A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s memoir of his early days in Paris and his friendships with literary figures such as Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It presents a romantic image of a starving artist, unable to afford wood for heating, gambling on horse racing to escape the bread line, but working everyday with great dedication to perfect his craft.
Hemingway’s portrayal of his first wife, Hadley, is full of affection and regret. “[W]e were very poor and very happy”. This contrasts with how he depicts his more famous relationships. His Stein is a semi-tyrannical gossip lacking discipline towards her work. Scott Fitzegerald was a neurotic alcoholic. Zelda Fitzgerald was a manipulative and promiscuous harpy. Only Ezra Pound completely escapes his vitriol. The book is both a cautionary tale on the trappings of riches and success, and a surprisingly bitchy tell-all.
It demonstrates the importance of having a narrative, even in memoir, and put me off writing a travel blog, which was turning out to be a chore anyway.
The real gems are the passages about Hemingway’s writing process, which are insightful and inspiring.
But Hemingway is like an extremely charismatic but overbearing friend. His strong voice and ability to create a sense of time and place mean that, while his characters are relatable, you can never fully inhabit his stories.
A Moveable Feast is not the best Hemingway initiation, but it’s a must for fans of Papa, the Lost Generation, or Paris.