This blog has already written on Ernest Hemingway’s interest in cycling, particularly the Italian riders Ottavio Bottecchia and Bartolomeo Aymo.
“I have started many stories about bicycle racing but have never written one that is as good as the races are both on the indoor and outdoor tracks and on the roads,” he wrote in A Moveable Feast.
There’s no record of any of these stories and Hemingway also expressed some reluctance to take on the subject, noting that, “French is the only language it has been written in properly and all the terms are in French and that is what makes it hard to write.”
According to Jon Dos Passos, Hemingway was reluctant to share his expertise on cycling with another author but also said that French writer Paul Morand had already captured the essence of track racing in his short story, The Six-Day Night.
The original of this story was written in French and first translated by Ezra Pound; it contains some classic descriptions of indoor racing in 1920s Paris at the Velodrome d’Hiver. In the following, the narrator and his companion, Leah, are entering the track arena:
…A subterranean passage led to the swell seats. Carpets from La Place Clichy blown off the floor by the drafts. Halfway through, there was a thunder over our heads. The laths groaned. Then we came to the wooden arena with its glass roof containing a fog split by luminous conic sections. From beneath their enameled umbrellas the voltaic lamps watched the track.
…Shrill whistles pierced the air. There were four thousand yells, Parisian yells, coming from well down in the throat. The Australian tried to weed them out. The sprints began. Above the advertising signs, I saw the tense gazes and the burning eyes of the cheap seats… the sixteen racers repassed unfailingly every twenty seconds in a compact platoon.
…Now drawn into a file, the sound of each lap was briefer than the preceding, and at the bell the sixteen men passed, like roulette balls projected in straight lines from the twisted curve-banking.”
Your author recently had a small article published by The Ride Journal on Hemingway and cycling. This excellent English publication has great coverage on a wide range of cycling culture and has just released its second issue. It is also offering its first issue as a pdf download (see the link above).
The article was accompanied by a fine picture by Matthew Bibby. To read the article, copyright by the author and The Ride Journal, click on this link here or make the appropriate choice for a pdf file.