A Moveable Feast: Ernest Hemingway
Do classics always live up to their reputation?
Ernest Hemingway, born in Illinois 1899, served in the Red Cross during WWI as an ambulance driver and was severely wounded in Italy. He then moved to Paris in 1921 and devoted himself to writing fiction. He is well respected for both his fiction and non-fiction work. Both Ernest Hemingway and Scott T Fitzgerald are famous expats of the Lost Generation that lived in Paris in the 1920s who continue to draw readers into a moment of history.
Hemingway, Fitzgerald and other famous expats of the 1920s frequented many cafes and spots in Paris that are still a drawcard for tourists every year… me included! Brassiere Lipp, one of the oldest brassieres in Paris, a favourite of poets Paul Verlaine and Guillaume Apollinaire is a fabulous place to break up your day of exploring Paris with a glass of red wine and a serve of hearty cassoulet at lunch time or a welcome place at dinner.
Did you know that A Moveable Feast was published in 1964, three years after Hemingway’s death in 1961? And that Hemingway had composed an additional ten chapters for this book which were in varying stages of completion upon his death? Some book editions contain these incomplete chapters. Whilst they provide additional insight into Hemingway’s everyday life in Paris at the time of writing, it is important for the reader to remember that they are incomplete and were preserved in only their handwritten first draft or in a rewritten second draft.
In A Moveable Feast the short, declarative sentences and terse prose Hemingway is famous for, make easy and enjoyable reading. I love the snapshot of Paris, the musings of his life with Hadley, the honest depiction of horse racing obsessions, the trials of being a writer, the arrival of a first child, family holiday experiences, the challenge of love and the sharing of everyday life with friends. It is written so that you feel the author is directly sharing his experiences and thoughts with you.
I recommend this classic for a number of reasons: insightful historical snapshots; well written prose to enjoy; the contextual references to many other famous people such as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Beach (owner of Shakespeare & Co bookstore) and Gertrude Stein; and knowing that you are reading one of the important works of English literature.
I am now most interested to learn more of his wife Hadley Richardson and their life together. Are her recollections the same as recorded by her husband in A Moveable Feast? What are her feelings on their divorce and the other love of his life, Pauline? The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is described as bringing to life the “deeply romantic study of a doomed relationship” (Kate Saunders The Times). The biography of the woman destined to remain “just the early wife, the Paris wife” is now on my list of books to read.
Have you read this classic and what did you think of it? Have you visited any of Paris’ cafes famous for its patronage by writers, poets or artists? Until next time… best wishes