ALS signed twice, “Papa,” five pages, 8.5 x 11, Finca Vigia letterhead, January 31, 1955. Long letter to novelist and screenwriter Peter Viertel, who was beginning to work on the screenplay for The Sun Also Rises. In part: "I'm sorry you had the trouble. Hope it's finished. Always call me in if it isn't. Remember the corps gave the senator all the medals he put himself in for. The senators far gone now. But like drunks that have been thrown out he always comes back unless you cool him. That's what gives people the impression bounders are unkind. We certainly could have made them silly on that awful Cuban picture charge. Glad you're working on The Sun Also. Can always remember saying, 'But then it isn't a novel. It's just a travel book.' That taught me about showing things in Mss. Nathan's problem was it was different from quite a good novel he had written called The Office. But he had used up everything he knew and all the English language he knew. Old Shalom Asch was very nice and smart to always write in Yiddish. He used to say to me, 'Why do I have to have a boy who is a fool?' I'd say my father thinks I am a fool. He's say, maybe he thinks you are bad and no good but don't try to tell me he thinks you are a fool.
Well I was a fool enough to go to a chicken decoration crop business and sweat clean through a blue suit under the lights. Adolphe Luque who once won 38 for Cincinnati Reds when they were a 2nd div. club and I were the main event…I'm soaked through and change to some clothes in the car but have no dry pants and catch cold in the kidney I'd ruptured in the Cessna. So in a couple of days it cuts out and then the other one cuts out. The Drs. are spooked and say this is worse than it was in Africa but I know they were not in Africa and are shutting themselves one kidney starts to work a little and I figure I have turned the corner. Then a virus Hepatitis shows. All you have to do is rest and that is easy as I have plenty of good books been saving for a trip. Have maybe 28. The trouble is that there is nothing to do but absolute rest and diet and the diets conflict. But I remember we did not have any diet at all in Africa and were living on…salmon, meat, mealies and gin so I let them puzzle it out. Now after six weeks in bed have all the analyses perfect. Everything that was 5 star positive is negative and healthy. There was no alcoholic deterioration of kidney or liver and I have to do 10 days more half in bed half up and around…Only missed 9 days writing on the book. They let me drink all through—3—2 oz whiskies a day—all you need with good books.
So that is another interesting chapter. I was jamming on the book because was getting to the end of the 2 years the RAF doctor said I could live if I made it a career but with this good rest cure and general overhaul am that much better off. He wasn't so far off at the start because my right foot swelled up as big as a football and blood was coming out from the bases of the toe nails.
Have you thrown your death dealing right at the Khan yet. If you know you can take him that might be the thing to endear you to the corps. But make sure you're not going to get held and grabbed while the Khan works on you. I have found the best places to fight are men's rooms where the attendants are your friends. Fight him on your home grounds if you can or an approximation of same and remember it isn't over until he has to have his jaw wired. Do this with your boots if you drop him. Put your heel in his eye and scuff it…
As it is I'll probably have to settle for Selznick's plan to ask him on a safari just to show we're pals. He can bring his card player. When we get to the place we hang his card player just so he knows this is no shit. We drive the card player out a ways and having stripped him we leave him for the Fisi and the birds. There's Selznick with no card player. We remove his appurtenances with a straight edge razor and toss them into a pot while the portable phonograph plays 'Love is a many splendoured thing' and the original theme song from 'A Farewell to Arms.' I'll skip it…
The reason I did not read the script was because Freddy and I agreed would go to work on it March 1 '56…The room was nothing. I always get righteous in a fight. If we start to be comfortable and settle down in a C.P. I know we're too far back and tell Buck so. If we're fighting on a map and there's some place we've only seen on the map because you get killed if you go there I have to go up there because the real place is often different from the map place. It is only conscience; not a wish to be a righteous nor a show off. I thought, maybe, you ought to be closer up and hear the noises, and the smells and the early morning Cuba…Cojimar was out of the question because of the mosquitoes…But I've written OK books at 3rd floor of Ambos Mundos and could still.
The Europe stuff I never heard about nor criticized nor had any opinions about until Slim kept talking about it…Remember that motion picture business was new to me. I thought the mains were people you took at their word. Well am learning to move with them a little now…What I would like as a Christmas present would be (A) to know Arabic and be in Morocco now, (B) to be in East Africa. Dull but would have fun. Well I'll be through with this Leland someday. Then can move. If I have to stay in bed any more I can learn Arabic."
He adds a postscript, in full: "Don't break your back or your neck if you can help is and drive the Porsche like a good boy. It's a good safe car and more so you not being a rummy." In fine condition.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.