London: Jonathan Cape, 1950. 1st UK Edition. Octavo, publisher's teal cloth, spine stamped in red and silver, upper board stamped in red, original illustrated dust jacket.
"I would take anything I love and throw it off the highest cliff you ever saw and not wait to hear it bounce." First edition of this contender for Hemingway's worst book, in what is probably his most attractive dust jacket, designed by German artist Hans Tisdall. The novel, a US Army colonel's extended flashback on his service in Italy during the wars, and his romantic relationship with a young Venetian countess, constitutes a symbolic meditation on decline, as well as Hemingway's own coming to terms with encroaching mortality and the death of many of his friends. Tennessee Williams, in his adulatory review in the New York Times, was prophetic when he said, "It will probably be a popular book. The critics may treat it pretty roughly." Published after a ten-year dry spell (For Whom the Bell Tolls was the last book he published prior to it, in 1940), Across the River was Hemingway's only novel to reach number one on the bestseller list, presumably due in part to being so long-awaited. Meanwhile, it received dozens of negative reviews, with critics dunking on everything from the writing to the plot to the more cringey autobiographical elements. With regard to the latter, the character of Renata, the Venetian countess, was modeled on Adriana Ivancich, whom Hemingway met in Italy and became infatuated with, pursuing an extended albeit platonic relationship, to the chagrin of his fourth wife, Mary. Ivancich, a poet who later wrote a memoir of her friendship with Hemingway, did the illustration for the dust jacket to the Charles Scribner's first US edition of the novel, as well as to Hemingway's next book, The Old Man and the Sea. The British first edition here, which preceded the US edition by several days, featured different art, however, of a Venetian gondola under the moon and stars, done by Tisdall, a German textile and book designer in London. (As the inhouse designer for Jonathan Cape in the 50s, his art also stood in for Ivancich's on the UK Old Man and the Sea.) Corners gently bumped, light toning to board edges; price-clipped dust jacket with some chipping to spine-ends and rubbing and wear to edges. Very good. Item #4830