I read Hemingway for the first time when I was quite young, starting with The Old Man and The Sea. I do not have a lot of memories of that novel, except that I loved it at the time. Since then, the name of the author stayed somewhere in the back of my head until a few months ago when a friend of mine offered me a copy of A Moveable Feast.
If you have read the other reviews I made, you are already aware that I am not very good at them, and that I just like to talk about why I liked something and how it inspired me. (If you have any ideas to make them better, feel free to comment) So, here we go !
I cannot talk about Hemingway without refering first to the Lost Generation. So, for those who wouldn’t know, after WWI, a group of writers, poets, painters and art collectors would gather at Gertrude Stein’s apartement to talk about life, art and literature. Among them, Ernest Hemingway. Of course, the Lost Generation is more than that, but I could write an entire article on the people who were part.
The memoir tells different stories about the author’s life in Paris in the 1920s. His description of Parisian life in the early 20th century is excellent : it is as if Hemingway was describing photographs. But the best thing about the narration is that the book was written in the 1950s, and old Hemingway comments on his younger self actions. This gives us a pretty good insight of the evolution of the writer’s nature.
There is one place in Paris which I am obsessed with : the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop. Like Stein’s place, the bookshop was a meeting point for many writers (James Joyce, Ezra Pound, among others) and, even though it has become very touristic, I still glorify it. In A Moveable Feast, I loved reading about Sylvia Beach’s shop and how she was very welcoming (the people who work there now are brilliant too). For someone like me who dreams of becoming a writer, it is the perfect place to get inspiration.
I don’t know if it is important to know someone to appreciate their art, but I feel like it can help. Two authors I love are present in Hemingway’s memoir : Fitzgerald and Joyce. I found it interesting to meet a younger Fitzgerald, as he was writing The Great Gatsby : confident, yet uncertain about his talent at creating a whole novel. A Moveable Feast reminded me that before becoming the greatest American authors of the 21st century, Fitzgerald and Hemingway were sometimes struggling.
Talking about struggling is a good transition to the next theme I liked in the memoir : drinking. If you are, like me, a big fan of wine and beer, this is the perfect book. I could just imagine Hemingway in a Parisian troquet, writing and drinking, and it definitely made me want to do the same. Fortunately, I prefer coffee when I write, which prevents me from being an alcoholic. Anyways, when the title was chosen, moveable was about having Paris in your pocket wherever you were, and feast, I believe, represents everything that happens in Paris : its people, its streets and restaurants. But for me, feast is more about drinking : because that’s the image I have of Hemingway in the capital. Also, I am not sure about this fact as it is just a memory, but I think that in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Hemingway only appears in a bar. Did Allen give me a wrong image of the writer ?
I’m sure I could talk more about the book and the author’s style, but I think I will end this review now with a quote from the memoir :
We would be together and have our books and at night be warm in bed together with the windows open and the stars bright.
For this is the dream : books, a lover, the comfort of your bed, and stars to make you dream of the world that surrounds you.
I am currently reading The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt, and I could write a review about her next time (I LOVED The Goldfinch and The Secret History). She’s an amazing writer, full of suprises!