Monday, September 3, 2012

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

After finishing The Paris Wife, it only seemed natural to read Hemingway's version of the time he and Hadley Richardson Hemingway spent in Paris in the early 1920s. A Moveable Feast was published posthumously in 1964. The book was edited by his fourth wife, Mary. A more recent edition was published in 2009 that was edited by a Seán, a grandson of Hemingway and Pauline Pfeiffer.

A Moveable Feast is truly a memoir in the most literal sense of the word. I lost count of how many times Hemingway used the phrase, "I remember." He has fond memories of this time in Paris interacting with all the authors who were living and working there. He leads us to believe that he was a doting father to Bumby and almost apologetic for the way he treated Hadley. The reader does get a glimpse into his real personality especially in his relationship with Gertrude Stein. I found it quite amusing that he never acknowledged Alice Toklas by name, but merely referred to her as a friend.

Hemingway recounts his delight in all his travels, especially to Shruns and the Alps. I had hoped for more about the vacations in Spain, but those accounts were sparse. Perhaps, this is because the memoir is virtually void of mention of Pauline, or at least the edition that I read. The most amusing and nearly slapstick account is of the trip that Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald take to Lyon to recover Zelda's car. It was a comic of errors and to read Hemingway's description of the hypochondriacal Fitzgerald on his funeral pyre was reason enough to read the book. That passage should be required reading in high school English classes prior to reading a novel of Fitzgerald or Hemingway. These were REAL people. It is hard to comprehend how young Hemingway was during this time, but one gets the sense of all the struggles and demons in his life that haunted him up until he committed suicide in 1961.

Hemingway, for as poorly as he appeared to live in Paris, always seemed to have enough money for drink and entertainment. His descriptions of nightlife and the Bohemian scene are vivid and colorful. With a map of Paris in hand, the reader can retrace his steps and find the landmarks so important to his life. The memoir is intriguing and spurs the reader, at least this one, to want to read more about the "Lost Generation." There are not enough hours in the day or days in the year to investigate all one's interests. 

A Moveable Feast is a nostalgic look back at a life and time. It allows the reader an introspective look at one of the greatest American authors who himself is reflecting on his past. An easy and very worthwhile read.