Gerald Sinstadt's Reviews > A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
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Jun 08, 11

bookshelves: biography
Read from May 24 to June 01, 2011

The introduction makes clear that this is a collection of chapters/sketches relating to Ernest Hemingway's time in Paris between the wars. Chronology is at best variable; arranging the order seems to have been somewhat arbitary. What emerges is a multi-layered portrait of a city at an interesting period of artistic life; of a few famous people who lived there; and of a marriage that progresses from tranquil happiness to disintegration. Hadley, the author's first wife, is the victim; much of the book reads like a remorseful apology for his part in the failure.

The incidental recreation of Paris in the 1920's - the cafés, the race tracks, the apartment above the sawmill where the Hemingways lived - yields some vivid vignettes. The goatherd driving his goats through the street, pausing to milk one for a customer, calls for a readjustment of one's Parisian preconceptions.

Of the people, there are insights into Gertrud Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and especially Scott Fitgerald. The boxer Larry Gains appears and, with him, the macho Hemingway, showing off what he knows about the fight game. There is also the sentimental Tatie - the dialogue that accompanies his hair-growing contest with Hadley is almost too embarrassing to read.

But through it all there is Hemingway wrestling with the business of writing, frequently returning to the conviction that what is left out reinforces what remains - a philosophy that can be seen in some of the better sketches. Of course, the book is uneven but as the long sentences unroll, held together with multiple conjunctions and a minimum of punctuation, the master's hand is apparent.
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