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A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

19 Feb

NotEasterPublished posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway’s most beloved works. Since Hemingway’s personal papers were released in 1979, scholars have examined and debated the changes made to the text before publication. Now this new special restored edition presents the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published.

Featuring a personal foreword by Patrick Hemingway, Ernest’s sole surviving son, and an introduction by the editor and grandson of the author, Seán Hemingway, this new edition also includes a number of unfinished, never-before-published Paris sketches revealing experiences that Hemingway had with his son Jack and his first wife, Hadley. Also included are irreverent portraits of other luminaries, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ford Madox Ford, and insightful recollections of his own early experiments with his craft.

Sure to excite critics and readers alike, the restored edition of A Moveable Feast brilliantly evokes the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the unbridled creativity and enthusiasm that Hemingway himself experienced. In the world of letters it is a unique insight into a great literary generation, by one of the best American writers of the twentieth century.

Two people have mentioned moveable feasts (Easter in particular) to me in recent weeks and having heard good things about the book of the same name, it was fitting to give it a go.  Hemingway is one of those authors that leaves me constantly undecided, on the one hand there is his unconvincing monosyllabic dialogue and on the other hand there is The Old Man and the Sea.  This book I hoped would push me to make a firm decision about his work one way of the other.

Written with Hemingway’s trademark pared down style, as a series of vignettes on Paris life, I was immediately drawn into his time and experiences.  Set in the early to mid twenties at a time when the highly artistic gathered in paris, Mr H. gives us plenty of insight into the eating habits and thoughts of such famous names as Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, F. Scott Fitzgerald as well as on the subjects of skiing, books, racing  and so forth.

It is an engaging look at the writers life, living in relative poverty – although thankfully the currency exchange rate helps out in their favour on that score,  he never overly sentimentalises his life, writing or the poor quarter of the city he lives in.   The city is painted as not only vivid but also as ever so slightly nostalgic perhaps – yet still in the author’s macho style – which we can forgive the man for.

A lot of people come across badly, Stein as petty and self-absorbed, although she does make a good point about not buying clothes unless necessary, and Hadley (Mrs H.) seems very weak-willed and a bit dull, reminiscent of the love interest in A Farewell to Arms, a character who totally ruined that book for me. F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald seem like the most terrible match in history as well but are nonetheless fascinating.  Whether these people are presented as odious or not, it does bring the urge to explore their lives and works.

One suspect that these tales will differ from the versions of others and for all his unfair comments, Hemingway is not always the hero he paints himself to be,  It’s a flawed portrait, a human one that remains very lively.  For all the talk of writers struggling, the book at times does read like a restaurant menu, Hemingway loves to eat, rather like Samuel Pickwick from Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers which is a nice if accidental literary nod that pleased me a lot.

This memoir is indeed a moveable feast as are many other books, it’s a captivating book but one suspects there is more to these tales therein. I found the book started off strongly and finished in the same vein with the Fitzgerald chapters but I did feel there was a slight dip in the middle where the magic just wasn’t as strong. After all that though my interest and curiosity are still unabated as I still try to decide if I really do appreciate this guy’s literary output, never has a writer niggled me quite so much but I get the impression Hemingway would be quite pleased with that.

For those of you interested in seeing a bit more of Shakespeare and Company, the bookshop of the cover and one of Hemingway’s favourite haunts (and it’s easy to see why), my friend Tm did a guest post about it sometime back located here.

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54 Comments

Posted by on 19/02/2016 in Autobiography, Memoir

 

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54 responses to “A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

  1. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

    19/02/2016 at 21:42

    I don’t believe I’ve read this edition, I’m certainly willing to give it a go. My favorite Hemingway is For Whom the Bell Tolls and I do very much like The Old Man and the Sea. I visited Tom and Shakespeare and Company…made me miss the used book store I once frequented in Clearwater. Not the same as Shakespeare but certainly very interesting 🙂

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    • Ste J

      19/02/2016 at 22:15

      I had For Whom the Bells Tolls, not sure where it is now sadly and it was unread which makes it even worse. Used book shops are so much better for variety than the ones selling new books. A Moveable Feast certainly different from his fiction, alhough it retains certain nods to it. For myself, I’m going to try Fiesta: The Sun Always Rises next.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  2. Jill Weatherholt

    20/02/2016 at 00:22

    Oh…that dreaded saggy middle. It sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the honest review, Ste J!

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    • Ste J

      20/02/2016 at 13:58

      The strange thing is that each chapter is short so it really doesn’t need to dip in the middle, it just does, it’s strange but then again others may like those parts. Hemingway is an enigma to me, he infuriates me but it makes for interesting reviews.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  3. clarepooley33

    20/02/2016 at 02:45

    Have you seen the Woody Allen film ‘Midnight in Paris’? The protagonist goes back in time and meets Hemingway et al – quite enjoyable. I haven’t read anything by Hemingway – I think I have been put off by the macho image or something – not sure what. i think maybe this more auto-biographical book might be the way in for me.

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    • Ste J

      20/02/2016 at 14:17

      If not this book, The Old Man and the Sea is a great start, that is my favourite Hemingway book by far. I haven’t seen Midnight in Paris, I shall seek it out when time comes my way.

      Liked by 1 person

       
    • Liz

      20/02/2016 at 21:48

      Clare, I love Midnight in Paris – have seen it several times! Which is more than I can say for the amount of Hemmingway reading I have done, I am ashamed to admit 😳

      Liked by 1 person

       
  4. gargoylebruce

    20/02/2016 at 02:49

    I can imagine the look of despair on the face of the person who picked this up thinking it was a lighthearted memoir about the author’s love of picnicking.

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    • Ste J

      20/02/2016 at 14:05

      If that person was a bit of an alcoholic then they would be happy with it, other than that, without some knowledge of H. an chums then may not be the ideal book.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  5. Alastair Savage

    20/02/2016 at 08:13

    I feel exactly the same way about Hemingway. I loved The Old Man and Sea but I can;t stand a lot of his other works, or his macho heroes.
    There’s always Tender is the Night if you want to read about Scott and Zelda Fizgerald’s terrible, traumatic marriage breakdown. It’s hard to get into but the last hundred pages or so are immaculate.

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    • Ste J

      20/02/2016 at 14:35

      I’ll probably end up reading all of Hemingway’s work and still be undecided about him…

      Tender is the Night is a book that has been mentioned to me before, it wasn’t something I would have read at the time but with this as back story it now appeals a lot more.

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  6. Andrea Stephenson

    20/02/2016 at 18:35

    You inspired me to get a copy of The Old Man and the Sea – though I haven’t read it yet. I like the sound of this one as I love to read accounts of writers’ lives – but I’ll read The Old Man and the Sea first!

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    • Ste J

      20/02/2016 at 20:10

      They are two different beasts and both are worth a look, having read a Hemingway novel first, you have that knowledge of how he writes which makes A Moveable Feast more rewarding.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  7. macjam47

    21/02/2016 at 03:11

    I have not read this though I did read his Old Man and the Sea in high school.

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    • Ste J

      21/02/2016 at 08:52

      TOMatS is well worth a reread and I suspect you would appreciate it all the more now, AMF on the other hand is an interesting if one sided account of the life of a writer, fascinating nonetheless though.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • macjam47

        21/02/2016 at 13:09

        You are probably right on the reread. I’ll have to add it to the ole’ tumbling TBR.

        Liked by 1 person

         
  8. Bumba

    21/02/2016 at 06:58

    My favorite Hemingway is his Nick Adams Stories. I always thought Hemingway was a bit overrated, but when he talks about his early days, the fishing trips, his boyhood….it’s very pure stuff.

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    • Ste J

      21/02/2016 at 08:55

      i haven’t come across these as of yet but authors do usually excel at the autobiographical done as fiction type stuff. I think he is overrated yet unlike other authors this seems to bother me a lot, not sure why…

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      • Bumba

        21/02/2016 at 18:06

        Me too. But those early stories where he calls himself Nick Adams are very fine ( as Hem himself might say, very fine). Up in Michigan, the Indian Camp, several other early ones are very effective. He had an eye for the essential. Ever read Woody Allen’s stories about Paris in the 20’s? He does a funny bit about Hemingway.

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        • Ste J

          23/02/2016 at 18:46

          I haven’t read those, I will venture forth to the library and see if they can get hold of them, When Hemingway gets it right, he does it in style I will definitely look them up.

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          • Bumba

            23/02/2016 at 19:39

            I had a paperback called the nick Adams stories, but they are in other collections. I don’t fish, but Hemingway does fishing par ec

            Liked by 1 person

             
  9. Jeff

    21/02/2016 at 20:23

    One of those books that requires some knowledge beforehand of the ouevre to the author. I still have Marguerite Duras’s wartime diaries to start. How does Moveable Feast rate in respect of historical depiction beyond literature and literary life? Or is there much of it beyond to EH?

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    • Ste J

      23/02/2016 at 18:43

      It doesn’t go to far outside the literary loafing of the creative set, there are a few nods to racing and hotels and not being able to find a thermometer when you need one but it is all very incidental to Hemingway and chums.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  10. Jilanne Hoffmann

    23/02/2016 at 03:41

    I’ve spent some time in Key West during the Hemingway Festival. His house is interesting as are his six-toed cats (the descendants of the ones he had). But his writing has always left me cold. Someone said that you should read all of Faulkner to fill up your head and then read all of Hemingway to clear it out. I tend to enjoy the Faulkner end of the spectrum much better. Hemingway was too macho for me. And his female characters were too flat. But the stories that surrounded his life were very entertaining, things like installing the urinal from his favorite bar in the garden next to the swimming pool that his wife, Pauline, had built. Something about “pissing away his money”….
    You get the idea. 😀

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    • Ste J

      23/02/2016 at 19:17

      Hemingway was a character even if his books don’t always hit the mark. I totally agree about his female characters, I wouldn’t be able to stay in the same room as one in real life, as it is I struggle to stay in the same room as the book when some of his characters get to talking.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  11. Morgan

    23/02/2016 at 19:52

    I confess my only touch by Hemingway is The Old Man and the Sea, and although I naturally admire the writing, the story itself made me ever so angry! Dang Fish 😡 Good things its just a metaphor, right?

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    • Ste J

      23/02/2016 at 20:08

      I did enjoy that book, it was the strongest of his books that I have thus far come across. The fish gave as good as it got, it was a bit Moby Dick for a while!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  12. shadowoperator

    24/02/2016 at 00:38

    Hi, Ste J. Though I love reading a roman a clef, and don’t always mind reading memoirs, Hemingway annoys me. Of course, there are moments when I don’t mind being annoyed, as when he makes an appropriately bitter or ironic remark. Some people are just funnier when they’re nasty than others. Still, there are limits, and I didn’t like everything about his revelations about everyone he knew. I find it especially odd that he criticizes Fitzgerald so much for his drinking habits when he himself was Fitzgerald’s enabler at some points, and drank heavily himself. Of course in the end, it caught up with him too, but it’s sort of like feeling superior because you didn’t die as soon as the other guy: not nice. But I do like some things, like “The Sun Also Rises,” and “Islands in the Stream.” We all have our preferences, I guess.

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    • Ste J

      24/02/2016 at 10:05

      He does tend to come across as the knowledgable hero, I think he does it too much and so it is hard to take seriously after a time. He lists his drinking habits happily yet Fitzgerald is introduced and established as this binge drinker, it makes me wonder if he was that myopic or just wanting to seem superior. The Sun Also Rises is my next read, on account of it being the only other one that I own, if you like it then it shall definitely be a god read.

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  13. Letizia

    24/02/2016 at 16:15

    I’m not a fan of Hemingway’s novels but I liked this memoir, especially as I was living in Paris when I read it. You have such a talent for writing reviews.

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    • Ste J

      25/02/2016 at 14:32

      He’s an interesting chap, I have never felt the pull of Paris but this book helps change that somewhat, maybe it is the love vibe that puts me off…whatever talent I have is thanks to the continued support of my dear blogger friends and their encouragement as well as their own fascinating insights.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  14. Resa

    24/02/2016 at 21:00

    Eek! Never was a fan of his, but you might write a review that would make me reconsider a read.

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    • Ste J

      25/02/2016 at 13:56

      Challenge accepted, although it will probably be a while before I tackle one of his works again, such is my book pile.

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  15. Sharat Pathak

    25/02/2016 at 13:28

    I have read only Old Man And THE SEA from him. After reading about him from your pen I am sure I will read more of him

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    • Ste J

      25/02/2016 at 14:44

      I find his working intriguing some I love, like The Old Man and the Sea and others leave me indifferent, he is a challenge. I hope you find more of his works that grab you.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  16. Sherri

    26/02/2016 at 20:05

    I am so intrigued by Hemingway, but like you, not fully decided… A shame it goes off the boil in the middle, but other than that, this does look to be a fascinating read (shamed I haven’t read the original…). That whole time in history, in Paris, the writers…I wonder if we will ever have such a time again… Another great review my friend.

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    • Ste J

      27/02/2016 at 10:56

      Perhaps us all meeting on WordPress is the new equivalent of Paris, it’s cheaper on here at least. I’m going to keep reading Hemingway until I go either crazy or I actually make up my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  17. Claire 'Word by Word'

    27/02/2016 at 20:53

    So did it make you want to read more of Hemingway? Personally I kind of enjoy more reading around and about Hemingway and his friends and wives than I do reading his stories.

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    • Ste J

      28/02/2016 at 08:47

      I have to read more Hemingway, I am compelled to do so until I can make my mind up if I like his writing or not, which is a way to sell books that not many authors go for. I have heard mention of a few books around that Paris group and I will be branching into that as time and money allow. I just crave the page, what can I say lol.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  18. angela

    27/03/2016 at 02:03

    Been enjoying catching up on your writing, Ste J. As a semi-francophile with a penchant for brief prose, this has always been a fave. It isn’t monumental, but it does give on a sense of place and time … to linger amongst that circle of literary fame.

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    • Ste J

      27/03/2016 at 09:12

      It is certainly good to see you around again. It’s hard to imagine such a world as they lived in now but it feels good. I am curious to find out whether other more descriptive writers did a more enveloping job.

      Like

       

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