Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

Then there was the bad weather. It would come in one day when the fall was over. You 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. 

Ernest Hemingway is not one of my favorite writers, but I certainly do like him. And I loved A Moveable Feast, his memoir of his time spent in Paris in the 1920s. Hemingway describes many of the famous artists he associated with, like F. Scott Fitzgerald and G
ertrude Stein and James Joyce and Ezra Pound and (though she wasn't really an artist) Sylvia Beach. He also describes his wife Hadley, and their son. This had particular relevance for me because I just recently read The Paris Wife, which was from Hadley Richardson's perspective. Here we have what life was like from Ernest's point of view. He chronicles his writing days, where he would sit and write and eat oranges and then walk along the river, he chronicles the horse races (and one familiar event that appears in The Paris Wife), and he tells of specific incidents. 

I read "the restored edition", and I don't really know if it's "the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published." Many reviewers on Amazon seem to suggest that Sean Hemingway manipulated the work, claiming that Hemingway's fourth wife had changed it. But he's doing the same thing. And really, who can tell what Hemingway himself actually intended? He can't tell us anymore. 

I loved the descriptions of Paris in this novel, of its high-life and its low-life, of Ernest and Hadley's poverty, their struggle to get by, and his struggle to create. He describes it all really well, though obviously he is biased. There are chapters about the race tracks, about walking by the river, about various famous figures, and of course, about eating. And eating cheaply, but well.

I think I liked this book more than any of Hemingway's novels (I've read The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls). It was more compelling somehow, and easier to get through. Perhaps I'm just more interested in Hemingway's life than the stuff he writes about. Fishing and wars aren't the most interesting for me, but life in Paris is, with its famous authors and bars and cafes and cheap apartments. Hemingway paints a fascinating portrait of what life was like then for artists and writers.

Read A Moveable Feast:
  • if you like Ernest Hemingway
  • if you like memoir
  • if you like books set in Paris
236 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

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