Thursday, July 21, 2011

More Hemingway...

Today's post wasn't going to be about Ernest Hemingway, but The Writer's Almanac reminded me of his birthday. Hemingway has been on my mind this month (Midnight in Paris, A Moveable Feast, a few stories), so the planned review must wait another day.

From today's Writer's Almanac:

Today is the birthday of Ernest Hemingway (books by this author), born in 1899 in Cicero — now Oak Park — Illinois. He started his writing life as a journalist, but when he was in Paris after World War I, working as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, he was encouraged to take a more literary turn by other American writers like Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein. His first collection of short stories, Our Time, was published in 1925.

Hemingway's memoir A Moveable Feast (published posthumously in 1964) is about those years in Paris, and those writers. The title was chosen by his widow, Mary, from something Hemingway wrote to a friend: "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." It is sentimental and cruel by turns, and not entirely honest, since he probably overstated the level of poverty he experienced there, but as he concludes the brief preface: "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."

The memoir begins in medias res: "Then there was the bad weather. It would come in one day when the fall was over. We would have to shut the windows in the night against the rain and the cold wind would strip the leaves from the trees in the Place Contrescarpe. The leaves lay sodden in the rain and the wind drove the rain against the big green autobus at the terminal and the Café des Amateurs was crowded and the windows misted over from the heat and the smoke inside." And it ends, "There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. [...] But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy."

*photo by Yousuf Karsh


  1. I love this post, JoAnn, and so appreciate learning more about him as A Moveable Feast is turning out to be my favorite Summer Read. I'm currently reading A Paris Wife which is a carefully researched novel told from the point of view of Hadley. I highly recommend it if you have time, since those two books, along with the film Midnight in Paris make a fine package.

    Your new blog look is lovely. xo

    p.s. It's so interesting to know that Hemingway grew up not an hour from where I live. We're related, probably. ;)

  2. Thanks for the wonderful post. I'm stuck on Hemingway, too. I've been reading him on and off for the past year. I finished In Out Time Yesterday. A Moveable Feast has been the most enjoyable read - bringing Hemingway and 1920's Paris to life.

  3. I've been thinking a bit about Hemingway too, incidentally. I'm almost done with Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth, and I feel a major WWI kick coming on. I read almost all of Farewell to Arms when I was in high school, and I'm intrigued to go back and read it now with the background I've gained from Brittain's memoir.

    I like the new look, too! Very summery!

  4. A Moveable Feast is my favorite Hemingway book, and one of my top favorites of all books. When we visited Paris forty (!!) years ago, it was a great joy to be at Place Contrescarpe and look up and see their windows.

  5. To Bellezza in case she comes back, there's a biography of Hadley I own, but haven't read yet called Hadley by Gioia Diliberto, 1992. I want to read this rather than the fiction version.

  6. I never read this book and after your post I'll do it ! Thanks !

  7. Bellezza - I just downloaded the audio version of The Paris Wife. This is turning into my Hemingway summer. BTW, Nan left a message for you in the comments on this post.

    Julie - You're welcome :-)

    GrilsWannaRead - Isn't it funny how many of us are reading Hemingway this summer?

    Read the Book - Hope you're having a good summer. I'll look forward to following your WWI journey!

    Nan - I sure hope to visit Paris one of these years. What a thrill to see all the places mentioned in the book!

    Annie - I hope you get to read Hemingway soon. Thanks for visiting!

  8. When we were in Key West last February my husband bought me A Moveable Feast – the newer edition with the extra chapters. I really enjoyed it. My first Hemingway book was when I was in school in England in the 50s, reading in English, The Old Man and the Sea. I have received A Paris Wife and Paris was Ours – so I’ll read them soon and will wait for your Paris was Ours review. Right now I am reading several books, in French, I bought when I was in Paris last May. I see you read Le Ventre de Paris de Emile Zola. I read it in French after seeing that it was one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite books. You know it gives a good idea about the Halles, but the book is more about the culture of French bourgeoisie I think. I miss Les Halles – we used to go there late at night to eat on week-ends after we went dancing in the left bank.

  9. Vagabonde - It would be wonderful to read Zola in French, but English will have to do for now. I'm slowly working my way through the essays in Paris Was Ours and have just started The Paris Wife on audio. My copy of A Moveable Feast does not have the extra material... think I'll need to get the restored edition. Thanks for the comment!

  10. Hi JoAnn - thank you for all of your contributions to Paris in July this year. I wanted to let you know that you have been chosen as a prize winner for week 3 - congratulations! Can you please email me at with your address so that I can mail you your prize.

  11. Karen - How exciting! I'll email you right now.

  12. This is a beautiful post - how fortunate for all of us that other writers encouraged Hemingway's literary side.
    It's been years since I read A Movable Feast which I really loved. I think I have to get a copy!

  13. Amy - I think I'm going to use a birthday gift card to purchase the restored edition of A Moveable Feast and a collection of Hemingway's stories.

  14. And, I learned something today. had to go look up 'medias res' and it seems I probably should know the term.
    I have not read A Movable Feast. Yet.

  15. Bkclubcare - Ha! I thought I was the only one that had to look that up ;-)


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Be sure to check back, I always respond. Due to a recent increase in spam, all comments are moderated.


Related Posts with Thumbnails