Hemingway wrote the story in 1933 as a part of his third and last collection of short stories, Winner Take Nothing. But the first publication went out in Scribner’s Magazine in the same year. It was Hemingway’s favorite piece, and James Joyce even called it “masterly.”
A Clean, Well-Lighted place appeared in print in Scribner’s Magazine in 1933. It was an American monthly periodical that existed between 1887 and 1939. By the way, it was the first magazine in history to use color illustrations. Theodore Roosevelt, Clarence Cook, and many other famous people of that time wrote articles for the magazine. It was an honor to publish writing in it. But by that time, Hemingway had already become famous.
Hemingway planned to spend the money earned from Winner Take Nothing on his safari in Africa. He published it on 27 October 1933. The collection was immediately successful, and the safari took place. A Clean, Well-Lighted Place was the second of fourteen short stories included in the book.
A.E. Hotchner wrote a biography named Papa Hemingway. There he quotes Hemingway saying that A Clean, Well-Lighted Place was his favorite story. And James Joyce remarked: Hemingway “has reduced the veil between literature and life, which is what every writer strives to do. Have you read A Clean Well-Lighted Place?… Indeed, it is one of the best short stories ever written…”
But decades after the publication, scholars have found several discrepancies in the waiters’ dialogue. Some phrases seem to be said by the wrong person. For example, we know that only the younger waiter has information about the visitor’s suicide attempt. But then he asks the older waiter, “How do you know it was nothing?” And his senior colleague replies, “He has plenty of money.” Still, it could be a guess.