Thursday, 14 March 2013

Review: A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast
Ernest Hemingway

Oh, Hemingway, Hem, Tatie, Papa, you literary genius, you. I used to be pretty 'urgh' in general about Hemingway. He is one of those authors I always thought I should read and I remember attempting The Old Man and the Sea just after I left school and being all 'wtf, Hem?'. Since reading him again at uni, in the context of the Modernist period, I have realised that you should never read an author just because everyone else is doing it (that advice goes for so many other things). I'm pleased that I built up more of a general knowledge about Modernism and life in the interwar years before I tackled him again in Fiesta, The Sun Also Rises. I'm not saying I loved Fiesta, but hell did I appreciate it.

A Moveable Feast is a collection of autobiographical sketches revealing Hemingway's time in post-war Paris and his relationship with his wife, son, and the people he met there. It was published posthumously and put together from his manuscripts and personal papers.

I've read A Moveable Feast as part of Modern March and I have been pleasantly surprised. I knew nothing about Hemingway's life and even though this doesn't really impart huge amounts of biographical information, I think it really gives you a sense of him as a person. What I most enjoyed about the book was the sketches that involved other writers that I have either read or encountered in some way or another. I realised that I tend to make an author into who I think they are without actually knowing anything about them. Ford Madox Ford being a case in point. He actually seems to be a bit of an ass. But I do love his writing. The passing cameo of Wyndham Lewis though was pretty spot on with my assumption of his personality. I've always thought he'd be a slimy, rattish kind of guy and that's exactly how Hemingway describes him.

Perhaps quite oddly, I found this book really sad. I cannot explain why but it might have something to do with how Hemingway recollects himself. He treats his first wife Hadley pretty badly and it seems like he never forgave himself for that. Then I found it even sadder when I discovered that he commit suicide (who knew?!). Even with the slightly sad air about it, I really did find this book fascinating and I now feel like reading some sort of biography about him so I can find out the whole story.

'But there are remises or storage spaces where you may leave or store certain things such as a locker trunk or duffel bag containing personal effects or the unpublished poems of Evan Shipman or marked maps or even weapons there was no time to turn over to the proper authorities and this book contains material from the remises of my memory and of my heart. Even if the one has been tampered with and the other does not exist.'



  1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! (Feeling a bit of Hemingway-love lately, hehe.) I remember when reading "The Old Man and the Sea" way back, I didn't really get all the praise over it. I didn't particularly like this story, plus it was very odd length - too long for a story, too short for a novel (I prefer my books big, usually). But "Farewell to Arms" was something else and "For Whom the Bell Tolls", which I'm reading now, is also enjoyable. I'm also feeling like picking up some book about the life of Hemingway.

    1. There is certainly some Hemingway love in the air! It is a weird length, the sort of length you need to read in one sitting but not the sort of book you want to read in one sitting (wonderfully explained!). I'm looking to reading both Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hopefully I'll get round to them soon.

  2. I've read one Hemingway, 'Farewell to Arms' and I didn't really enjoy the writing style. But I'm drawn to this title more as it's biographical. I might give him another go one day...

    1. He does have quite a particular writing style. I think since reading this one it might make it easier to crack on with one of his longer novels. Fingers crossed anway!


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