-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.