Episode 2 of 4
Andrew McGibbon analyses great artists at a significant time in their careers but from the perspective of someone who worked for them, inspired them, employed them or even did their job for them while no one was looking.
Valerie Danby Smith was Ernest Hemingway's secretary in the final two years of his life, accompanying him, his wife and their entourage on bullfighting tours of Spain, trips to New York, and stays in his beloved house in Havana, Cuba. As their relationship blossomed Ernest even proposed to her - while he was still married to his wife - and later confided in Valerie that he was planning to commit suicide after learning he was going blind.
This is a moving story of love and duty and how an innocent convent educated girl in a chance encounter in Spain finds herself the willing pupil of one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century who was determined to teach Valerie everything he could about the art of writing and why a courageous engagement of life was vital to that art.
Producers: Andrew McGibbon and Nick Romero
A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.