the critics sent Ernest Hemingway into depression.  It grew worse over time.  He blamed it on corruption.  He broke free by finishing two stories about Africa (The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber).  Both of the plots were centered around husbands stuck in marriages to authoritarian women.

sable antelope
Sable Antelope – Photo Credit: Bernard DUPONT

“To go down and up two hands-and-knee climbing ravines and then out into the moonlight and the long, too-steep shoulder of mountain that you climbed one foot up to the other, one foot after the other, one stride at a time, leaning forward against the grade and the altitude, dead tired and gun weary, single file in the moonlight across the slope, on up and to the top where it was easy, the country spread in the moonlight, then up and down and on, through the small hills, tired but now in sight of the fires and”

– Ernest Hemingway (Green Hills of Africa)
green hills of africa
Green hills of Africa – Photo Credit: berniedup

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