A Moveable Feast is a collection of essays written about Hemingway’s time in Paris in the 1920s. During that time, he was in his mid-20s and had just quit his job as a journalist to pursue fiction writing full-time — with only a few published short stories and no novel under his belt at the time. He’s married to his first wife, Hadley, and his young son Jack is a part of several stories. The memoir was first published in 1964, three years after Hemingway committed suicide, and was originally edited by his fourth wife, Mary.
The book contains 20 short essays, and is actually a quick read. His relationships to other literary figures of the time — Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgeraland — are highlighted, in a sometimes humorous way (especially in regards to Fitzgerald). It references his connections with English-language bookstore Shakespeare & Company and its original owner Sylvia Beach. He frequents restaurants such as La Closerie de Lilas, which are still in existence today. And in case you’re a fan of literary tourism, I’ve just stumbled upon this handy travel guide to visit some of Hemingway’s favorite Parisian spots, many of which are referenced in the book.
Although Hemingway and Hadley were dirt poor at the time, there is just something romantic I find about their life there. Perhaps it is the abandoning of a conventional way of life in pursuit of art, maybe it is the thought of having drinks in small cafés with some of the most brilliant minds of an age.
My favorite story was “A False Spring,” which talks about the Hemingways visiting the Parisian racetracks to supplement their meager income, celebrating with champagne when winning on a long-shot, dining at Michaud’s restaurant, and memories of their time in Switzerland — which got me thinking about my own time in Switzerland when I was in my mid-20s.
Overall, I enjoyed A Moveable Feast better than Hemingway’s fiction thus far, and I recommend it if you’re looking for a quick, fun read, and if you enjoy travel memoirs or literary history.