Sunday, April 26

A Moveable Feast

The title page of Ernest Hemingway's memoir about living in Paris in the 1920s opens with this quote from a letter he wrote a friend in 1950: "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."

In the book's preface he also tells the reader, that if she prefers, "this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact." It is clear though that Hemingway writes about People Who Really Existed, and as one turns the page and on to the new chapter, the previous one is alluded to, and there is a linear build up as far as chronology is concerned. Each chapter is self-contained, the situation builds up and ends with what seems like insight. I don't know if that was what Hemingway meant when he said that the reader "may regard this as fiction"--in that the structure is similar but the characters are People Who Really Existed. If so, Hemingway makes it obvious that there are some Nice People, like Ezra Pound, who's really a saint, but who is also friends with opium addicts/poets--the distinctions weren't very clear as to which came first. It's also obvious that there are some Pompous Asses in the cast of characters. Some are named, like Gertrude Stein, but some are too silly that they remain anonymous, like the young man who wanted to be a Great Creative Writer but didn't have what it takes so Hemingway convinced him to write criticism. Of course, later there is an aside wherein Hemingway says that it would have been great if the young man turned out to be a great critic of the ballet, books or the moving pictures, but unfortunately, even there he was not gifted enough. So okay na rin na wala siyang pangalan para di napahiya. Hehe.

In the first chapter, "A Good Cafe on the Place St.-Michel," Hemingway talks about the process of transplanting oneself, wherein simply put, "in one place youc ould write about it better than in another." It's fall in Paris and the wild, cold blowing day was the sort of day it felt right to tell the story of a boyhood incident up in Michigan, which also happened on a wild, cold, blowing day like that day in Paris in the fall.

Later in the chapter, he writes about how the weather is really bad and he was thinking of leaving Paris for a while. He thinks, "Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris as in Paris I could write about Michigan. I did not know it was too early for that because I did not know Paris well enough. But that was how it worked out eventually..." The rain in Paris was "now only local weather and not something that changed your life."

For when Hemingway finally wrote about the incidents of his life in Paris in the years 1921-1926, it would be almost thirty plus years later, he would be in Cuba, 1957, or in Idaho, 1958 and all the way to Spain in 1959 and back to Cuba and Idaho once more. It was near the end of his life, and in two years he would be found dead in Idaho.

But in A Moveable Feast, Hem is a young man, poor and hungry but happy, and it would take forty years for him to realize that.

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway, Scribners Classic, 1987. Php 100 from Zeitgeist. Bought only because my Thesis Adviser kept on quoting Hemingway and I got tired of not knowing what she was talking about. Now I want to read all of Hemingway.

Jonathan Yardley reviews it for The Washington Post here, and a 1964 New York Times review by Charles Poore here.

1 comment:

lefthandedwonder said...

"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."

how sucky is my life then?

sounds prety interesting though!