The introduction makes clear that this is a collection of chapters/sketches relating to Ernest Hemingway's time in Paris between the wars. Chronology is at best variable; arranging the order seems to have been somewhat arbitary. What emerges is a multi-layered portrait of a city at an interesting period of artistic life; of a few famous people who lived there; and of a marriage that progresses from tranquil happiness to disintegration. Hadley, the author's first wife, is the victim; much of the book reads like a remorseful apology for his part in the failure.
The incidental recreation of Paris in the 1920's - the cafés, the race tracks, the apartment above the sawmill where the Hemingways lived - yields some vivid vignettes. The goatherd driving his goats through the street, pausing to milk one for a customer, calls for a readjustment of one's Parisian preconceptions.
Of the people, there are insights into Gertrud Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and especially Scott Fitgerald. The boxer Larry Gains appears and, with him, the macho Hemingway, showing off what he knows about the fight game. There is also the sentimental Tatie - the dialogue that accompanies his hair-growing contest with Hadley is almost too embarrassing to read.
But through it all there is Hemingway wrestling with the business of writing, frequently returning to the conviction that what is left out reinforces what remains - a philosophy that can be seen in some of the better sketches. Of course, the book is uneven but as the long sentences unroll, held together with multiple conjunctions and a minimum of punctuation, the master's hand is apparent.
on 27 June 1999
Hemingway was reunited with the manuscript of A MOVEABLE FEAST after a twenty-year separation; as an older man, he was amazed and amused by the writings of his younger self. Many consider his Paris period to be his most interesting -- this book suggests that's true. Its a lovely, nostalgic look back at his youth. His love for Hadley is evident -- both the young Hemingway's love and the longing of the older Papa. For anyone who is interested in the ex-pats, the lost generation, Gertrude and F. Scott, etc. -- this is a must. His wording is magical, the anecdotes priceless. Of all his books, this is my favorite!
on 26 April 2001
I first read this book a few years ago and though I enjoyed it wasn't moved by it. A couple of years later on my first trip to Paris I decided to take the book with me. Somehow the book took on a new life. I could visit the locations described and appreciate the descriptions of people and events. I fell in love with Paris, Hemingway and the Lost Generation all because of this book. I now have quite a collection of books describing the 1920s and 1930s in Paris and have bought a prized first edition of this book. I strongly recommend this book to readers particularly those visiting Paris. Five Stars because there are only five.
on 13 April 2014
“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.” Come to think of it, A Moveable Feast is also a moveable feast.
This book is a must-read for any serious fan of literature – in it, an elderly Hemingway looks back at a time in his youth when he lived in Paris and schmoozed with some of the great writers of the early 20th century, from Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound to F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was a nutter.
I can’t recommend this enough, and if you only read one of Hemingway’s books then start with this one – it’s just a shame that it isn’t longer, because there was much more for him to tell.
on 10 May 1997
There are three perfect little books in 20th century English literature: The Good Soldier, by Ford, The Moviegoer, by Percy, and this sparse narrative written in Hemingway's familiar and still powerful limpid prose. There are descriptions here of many literary figures in Paris during the twenties and the famous cuts at Ford and Fitzgerald, but these are not reasons to read this book. You read this book to hear Hemingway speak to you with his guard down, as you cannot otherwise hear him except in the early Nick Adams stories. He is sitting at his typewriter in Ketchum, his great gifts chased from him by alcohol and hubris, and he remembers when he still had it, when he was poor and cold and hungry and he had Hadley, before he became Hemingway, and he types slow, each word pulled from the emptiness to become the next inevitable perfect word, and his words are the shroud over his loss, his bitterness, his grievous fault. This book was not published in Hemingway's lifetime. It was not written for us.
on 27 September 2003
I sought this book after I had watched the film, City of Angels with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. If an angel was enthralled by Hemingway's Moveable Feast then I thought it must be good. He wasn't wrong! The descriptive language subsumes your imagination - a truly excellent work from a sagacious author.
on 10 February 2016
With this book figuring on the Daily Telegraph's current list of best-sellers I thought I should re-read my venerable copy which has stood untouched on the shelf since I last laboured through it several years ago. My recollection of it was far from amiable, a condition which my return to it has done nothing to dispel. The greater part of the narrative is a farrago of juvenile self-regard mitigated only somewhat by the chapters on Scott Fitzgerald (which at least convey a hint of the mechanics of the relationship between the two writers) and the concluding chapter on Paris itself (which captures something of the atmosphere of the time and place). But this is hardly enough to counterbalance the utter banality rest of the work. Take this, for instance, as an example of its admirable insight: "I saw he [Fitzgerald] had very short legs. With normal legs he would have been perhaps two inches taller." This sort of inconsequential aside is by no means untypical. Throughout the book we are treated to a tedious litany of restaurants and the extracts from their menus to which Hemingway devoted himself. And the style reads like an inept self-parody in its terse repetitions and laconically but toe-curlingly dreadful dialogue between Hemingway himself and a catalogue of literary luminaries to whom most of this is attributed. If these exchanges are to be taken as accurate we have vastly overrated these prominent poets and novelists, including Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis and, of course, Scott Fitzgerald. But my own inclination is to accept that their reduction to vacuous, often bitchy nonentities is the result of Hemingway's tireless self-promotion, or, more charitably, to his failing recollection. In fact Hemingway took the trouble to amuse himself by writing a parody of Sherwood Anderson's style (The Torrents of Spring) but nothing in that volume exceeded the unrelenting puerility of the bulk of A Moveable Feast. Often he proved himself a great writer, as he adequately demonstrated in so many of his short stories (to which his studied style seemed best suited) and novels such as A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls, but to those who respond positively to A Moveable Feast I feel obliged to say, with only the mildest regret, nothing will persuade me to join your ranks.
on 6 December 1998
SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL. After this novel, I would do anything to be able to have a coffee with Hemingway and his expatriates at the Closerie de Lillas cafe. The most astounding part is that this novel is TRUTH, maybe colored with nostalgia but are amazingly touching portraits of some of the greatest literary giants of the century. When I put the novel down, I felt like I KNEW Hemingway. There were so many times he would make me laugh out loud or sigh with regret! I've read a great deal of his more reknown novels, but this novel is tied for my favorite novel of his along with Farewell to Arms. It's inconcievable that such extraordinarily talented people collected in a few Parisian cafes in a few years, and they were all acquaintences. What an idea! His stories of F.Scott Fitzgerald were especially illuminating and hilarious, but my favorites were: Ford Madox Ford & the Devil's Disciple, Birth of a New School ( especially funny ), With Pascin at the Dome, & Ezra Pound and the Bel Esprit. Hemingway's wit and sarcasm are so real, they leap off the pages and he seems to be engaging you in conversation. This novel really opened up my eyes to my perspective of Hemingway, most of his novels are stories that are semi-autobiographical so we have to decipher truth from plot. There is no need to figure out what is Hemingway--because it is ALL Hemingway!
on 31 December 2014
This is the first of 8 reviews of Hemingway's works - a birthday present. I had read Hemingway so long ago, I suggested the present and duly received it. I gobbled up this short book of memories from his early Paris days in no time flat.
Hemingway wrote these just before he died, so it is a bit the beginning and the end in one short volume. The trademark style is there - all straight as an arrow prose, full of gaps, but also full of insight. What strikes me most is his judgement of people. Gertrude Stein - well, you'd expect the macho Hemingway not to like or listen to her much - but you would be dead wrong. He and Hadley, his first wife, love the attention and intelligence of the eccentric Lesbian couple, (Alice B. Toklas is unnamed but present, mainly to entertain the women). F. Scott Fitzgerald is a tragic figure, cut down to size by the beautiful but jealous and unpleasant Zelda. Hemingway and he were close friends for a few years. Hemingway is mystified by the pair, given Scott's great talent, and cannot comprehend how Zelda tortures him.
Hemingway describes his struggle to write like Cezanne paints - leaving out everything that is not essential. It is a tough struggle, with all the ornamental writing of the time, so lauded. At the very end, he briefly describes how he split with Hadley through his own infidelity. The pattern was this - a pretty young girl befriends the wife of the man she is after, then conspires to take him away. The young Hemingway fell for it - in his mind, years later, only to regret his choice in this volume. Of course, the conventional view would be to blame him for his roving eye, but the great man is having none of that. But who is to argue? I mean, it was his life after all.
on 25 April 2012
4.5 stars. It's difficult to not give anything by Hemingway 5 stars, but the reason I am doing it is not so much that there is anything wrong with this book as that I can't help comparing it with other things he has written. The story is completely autobiographical (even though I think most of his books are for the most part), and there are even a few pictures towards the end of him and his acquaintances at that time. It is as well-written as pretty much everything else he has done, and I think that people interested in Paris especially and some of the writers he was acquainted with will appreciate this very much. I think that writers will also appreciate it, as he practically explains the whole formula of how he wrote and gives many useful to tips that a lot of writers could benefit from. I don't really understand why he was friends with any of the writers he talks about, as almost every one of them seemed, if not quite idiotic, at least very eccentric, and he seemed like such a simple person with reasonable, healthy tastes and pursuits. I didn't really like the way he and his (first) wife spoke to each other, but it seems, if memory serves me right, that it was the same form of speech that most of his women spoke in his other books. I think, despite the simplicity with which he spoke and with the way he wrote (and what I just wrote about him), that he was a fairly complicated person, and even though he seems frank and honest throughout this book, I didn't feel like I got to know him very well. I believe he wrote this shortly before he killed himself, which increases the feeling that everything was not quite as it seemed, although he was writing about events that happened forty years previously, of course. There are a lot of memorable lines in this book, and very interesting first and lasting impressions of other famous people. I didn't really care for Paris, and this book doesn't make me want to go back, but despite this I think he did a good job of making it seem like a cozy and exciting place to be - at least in the period in question. Overall I liked this book, but I like most of the other things he wrote better.