Hear Charlton Heston Read Ernest Hemingway’s Classic Story, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

snows hemingway2

“ ‘The mar­velous thing is that it’s pain­less,’ he said. ‘That’s how you know when it starts.’

‘Is it real­ly?’

‘Absolute­ly. I’m awful­ly sor­ry about the odor though. That must both­er you.’ ”

Most Amer­i­can read­ers sure­ly rec­og­nize these lines, though it may take a moment to remem­ber where they rec­og­nize them from. They open “The Snows of Kil­i­man­jaro,” a short sto­ry by Ernest Hem­ing­way that first ran in Esquire in 1936, then, two years lat­er, appeared in the col­lec­tion The Fifth Col­umn and the First Forty-Nine Sto­ries. (Find in our col­lec­tion of Free eBooks.) Deal­ing with the mem­o­ries and regrets of a writer on safari dying of a gan­grenous thorn wound, the sto­ry has over the past 76 years become one of the most respect­ed works in Hem­ing­way’s oeu­vre and an essen­tial piece of twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture. As often hap­pens with essen­tial pieces of Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture, Hol­ly­wood got to it, adapt­ing it into a 1952 block­buster fea­tur­ing Gre­go­ry Peck, Susan Hay­ward, and Ava Gard­ner. (Find in our col­lec­tion of 535 Free Movies Online.)

Though the star­ring role of Har­ry, the fast-fad­ing rough-and-tum­ble man of let­ters who sees him­self as ruined by afflu­ence and hedo­nism, went to Peck, I could also imag­ine it played by Charl­ton Hes­ton. Even if you could­n’t quite place that bit of dia­logue from “The Snows of Kil­i­man­jaro,” you’d be imme­di­ate­ly able to place Hes­ton’s voice read­ing the sto­ry aloud in the record­ing avail­able on this Harper­Au­dio Hem­ing­way site. Lis­ten below and see for your­self if the actor’s deliv­ery, so often asso­ci­at­ed with sil­ver-screen roles meant to project a grand stern­ness, can also deliv­er the bit­ter­ness of Hem­ing­way’s pro­tag­o­nist, who cer­tain­ly shares with his cre­ator the con­vic­tion that “pol­i­tics, women, drink, mon­ey and ambi­tion” bring writ­ers tru­ly low, down to the point where they can declare, as Har­ry so mem­o­rably does, “The only thing I’ve nev­er lost is curios­i­ty.”

Bonus: Here you can also lis­ten to Don­ald Suther­land read an excerpt from Old Man and the Sea.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ernest Hem­ing­way Reads “In Harry’s Bar in Venice”

The Span­ish Earth, Writ­ten and Nar­rat­ed by Ernest Hem­ing­way

Sev­en Tips From Ernest Hem­ing­way on How to Write Fic­tion

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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