Tuesday 17 July 2018

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast is a series of vignettes of Hemingway's time in Paris in the 1920s. It begins 'Then there was the bad weather' as though we have just stepped in mid-conversation and the reader is immediately swept into his world. He describes a happy time where he could easily spend a day writing in a cafe before going home to his wife Hadley, who receives much affection in this little book. They struggle to make ends meet as he tries to find his way as an author but they live well. He describes in detail his surroundings and those sharing the city from his fellow literary figures to the fishermen at the river. Life is described realistically and yet it feels as though everything is tinged with romanticism in this city that he so loved.

His portraits of other writers with whom he associated are often cutting and he does not hold back in his impressions. He writes of a disastrous trip to Lyon with Scott Fitzgerald to pick up a car in which he had hoped to learn much on the discipline of writing. Instead, he returns having spent more than intended and learnt only that Fitzgerald cannot handle his drink. We see many times on his journey to literary enlightenment his youthful naivety undone. 

Written at the end of his life and published posthumously, it manages to retain a genuine feel, as though he had written it much earlier. He does not speak of the present but there are hints at his regret which can only have come with time. His reminiscences may also be coloured by the contrast of his state when writing and the happier times when he was on the brink of adulthood and success. A beautiful book that encapsulates the magic, creativity, and joy he felt in 1920s Paris.

'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 always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.' - A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

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