Ernest Hemingway’s story “In Another Country” takes place in a war hospital in Milan during World War I. The war began in 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a member of the Hapsburg family, the rulers of what was then known as the AustroHungarian empire, was assassinated while on an official state visit to the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia. His killer was a young Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, a member of a secret underground organization who protested the Austro-Hungarian empire’s claim over their country. When the Austro-Hungarians demanded entrance to Bosnia so they could find and then bring to trial Ferdinand’s assassin, the Bosnian government refused, insisting they would conduct their own investigation. The Austro-Hungarians then declared war on Bosnia. Quickly, Germany allied with the Austro-Hungarian empire, while Russia, France and Great Britain allied with Bosnia, with Italy soon to follow.
The United States joined World War I at the end of 1917. A German submarine had torpedoed a British passenger ship, the Lusitania, claiming it secretly carried American munitions aboard. The United States denied this, but joined the fray when the British and French requested their assistance. Most American soldiers were initially stationed on the Western Front, in France. Believing the American army to be inexperienced and, according to Hemingway, “overfed and under trained,” the Germans immediately attacked. To much of the world’s surprise, the Americans, despite being outnumbered and lacking experience, fought off the German army, solidifying their reputation as a world military power. The United States and its allies won the war in 1918. About 118,000 American soldiers were killed in action, more than double the 55,000 lost in World War II, a generation later.
Hemingway wrote “In Another Country” while residing in Paris in 1926. There he lived among a circle of writers and poets, many of whom would go on to be among the most prominent literary figures of the century. Expatriates like himself, these authors included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, John Dos Passos, Thornton Wilder, Ezra Pound, e. e. cummings, and Hart Crane, along with Gertrude Stein and her lover, Alice B. Toklas, whose salon was a common meeting ground for the group. Coined “The Lost Generation” by Stein, these writers came to Paris in search of inspiration and a new understanding of the boundaries and purpose of art. Malcolm Cowley, one of their clique, wrote about this period in his book Exile’s Return. A collection of Hemingway’s anecdotes of this experience was published posthumously under the title A Moveable Feast in 1964.
Ira Mark Milne (Editor), Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 8, Ernest Hemingway, Published by Thomson Gale, 2000.