Ernest Hemingway once wrote, in a letter to his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, “When you get the damned hurt, use it. Use it and don’t cheat.” Use it, don’t let it use you. Hemingway knew a thing or two about the “hurt”; it dogged him for much of his life, ran like a seam through many of his fictional caracters. Self-mythologisingold curmudgeon he may have been at times – his former wife, the acclaimed journalist Martha Gellhorn, once described their five-year marriage as “life-darkening” – but he never cheated, even when he pulled the trigger of the gun that ended his life.
Deep emotional pain is a condition that allows immunity to no one. Hemingway won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954; Nelson Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize almost forty years later. Yet, in 1996, Mandela, then presidente of South Africa, stood in a Johannesburg courtroom and gave testimony about a struggle – but not the political struggle that had seen him imprisioned for almost thirty years, or the battle to undo decades of apartheid and rebuild his country. It was the struggle to overcome the unhappiness of his fractured marriage to his wife, Winnie. In a statement to the court hearing their divorce proceedings, he said, “I was the loneliest man during the period I stayed with her.”
Karen O'Brien, Joni Mitchell: Shadows and light