Jay's Reviews > A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
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Mar 07, 15

bookshelves: literature-united-states, favorites
Read from August 27 to 30, 2011 — I own a copy

A Moveable Feast, published posthumously in 1964, is Hemingway’s memoir of his Paris years (1921-1926). Semi-autobiographical as many of his works, it is Hemingway at some of his best in regard to style and voice. It is also Hemingway displaying openly his meanness, disloyalty and self-centeredness.

Post WWI Paris of the American expatriate has always held a fascination for me. The vision of Americans retreating (or is it withdrawing) into a ravaged Europe that is itself in the rumbling turmoil of the antechamber of WWII I find strangely mesmerizing. Those Americans, the “Lost Generation” [Gertrude Stein], created some of the best and more intriguing literary works in the English language. Fitzgerald, Pound, T.S. Eliot, Ford, Stein, dos Passos, Miller, Hemingway—their names and others continue to echo today even as some of their works slide into oblivion. Our fascination either with those years or with the artists who lived them helps explain the current popularity of Woody Allen’s film, Midnight in Paris (2011) and Paula McLain’s novel, The Paris Wife (2011).

There is something about living temporarily in a foreign culture that can be liberating. The experience can open you to new ideas, new understandings, new ways of seeing life and your own socio-cultural roots. But just as often, living in a foreign culture does not really engage the impermanent expatriate in that culture’s core. The Paris émigrés who populate A Moveable Feast are not enmeshed in the lives of the French. The French move at their margins, serving or assisting them but not melded into their circle. The Lost Generation created in Paris its own world that really had little to do with the French and which centered around alcohol, art, travel, cafes and literary salons. There is about those days an ambience of creative dissipation and decadence. The Lost Generation essentially moved and lived outside of French mores, disengaged both from French and American social and cultural constraints and forming their own community operating flexibly and often in relaxed luxury.

It was that Paris in which Hemingway lived. Living with him at the time were his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and, by 1923, his new-born son, Jack. It was a particularly productive time for Hemingway when he wrote some of his most lasting prose: in addition to short stories were the novels The Sun also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. It was also a time of several instrumental friendships with people like Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald who were important in helping him forge his characteristic style that influenced so many future writers.

A Moveable Feast captures so much of Hemingway and his memory during his time in Europe. When read in conjunction with The Sun Also Rises, a reader will come away enriched.
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