The late writer's estate hasn't approved publication of the 1924 piece, a gory, over-the-top parody about a bullfight in the Spanish city of Pamplona, the manuscript's owner, Donald Stewart, told The Associated Press on Monday.
People who have seen the story say it's no masterpiece. But it could give important clues about Hemingway's first attempts at trying on different literary styles — especially because most of his early work disappeared when his suitcase was stolen in the early 1920s.
The short story also foreshadows Hemingway's fascination with blood, spectacle and bullfights. Two years later, he published the classic "The Sun Also Rises," about aimless expatriates hanging out in Paris and the bull-running city of Pamplona.
The tone of the tale, written when Hemingway was in his mid-20s, is light and satirical. Its main character is a comic personification of "what later became the Hemingway myth," Stewart said by telephone from his home in Rome. "A heroic man with a lot of hair on his chest."
Hemingway scholar J. Gerald Kennedy, who has a copy, guffawed out loud as he paraphrased the story over the phone. The main character kills the bull with his bare hands. But the hapless hero loses part of his entrails — his duodenum ends up in the sand.
"It's pretty typical of the kind of after-hours parody Hemingway was writing in Paris in the mid-20s," said Kennedy, a professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and vice president of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation. "It's not great literature. He's still a year away from writing 'The Sun Also Rises.'"
Stewart, a 72-year-old writer, had the documents for years without realizing it. He recently discovered the manuscript and letter from Hemingway in an envelope left by his father, Donald Ogden Stewart, who died in 1980.
Stewart's father, a satirist and screenwriter who won an Academy Award for his adaptation of "The Philadelphia Story," was the heroic bullfighter in the short story, entitled "My Life in the Bull Ring With Donald Ogden Stewart."
The elder Stewart was also the basis for Bill Gorton in "The Sun Also Rises," the fishing buddy of the main character.
To publish a new Hemingway find, permission must be granted by both the Foundation and the Hemingway estate. The Foundation wanted to publish it — but the family didn't.
Suzanne Balaban, vice president and director of publicity at Scribner's, Hemingway's original publisher, said "the Hemingway estate doesn't feel they've really explored the best way to present this story to the public."
She said the story might be published in the future, "but that hasn't been decided yet."
Though the documents cannot be printed, they can be sold as artifacts, a legal quirk of the literary world.
Christie's in New York plans a Dec.16 auction of the carbon-copy manuscript and a handwritten letter from Hemingway. They are expected to sell between $12,000 and $18,000, said Patrick McGrath, a books and manuscripts specialist at the auction house.
Stewart, who once worked for The New Yorker and ran Playboy's foreign-language editions, originally hoped to bring the story to the wider public. Before learning of the estate's opposition, he tried to have the Hemingway piece published in Vanity Fair, along with an article of his own.
Stewart's father and Hemingway spent time hanging out in the 1920s with other expatriate writers in Pamplona, a city whose status with travelers comes largely thanks to Hemingway. Outside the city's bull ring is a bust of the writer, who committed suicide in 1961.
"All around the world, his image drives people to bars, and causes them to buy products like T-shirts or drinks," said Sandra Spanier, a Pennsylvania State University professor who is working on a project to compile Hemingway's letters.
Spanier hopes new discoveries renew interest in his literature: "He didn't win the Nobel Prize for being an adventurer."