And the answer: Ernest Hemingway.
Published in 1952, The Old Man and the Sea won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction the following year. The novel has been adapted for the screen three times, and was Ernest Hemingway’s last major work.
Although it was his last major work, many fans and critics alike consider The Old Man and the Sea to be Hemingway’s best. However, at the time it was published in 1952, Hemingway hadn’t put out a significant literary work in over a decade. His last popular book, For Whom the Bells Tolls, was published in 1940, while his 1950 release Across the River and Into the Trees was widely panned by critics. Many were saying that Hemingway’s career was “through,” and thus the author had to prove himself.
Luckily, with the release of The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway succeeded. The 5 million copies of LIFE Magazine containing the novel sold out in just two days, and it quickly thrust Hemingway into celebrity status. Critics adored the book, and in 1953, Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction (followed by the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature). The bestseller made Hemingway a fortune.
Fascinatingly, although it was his final work, Hemingway reports that the idea had been rattling around in his head for nearly 16 years. In a 1936 essay for Esquire, Hemingway described an "old man fishing alone in a skiff out of Cabañas," who hooked a big marlin and was dragged eastward for two days. Less than two years later, Hemingway began elaborating on the idea in what would become The Old Man and the Sea, but was sidetracked for over a decade by For Whom the Bell Tolls and other endeavors.
At the end of the day, though, even Hemingway agrees that it is his finest work. When the author sent the manuscript of The Old Man and the Sea to his publisher, Hemingway stated frankly:
"I know that it is the best I can write ever for all of my life, I think, and that it destroys good and able work by being placed alongside of it … [I hope it can] get rid of the school of criticism that I am through as a writer."
Learn more about this literary classic here.