A Moveable Feast (Restored Edition) by Ernest Hemingway

Reading A Moveable Feast is like walking along the sea shore. On the fine sandy beach you see many attractive shells, but you don’t have a bucket with you. You pick the finest ones and put them in your pockets, until they’re full. But every step you take further, you see more that you want to keep. This post is too limited for me to display all the shells I’ve collected, but allow me to just pour them out from my pockets, without sorting, sand and all.

I first read about the term “Moveable Feast” while sitting in an Anglican church in Vancouver, flipping through the The Book of Common Prayer. After some googling later, I got the idea. A feast in the liturgical calendar that you commemorate no matter which date it falls on year after year. In the Foreword of this restored edition, Hemingway’s son Patrick (with second wife Pauline Pfeiffer) writes:

The complexity of a moveable feast lies in the calculation of the calendar date for Easter in a given year, from which it is simple enough then to assign a calendar date to each and every moveable feast for a given year. Palm Sunday is seven days before Easter.

A memorable experience that will follow you all the years of your life. You’ll cherish it whenever and wherever you are. Hemingway’s friend A. E. Hotchner suggested this title. Author of the biography Papa Hemingway, Hotchner recalls Hemingway once said to him:

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.

Like Rick says to Ilsa in “Casablanca”: “We’ll always have Paris.” Same sentiment.

A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s memoir written from notes he had forgotten in two steamer trunks stored at the Ritz Hotel in Paris since 1928. In 1956 he repossessed the treasure trove, upon the urging of the hotel management. The book details his experience while living in Paris from 1921 to 1926, when the author was in his early 20’s. The memoir was first published posthumously in 1964. The Paris Years was a period when Hemingway, just married Hadley Richardson, young and care-free, decided to give up journalism to strive at being a novelist.

He would write in a rented room or in a café over café crème,
meet Gertrude Stein for critique of his writing, go back home for lunch with wife Hadley, or have oysters and wine in a restaurant, socialize with Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and other expats, borrow piles of books from Sylvia Beach’s library in her bookshop Shakespeare and Company, visit Luxembourg gardens and museum…

Two people, then, could live comfortably and well in Europe on five dollars a day and could travel.

No wonder Gil in “Midnight in Paris” dreams of such a life.

What strikes me initially is Hemingway’s frankness, sometimes blatant description of his opinion about the people he met. Like the first time he saw the artist Wyndham Lewis through Ezra Pound:

I watched Lewis carefully without seeming to look at him, as you do when you are boxing, and I do not think I had ever seen a nastier-looking man… I tried to break his face down and describe it but I could only get the eyes. Under the black hat, when I had first seen them, the eyes had been those of an unsuccessful rapist.

According to grandson Sean Hemingway who edited and wrote the introduction of this restored edition, Hemingway developed his sharp eye and ear during these Paris years. Here’s an account of Scott Fitzgerald when Hemingway first met him in the Dingo bar:

Scott was a man then who looked like a boy with a face between handsome and pretty. He had very fair wavy hair, a high forehead, excited eyes and a delicate long-lipped Irish mouth that, on a girl, would have been the mouth of a beauty. His chin was well built and he had good ears and a handsome, almost beautiful, unmarked nose.

This is only a little excerpt in a two page description of Scott’s appearance. It’s sentences like these that stand out for me. They all point to the writer at work: observing.

I kept on looking at him closely and noticed…”

“I kept on observing Scott.

And putting down in words later:

I wasn’t learning very much from looking at him now except that he had well shaped, capable-looking hands, not too small, and when he sat on one of the bar stools I saw that he had very short legs. With normal legs he would have been perhaps two inches taller.

But it was Scott’s talents despite his eccentricities and alcoholism that formed the building blocks of their friendship.

When I had finished the book [The Great Gatsby] I knew that no matter what Scott did, nor how preposterously he behaved, I must know it was like a sickness and be of any help I could to him and try to be a good friend. …   If he could write a book as fine as The Great Gatsby I was sure that he could write an even better one. I did not know Zelda yet, and so I did not know the terrible odds that were against him.

It is perhaps with such candour and devotion in writing that he constantly sought to “write one true sentence.” Woody Allen has grasped the essence in this juicy line from “Midnight in Paris”:

No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure.

The restored edition brings back sections missing in the earlier 1964 publication which was edited by fourth and last wife Mary. According to Sean Hemingway, this restored work represents the content that Hemingway himself had intended the book to have, with the chapter “Nada y Pues Nada” (Nothing And Then Nothing) written three months before his suicide.

The second last chapter “The Pilot Fish and the Rich” shows he was remorseful over the breakdown of his first marriage to Hadley towards the end of his Paris days. A mutual friend they both knew, journalist Pauline Pfeiffer, came in between them. “You love them both now… Everything is split inside of you and you love two people now instead of one.”

But A Moveable Feast belongs to Earnest and Hadley and their young son Bumby.  “… this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.” As a reader, I feel a sense of loss as I come to the end, for Earnest and Hadley were so much in love the first few years in Paris:

She: ‘And we’ll never love anyone else but each other.’

He: ‘No. Never.’

Their 2-room rental walk-up with no electricity and no hot water had been a haven of warm meals and intimate talks. It was the time when he was “a young man supporting a wife and child … learning to write prose.” Their short marriage lasted only six years. In 1927 Hemingway married Pauline, four months after divorcing Hadley.

The last section at the end of the book is entitled “Fragments”. These are “false starts”, beginning paragraphs of an introduction Hemingway tried to write for this book. Interestingly, every one of these attempts starts with: “This book is fiction.” Many include this sentence: “I have left out much and changed and eliminated and I hope Hadley understands.” In another fragment he wrote: “No one can write true fact in reminiscences…”

I’m baffled. But maybe unnecessarily. From our very subjective mind, our often hazy view of what did happen and what we wish to have happened and what could have happened, we conjure up a fusion. Should there be a clear line separating them? It’s because the demarkation of fact and fantasy is fluid that we can appreciate the arts, such as the film “Midnight in Paris.” The events that happen to Gil after midnight would remain fondly with him as reality, so real that they change his decision regarding his future. Facts or fiction… or fusion?

~ ~ ~ 1/2 Ripples

***

A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition by Ernest Hemingway, published by Scribner, NY, 2009, 240 pages. Foreword by Patrick Hemingway, introduced and edited by Sean Hemingway.

This post is to participate in the Paris In July blogging event hosted by Karen of BookBath and Tamara of Thyme for Tea. You can also find another review of A Moveable Feast here at Dolce Bellezza.

To read my review of “Midnight In Paris”, CLICK HERE.

Photos: Paris, Shakespeare and Company, Writers’ portraits and The Library in Shakespeare and Company taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, Aug. 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Click on the following links for some insightful interviews:

National Post Interview with Sean Hemingway on the restored edition

Interview with Woody Allen on making “Midnight In Paris”

Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

25 thoughts on “A Moveable Feast (Restored Edition) by Ernest Hemingway”

  1. Wow, I need to read this. I had no idea it was his autobiography…

    .
    Jillian,

    It’s a memoir of just five years of his life, but significant enough to last a whole life long. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

    Arti

    Like

  2. I love your review of A Moveable Feast, and how much you add to my knowledge because you write with so many details (and include illustrations!). For me, this book, the film Midnight In Paris and the book I’m reading now (A Paris Wife) will be what I remember of Summer 2011. They capture the longing I have for Paris, as well as the nostalgia of the time and place. They give us a glimpse into Hemingway and Fitzgerald and even the women around them. I feel as if I’ve had a small vacation with the whole entourage, even though there is plenty of sorrow in their stories as well. Which I guess is what makes it all the more poignant.

    Like

    1. Bellezza,
      I understand The Paris Wife is a novel written from the POV of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife. That sounds intriguing. I look forward to your review of it. And you’re right… sadness is never far away. Not just their marriage, but in Hemingway’s life especially.

      Paris in July is a beautiful idea as a blogging event. I experienced Paris in August last year. That’s when I took these photos.

      Like

  3. I love your photos; how wonderful that you were there last August. The last time I was in Paris was 2001, and it feels too long!

    I am absolutely entranced by The Paris Wife. It is from the point of view of Hadley, and I feel as if she’s sitting in a chair across from me telling me their story. It is obviously very carefully researched, and it is a perfect accompaniment to A Moveable Feast. I will review it when I finish, but just know that I highly recommend it so far. Highly. 🙂

    .
    Bellezza,

    Thanks for your input. I just put a hold on this book with the public library. I’m 260 in line.

    A.

    Like

  4. Of course I could go on about my strong convictions about “fact”, “fiction” and “truth”, and the way they interweave in memoir, but I’ll spare you.

    I do have a bit of a quarrel with Hemingway himself when he speaks of not being able to write “true fact” in reminiscence. I never would juxtapose those words in just that way – it seems to me he was struggling with the writer’s task so dear to Durrell – “[re-working] reality to show its significant side”.

    The first “movable feast” I bumped into is a Houston restaurant that lies just north of the Westchase district. It’s wonderful – very much modeled after Chez Panisse in Berkeley.They reference Hemingway in their literature and on their website – and it’s a wonderful place for reading and writing!

    But what I love most about A Movable Feast is that trunk. It reminds me of the story of the Portuguese writer, Fernando Pessoa. After Pessoa’s death, a trunk filled with thousands of scraps of paper was discovered among his belongings. It contained unpublished poems, unfinished prose, writing of all sorts. Among the writings was his thrilling and mysterious The Book of Disquiet, which contains this hypnotic sentence: “I ask and I continue. I write down the question, I wrap it up in new sentences, I unravel it to form new emotions.”

    Very much like Hemingway.

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    1. Linda,

      If you recall, that’s how Mark Logue (Grandson of King’s Speech therapist Lionel) discovered the details of his grandfather’s friendship with KGVI and records of his speech therapy sessions, through a recently recovered trunk (or box, I don’t quite remember now…) of family treasure trove. So, save those trunks, not just for nostalgic sake but they just might lead you to fame and publication. 😉 And I just love your quote: ““[re-working] reality to show its significant side”.

      Like

  5. I think it’s very intriguing that this book was put together so close, in the end, to his suicide. There’s such an elegiac tone to his reminiscences – as if back then he really knew who people were and what he felt about them, just as he was learning his rules, that would be so clear-cut, about how to write. The messiness of memory, its inevitable interweaving of fact and fiction is perhaps just symptomatic of his muddled mental state. And that sheen of nostalgia perhaps points to how unhappy the present is.

    I know there’s been research done into memory, by the by, that shows just how fictional it is. Healthy memory is what is termed ‘narrative memory’ because we tend to remember in stories that are constantly changing as we look back at them. Opposed to that is ‘traumatic memory’ when it feels as if reality repeats itself, overwhelmingly and distressingly, every time the memory returns. So paradoxically enough it’s better to remember mistily and hazily than to experience vivid flashbacks! 🙂

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    1. litlove,

      The book was first published posthumously in 1964, three years after his death. But you’re right in that he wrote the last chapter just three months before his suicide, it’s the last complete writing of his. The title being Nada y Pues Nada” (Nothing And Then Nothing) is indeed poignant.

      I’ve appreciated your pointing out that: “The messiness of memory, its inevitable interweaving of fact and fiction is perhaps just symptomatic of his muddled mental state.” This is so true considering his various health issues, physical and psychological. It’s such a loss, isn’t it? I haven’t read many of Hemingway’s works, just a couple of novels and some short stories, all years ago. But after watching the movie “Midnight In Paris” and reading A Moveable Feast, now I want to dwell on more of his writings.

      Like

  6. This is an excellent review of the book. When we were in Key West last February my husband bought me this book at the Hemingway’s house shop. I read it not long ago and really loved it. That got me started on buying books about that time period in Paris. I bought several while in Paris last May and some more here. Right now I am reading “That Summer in Paris” by Morley Gallaghan, who worked with Hemingway at the same paper in Toronto. Then I have a pile ready to be read like “Being Geniuses Together” “Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein et Co” “A Paris Wife” “Paris was Ours” and about 8 or 9 more. I did not know about the Paris in July book challenge but would not have taken it as I read books, mostly in French, throughout the whole year, not just in summer.

    Like

    1. Vagabonde,

      Thanks for recommending all these Parisian books. After reading A Moveable Feast, I too want to read more about Paris in the 1920’s. And I must check out the Morley Gallaghan book from our public library since it’s a Canadian author talking about Hemingway in Canada. I’m excited just thinking about it, albeit he only stayed a short time working with the Toronto Sun. I can fully understand why he chose Paris over staying here in TO… I would too. 🙂 And, about Paris in July, you’re right. As Hemingway said, Paris is a moveable feast… it’s delicious any time of the year.

      Like

      1. I did not know you live in Canada. Do you speak French? I finished another couple of books in French – Paris par Julian Green, Sacrés Français par Ted Stanger, Paris Insolite par Jean-Paul Clébert and in English Paris, Paris by David Downie. I enjoyed the Clébert book he wrote I think in the 50s as he uses a lot of Parisian slang. I did not realize that Morley Gallaghan was such a well-known writer in Canada. I see he has titles in French – did he write them in French or were they translated?

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        1. Vagabonde,

          Regrettably my French is from college days. Also, that’s when I read some Morley Callaghan. I think he only wrote in English. I’m afraid my minimal French doesn’t qualify me to read anything literary in that language. That’s something I’m trying to improve though. Coincidentally, I’ve started listening to some CD’s to learn more conversational French… so I can watch French films less dependent on the subtitles. 😉

          And I must correct an error I made in my last comment, Morley Callaghan worked with Ernest Hemingway at the Toronto Daily Star, not Toronto Sun. He also went to Paris, and mingled with the literati expats there as well. Apparently he had an experience of boxing with Hemingway, and beating him.

          Which part of France are you from? I went to Paris last August, and then to Provence, staying in Avignon for a few days and made day trips to Arles etc. Have posted about my trip there. You’re welcome to take a look at them. The beginning post here: https://rippleeffects.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/paris-the-latin-quarter-2/

          Arti

          Like

  7. What a wonderful review of a book I am yet to read – but hope to get to very soon! Thank you so much for joining in our Paris in July event!

    .
    Karen,

    Thanks for hosting such an interesting event! I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book, and the Woody Allen movie too. But as Vagabonde commented above, I love to see it extended longer. 😉

    Arti

    Like

  8. Wonderful review Arti. I’m not a big Hemingway fan but i think I’m going to have to read this one. That chapter written not long before his suicide is intriguing as is all the false starts of an introduction declaring the work fiction. However, what really boggles me is Paris on $5 a day. If that were still the case I’d be booking my flight right now!

    .
    Stefanie,

    Your comment sent me to some googling and I found this answer: $5 in 1920 equals $53.08 in 2009. What were salaries like in the 1920’s, here’s the answer: a teach would make 800 to 1,000 a year. How accurate are these answers? That’s my question.

    Anyway, yes, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book. I haven’t read a lot of Hemingway either, but this book is very different and personal. The movie “Midnight In Paris” really piqued my interest in the 1920’s… any where.

    Arti

    Like

  9. I just read your post on the Latin Quarter in Paris. The reason there are so many bookstores in Paris featuring philosophy is that all students have to take a year of philosophy in school contrary to US schools where students come out of school knowing more about sport celebrities than philosophers. In your comment on my blog you said “ I am totally amazed at… your zeal for intellectual pursuits.” It is not zeal, it is the way I was educated.
    I used to go to school near the Boulevard St Michel, a school that was part of the University of Paris, so all the places there were so familiar I did not even look at them, like Shakespeare and Company. Every time I go back to Paris it seems I end up in the Latin Quarter. It has changed a lot since I studied there though. Some cafés are gone, McDo has arrived too. You asked which part of France I am from. I was born in Alès, a town near Nimes, because it was during the war. My father was at war and my mother went to the Free Zone. Then we went back to Paris in the 9th arrondissement, near the Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre. Then we moved to a suburban town near Paris (about 12 miles) but kept the apartment. My blog was supposed to be about recollections from my youth in France but I write more about my trips. I have started with the family though with posts on my mother‘s childhood (http://avagabonde.blogspot.com/2009/05/mothers-birthday-lanniversaire-de-maman.html) then her youth (http://avagabonde.blogspot.com/2010/05/recollection-mothers-youth-and-house-of.html ) and young adulthood (http://avagabonde.blogspot.com/2010/06/recollection-mothers-youth-and-carlos.html) next I’m going to talk about my father’s youth, and so on until I get to me. I include some photos in those recollection posts.
    . I have a post about me as a little girl in Paris with a picture, it is here – http://avagabonde.blogspot.com/2010/03/first-anniversary-and-recollection-of.html.

    Like

    1. Vagabonde,

      Your blog is so rich and with such well-researched materials that I think you have a memoir on your hands. The stories are interesting too… what a meaningful thing to do, start a blog detailing memories and recollections of your heritage. Thanks for leading me to all the marvellous posts.

      Yes, I learned about philosophy being a compulsory subject in France when I wrote my review of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. That is very admirable I think, considering the humanities are losing their influence and fundings in schools and colleges here in N. America.

      I enjoy French films too. My faves are “Il y a longtemps que je t’aime” (Kristin Scott Thomas), and “Le voyage du ballon rouge” (Juliette Binoche). I also like director Robert Bresson’s “Pickpocket” and “Diary of a Country Priest” (Journal d’un curé de campagne). So you see, my incentive to learn French is to gain a deeper appreciation of French films. Just a few days ago I saw “Potiche” (Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu) in the theatre… an interesting comedy.

      Like

  10. I loved reading this book, and your review is excellent, as always.

    I wanted at one point to create walking tours around themes in Paris. One would have been American Expat Writers. So in 2006 I wandered around and walked the walk between Stein’s apartment and the Hemingways’, across the Luxembourg gardens, imagining Hemingway making the trek over and over. I visited the church where their son was christened, Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont. After a week stomping around Paris by myself, I decided it was artificial and something I didn’t want to do: hand someone a laminated map with flags showing where he, Stein and others lived and hung out. It was something I wanted to do for myself, and was better slogging it out, researching and discovering on one’s own.

    Another thing I did that visit was go hear an American poet read in the upstairs room of Shakespeare & Co., which I believe is that second photo you’ve posted. It is a wonderful space for a reading, and for imagining, along with Woody Allen and others, what it must have been like in the days of the Lost Generation in Paris.

    Like

    1. Ruth,

      How I wish Woody Allen had made the movie “Midnight in Paris” a year earlier so that I could have seen it, and also read A Moveable Feast before I went to Paris last August. I actually stayed in a small hotel in the Latin Quarter, across from the Sorbonne, which I think is in the vicinity of Hemingway’s apartment. Your post is lovely. And, by all means, continue with developing those walking tours. They are marvellous for lit and art lovers. The next time I go to Paris, I’ll definitely follow your guides!

      Arti

      Like

  11. Thanks for reminding me of this — I had heard about the restored edition on NPR a long while ago. I made the mistake of loaning my Moveable to someone long ago and it never returned. Sigh. One of my favorites. So I am eager to pick up the restored version to add to my Paris collection. Again, splendid illustrations! Thank you!

    .
    Jeanie,

    Loaning out and got lost after… well, it’s a good reason to get this restored edition. There has been disputes among the Hemingways about this new version. The photos are from my trip last August. You’re welcome to read my series of posts starting here.

    Arti

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  12. Hi, Arti, me again! I just re-read this post after reading “The Paris Wife.” I was telling Rick, who had never read “A Moveable Feast,” that I wanted to get this adaptation/re-issue before we go to Paris and I was trying to remember where I read a wonderful post about it! I knew it was during Paris in July so I was thrilled when I came to check out your new post to find this one! After reading again, and the comments, I realized that the comments are almost as rich as your post. Oh, golly, I just want time to read and read!

    .
    jeanie,

    You see, that’s what Ripple Effects is all about. 😉 I just throw in the stone, it’s the ripples that fascinate.

    Arti

    Like

  13. What a wonderful review, I’m glad I finally got a chance to read it. I haven’t read A Moveable Feast yet, but it’s certainly on the TBR. I love your shell/beach analogy at the start. I understand completely.

    Like

    1. Louise,

      I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s candid and reveals so much of the psyche of the writer. After reading The Paris Wife, I was paying particular attention to Hemingway’s interaction with Hadley. He’s also honest about that too.

      Thanks for stopping by the pond and throw in a pebble. Do come back and share your view after you’ve read the book.

      Like

  14. It is wonderful to read this as a part of all the literature that now exists surrounding those writers living in Paris at that time and to remember that this is merely one perspective, but we get to know a little more of the man and see more clearly his differences to the others, to learn what he reads already having known what he would write. Brilliant review, thanks for pointing me back here to find it.

    Like

    1. Claire,

      Thanks for your time in reading through these posts and leaving your kind words. I’d thoroughly enjoyed all these reading, watching, and traveling experiences.

      Like

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