Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast

By Darcie Hart Riedner

A perfect way to celebrate Spring is a quick visit to Paris via Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, the legendary author’s memoir of living in the City Of Lights in the 1920’s.

The book was published in 1964, after Hemingway’s death in 1961, by his fourth Mary Hemingway.  Ernest Hemingway began to write A Moveable Feast after he discovered a trunk containing notebooks filled with recollections or sketches of his years spent in Paris.

Hemingway’s circle of friends in Paris would come to include notable literati of the day such as Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. For all of the glitz and glamour associated with this so-called Lost Generation of writers living in Paris, Hemingway also captures some very down-to- earth emotions including his feelings over the end of his first marriage to wife Hadley Richardson. Although his marriage ended over an affair, and Hemingway would marry three other women, he wrote of Hadley in A Moveable Feast; “I wish I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.”

The name for the novel was suggested by longtime Hemingway friend and biographer A.E. Hotchner. On Hotchner’s first visit to Paris, Hemingway told him; “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.”

Be sure when read A Moveable Feast, you have the original work with a 1964 copyright. A restored edition of the book was released in 2009 by Hemingway grandson Seán Hemingway, but this version drew criticism from several arenas for liberal editing changes.

One of the most notable challenges to the restored edition came from friend and biographer Hotchner in an op-ed piece written for the New York Times in July of 2009. Hotchner was with Hemingway in 1956 when the trunk containing the lost notebooks was returned to him. It had been sitting in storage in the basement of the Ritz in Paris since 1930, something which Hemingway had forgotten. The trunk was brought up and while going through it, Hochner recalled Hemingway’s reaction to finding his lost writing; “ on the bottom, something that elicited a joyful reaction from Ernest: “The notebooks! So that’s where they were! Enfin!”

Hotchner continued to explain in the NY Times piece; “There were two stacks of lined notebooks like the ones used by schoolchildren in Paris when he lived there in the ’20s. Ernest had filled them with his careful handwriting while sitting in his favorite café, nursing a café crème. The notebooks described the places, the people, the events of his penurious life.”  Hotchner maintains Ernest Hemingway’s involvement and intent for the work is reflected in the 1964 book not the 2009 edition which Hotchner wrote was “significantly reworked.”

A Moveable Feast is part travelogue, part love story, part history lesson and all Hemingway at his bold, brash best. Buy or borrow carefully, to insure you are indeed getting the 209 page original published in 1964. It can be found in paperback ranging from $5 to $11, depending on whether it is new or used. Hard-bound, it runs about $22.