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Travel Book Review: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Melissa holding up a Kindle version of A Moveable Feast on her iPad in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. She is wearing a pink cardigan.
Posed photo shoot attempt. Here I am, on our balcony in West Kelowna, holding up my iPad. On it and hard to see is the cover of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. The glass of wine is a nice touch, no?

This is a review of A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition, edited by Ernest Hemingway’s grandson Seán Hemingway. I make the distinction because I have not read the original, published posthumously in 1964. While the original was put together with great care by his widow, journalist Mary Welsh Hemingway, and Harry Brague of Scribner’s, the two made editorial decisions that may have compromised its accuracy. At least, that’s the concern of Seán and Patrick Hemingway.  Scribner published The Restored Edition in 2009. 

Ernest died before deciding on a title for the book. Mary came up with A Moveable Feast. According to Ernest’s son Patrick, as he shares in The Restored Edition’s Foreword, she based it on a remark Ernest made to his friend Aaron Hotchner: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

A Moveable Feast

See Paris of the early 1920s through Papa Hemingway’s eyes, before he was Papa Hemingway, before the publication of his first novel, The Sun Also Rises. “In those days there was no money to buy books. Books you borrowed from the rental library of Shakespeare and Company, which was the library and bookstore of Sylvia Beach at 12 rue de l’Odéon.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda, Ford Maddox Ford, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound make appearances in the book. James Joyce turns up too. 

A Moveable Feast’s Paris is the Paris where writers wrote in cafés to keep warm in winter. At a time in Paris when for American ex-pats wine was thought of as “something as healthy and normal as food and also as a great giver of happiness and well-being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary, and I would not have thought of eating a meal without drinking either wine or cider or beer.”

If you’re a writer, A Moveable Feast, The Restored Edition has extra gifts within it. You can see Hemingway’s revisions in Part 2: Fragments. There’s also the gift of Hemingway’s perspectives on process. He talks with writers about writing and thinks a great deal about writing. “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

My Favorite Quotes from A Moveable Feast

  • Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.
  • Write the best story that you can and write it as straight as you can.
  • “Where’s home? It sounds like a charming place.”
  • There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other.
  • “We’re always lucky,” I said and like a fool I did not knock on wood. There was wood everywhere in that apartment to knock on too.
  • The one who is doing his work and getting satisfaction from it is not the one the poverty is hard on.
  • We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.
  • All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.
  • If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.

Places in Paris I Want to Visit Now That I’ve (Re)Read A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition
by Ernest Hemingway, edited by Seán Hemingway
Scribner
160 pp.
Released June 27th, 2009

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