Reading A Moveable Feast is a great pleasure. It breathes Paris, even almost a century later, very recognisable to the current day inhabitant. Although it’s scene is not set in ‘my quarter’, the atmosphere is very Parisian and immediately familiar. Also some aspects of expat life have not changed much: trying to blend in, having mainly international friends and traveling more than average. It’s a very good read, and it is also one that I would recommend to anybody who’s coming to live in Paris. It should be in the New Parisian’s welcome pack, if there was one. I liked the way how it gives insight in how Hemingway thought about writing and being a good writer, how he shows the struggle, not only financial one, but also the personal one, of a young man coming of age. And then there is the last chapter. The chapter where the fuss is about. Apparently, the grandson of Hemingway finds that his grandmother is not being described favorably, and so he has organised an altered version of the book. Of course he claims that this altered version is acually closer to the version Hemingway intended to publish. But somehow, that doesn’t feel right while reading the last chapter. A Moveable Feast is one of the last works Hemingway wrote, before he committed suicide. And the whole book reads like a memory of happy times, in spite of the lack of funds; or as the last words read “when we were very poor and very happy”. This was the period when Hemingway had just finished his first novel, and basically, everything was about to change. And this change came also with a change of partner, that, looking back on life some 30 years later, he might have wondered about whether it was the best thing to do. I have not read the altered version, but the 1964 version of A Moveable Feast is not only a nice guide to Paris, but also a fantastic insight in how a great writer found his vocation.
From the first time I came across one of his stories, when I saw the movie based on his The Old Man and The Sea, I was intrigued by Ernest Hemingway. His style of writing, direct, a bit on the rough side, is not what I normally prefer, but his stories always tend to grab me, as does the myth around the man. It is because of him that I tried Mojito’s while I was more in a cocktails-are-for-girls phase of my life, I had to go visit Finca Vigía when I was in Cuba and because of Fiesta, I am quite interested in going to see a bull fight, despite all sort of objections one could obviously have against them. So, when recently a bit of a fight broke out over a ‘restored’ version of A Moveable Feast, his posthumously published memoirs of the early Paris years, I had to go and get myself an original copy. (And what better place to buy it than at Shakespeare and Company.)