A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

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In the introduction to A Moveable Feast (published 1964), his memoir of the years between the wars during which he lived in Paris, Ernest Hemingway writes:

If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.

Whether or not the account I read was true, the interaction between young Hemingway and the other artists was fun to read. I also loved reading Hemingway’s thoughts on reading Turgenev, War and Peace, and The Great Gatsby for the first time. Scott Fitzgerald’s strange antics (he could not take alcohol at all without getting very drunk) put a new perspective on The Great Gatsby.

Also, I liked how Hemingway wrote his reflections on his life and the way things ended up; he wrote it in 1960, long after the “ends” occurred. “Scott did not write anything any more that was good until after he knew that she was insane,” he writes of Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda (page 183).  She was diagnosed in the 1930s with schizophrenia.

I don’t particularly like reading about people sitting around, getting drunk, gambling on horse races, talking about their sex lives, and having affairs, which is essentially the only “action” in A Moveable Feast. I think, then, a main reason I did enjoy the book was Hemingway’s descriptions of Paris. He made Paris in the 1920s seem like a lost world:

In the spring mornings I would work early while my wife still slept. The windows were open wide and the cobbles of the street were drying after the rain. The sun was drying the wet faces of the houses that faced the window. The shops were still shuttered. The goatherd came up the street blowing his pipes and a woman who lived on the floor above us came out onto the sidewalk with a big pot. (page 51)

I’ve only been to Paris once, and that was when I was in tourist mode. Yet, Hemingway still seemed to write of things that were familiar to me. I want to go back to Paris!

You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled food. (page 69)

Hemingway called the book A Moveable Feast because Paris stayed with him throughout his life, no matter where he went. He said:

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.[1]

I can see how the people he met influenced his writing, his lifestyle, and his family. Although I haven’t read the books of most of the people he met, the “starving” artists are all united in some ways.

In the end, I may have to revisit A Moveable Feast at some point after I’ve visited Paris again and after I’ve read more of the authors he met: Ford Maddox Ford, Ezra Pound, Ernest Walsh, Scott Fitzgerald.

Reviewed on December 29, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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