My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you were serious about your creativity in the 1920’s, Paris was the place to be. There was a large community of American ex-pats living there, many of them writers who would become renowned throughout the world. Ernest Hemingway was just a beginner then, but a promising one, and, surrounded by such prominent writers as Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, he learned to be first-rate. With his first wife, Hadley, and in time, baby son Bumby (John), Hemingway was living a dream, a very Bohemian, romantic dream. Within a few years, of course, the marriage would shatter, and Hemingway would move on to take his place in the center of the literary stage. In A Moveable Feast, written in the early 1960’s, he compiled a series of essays into memoir form describing the joys of being poor and of having work that he loved.
The Hemingways were poor in a genteel sort of way, and with the prodigious daily drinking that went on, it’s easy to see why there sometimes remained little money for food. He is known today for his influence of American literature, which was to use real people and situations in all his work and to keep sentences short and “true”. Wit, irony, and honesty are pervasive. Essentially, all of Hemingway’s fiction was about his own life and self. There are those who believe that, in his only actual memoir, there was also a good deal of fiction, of bending the truth. Perhaps so. But how many writers can convey, in chapters of only a few pages, so much connotative meaning? A Moveable Feast is genuine in its portrayal of a young writer’s struggles and loss of innocence, and of a special place and time never to be recovered, literally or figuratively. Paris is “a moveable feast”, he said, because once you have lived there when young, “then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you.”