Hemingway masterpiece selected as KU’s 2015 Common Book

Ernest Hemingway desperately wanted to get to the battlefield in World War I.

But the military rejected him because of bad eyesight.

So Hemingway joined the Red Cross as an ambulance driver and thereby experienced one of the most horrific wars of all time.

He turned his ordeal into a best-selling novel, “A Farewell to Arms,” which today is considered an American classic.

“A Farewell To Arms” has been selected as the 2015-2016 Kansas University Common Book, which will be provided to all first-year students during KU Orientation, KU officials announced Wednesday.

Students will read and discuss the book throughout the school year through various forums and activities.

“A goal of KU Common Book is to leave a lasting impression on our first-year students about the intellectual experience at KU,” Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a statement.

KU’s book selection ties in with the KU European Studies World War I Centennial Commemoration, which is developing war-related programs and educational opportunities to take place during events such as Hawk Week. The events will include Hemingway experts and WWI scholars, who will give the Common Book talk. Hemingway died in 1961.

The Great War began in Europe in 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. The United States didn’t join in until three years later, in 1917, when it declared war on Germany.

The war greatly expanded by the summer of 1918 after the U.S. had mobilized more than 4 million soldiers and personnel and joined the fight at the so-called Western Front. The Germans surrendered a few months later in November.

“Hemingway’s semi-autobiographical classic is a superb and timely selection,” Gray-Little said. “Our Common Book program consistently engages our community in unique ways other universities avoid.”

KU announced the Common Book program in December 2012. The first two books were “Notes From No Man’s Land,” by Eula Biss, and “The Worst Hard Time,” by Timothy Egan. This school year’s Common Book is “The Center of Everything” by Laura Moriarty. All of those authors gave talks at KU as part of the Common Book program.

The Spencer Museum of Art collaborates with the KU Common Book program. Saralyn Reece Hardy, the Spencer director, said the museum’s large collection of art related to WWI will be a great complement to Hemingway’s book.