Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

"If you are luck enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, the wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
-Ernest Hemingway to a friend in 1950

A trip to another place and time...
A Moveable Feast, published posthumously in 1964, is Ernest Hemingway's memoir of Paris.  It did, indeed, prove to be a feast for the senses as sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of  the city came alive. Through short chapters, which can almost be read as a series of individual essays, the reader truly experiences Hemingway's Paris of the 1920's.

The book started slowly for me. Must the reader already know Paris to appreciate this work? Perhaps a pre-existing love for Hemingway is necessary? These worries were soon put to rest and I fell under the spell of A Moveable Feast.

I loved Hemingway's description of the city, its cafes, and the seasons.
With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. (p. 45)
I sometimes laughed at his freely-shared opinions of other writers:
I had always avoided looking at Ford [Madox Ford] when I could and I always held my breath when I was near him in a close room... (p. 83)
...I had been told Katherine Mansfield was a good short-story writer, but trying to read her after Chekhov was like hearing the carefully artificial tales of a young old-maid compared to those of an articulate and knowing physician who was a good and simple writer. (p. 133)
Tolstoi made the writing of Stephen Crane on the Civil War seem like the brilliant imagining of a sick boy who had never seen war but had only read the battles and chronicles and seen the Brady photographs that I had read and seen at my grandparent's house. (p. 133)
"I've been wondering about Dostoyevsky," I said. "How can a man write so badly, so unbelievably badly, and make you feel so deeply?" (p. 137)
My favorite sections involved his friendship with F. Scott  and Zelda Fitzgerald, and inspired plans for a reread of FSF's Tender is the Night.  The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, a novel that focuses on Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, has also been added to my wish list. Perhaps that will be my first book for Paris in July 2012!

A Moveable Feast has earned a spot in my permanent library. Perhaps I will even trade in my old paperback for a hardcover restored edition. This is a book to be enjoyed over and over again.

Paris in July is hosted by Karen and Tamara.

My rating:


  1. I agree. A Moveable Feast is a book to be read over and over again. I'm glad The Paris Wife is on your wish list. It is an excellent companion read with A Moveable Feast. I think you'll love it!

  2. I read this twice although I don't remember it! But I remember loving it each time I read it, if that counts! :--) I think it makes it more meaningful if one reads it, say, while on the plane to Paris.... (a good idea for a 'read-along", don't you think?!!! maybe it could be a read-along/go-along!)

  3. I loved it! The early pages (Gertrude Stein, being hungry in Paris) were my favorites, though, but the road trip with F. Scott was priceless. I'm glad you enjoyed it, too! (Your new Paris read looks intriguing, too. Looking forward to hearing about it.)
    A bientot!

  4. Ooh I love the idea of this being a feast to the senses! I must read this as some point.

  5. You've made me want to experience this book JoAnn!! Thanks so much. I would love to visit Paris one day and this may motivate me!!

  6. I really need to read this. I love hearing about Paris in the Belle Epoque and the post-WWI era.

  7. GirlsWannaRead - Yes, your review pushed me over the edge. Don't know if I'll be able to wait until next summer to read The Paris Wife.

    Rhapsodyinbooks - Read-along/go-along?? I love it! Wonder if there's a travel agent out there who can plan a book blogger's trip to Paris for us.

    Audrey - Still can't figure out why it was a slow start for me (graduation week distraction, perhaps?), but this was a great book. Am really enjoying Paris Was Ours... even talked with the author on twitter today!

    Vivienne - This was such an enjoyable book! Makes me wish I could have been there, too.

    Staci - I really want to visit Paris, too! See my comment to Jill above... maybe a book blogger's trip??

  8. E.L. Fay - Yes, you should read this! Try and get the restored edition though...I need to purchase it and compare for myself.

  9. This is one I've been feeling I should read for so long. Not because I really knew anything about it; it just seemed like one of those books. But now you've given me a real reason!

  10. Glad you enjoyed it. I certainly did.

  11. Lisa - I hope you are able to read this soon. It really was extraordinary.

    Pagesofjulia - Thanks for stopping by! I tried to comment on your blog this morning, but it may have gone to spam... I always have trouble with Wordpress.

  12. "..I had been told Katherine Mansfield was a good short-story writer, but trying to read her after Chekhov was like hearing the carefully artificial tales of a young old-maid compared to those of an articulate and knowing physician who was a good and simple writer. (p. 133) "-as a Mansfield lover all I can say is "Ouch"! though I can see no basis for called Mansfield a "young old maid" and considered that Ford Madox Ford helped Hemingway get started his comments seem kind of mean spirited and petty-Ford was way the greater genius at his best than Hemingway-IMO

  13. Mel u - I was surprised by the comment about Mansfield, too! Was wondering about Ford - I'd read somewhere that his personal hygiene may not have been the best. I'd really like to read his work, especially knowing that he helped Hemingway get started. Hemingway was quite a character!

  14. The comment on Mansfield seems like either jealousy or prejudice against a woman writer-I have not read anything on the personal care of Ford Madox Ford-he helped Joyce, Pound, Hemingway, Rhys, Elliot and a number of others get started through the literary journal he edited-

  15. Mel u - I think you're right about the jealously -even Virginia Woolf is said to have been jealous of Mansfield!

  16. I agree, this was a great book. The Paris Wife is now also on my TBR list.

  17. Rikki - I just started The Paris Wife on audio today!


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