Literature Study GuidesA Moveable FeastEvan Shipman At The Lilas Summary

A Moveable Feast | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast | Evan Shipman at the Lilas | Summary

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Summary

Ernest Hemingway is reading his way through Sylvia Beach's library. He particularly admires Russian writers Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy (also spelled Tolstoi), and Nikolai Gogol. Other writers, such as Katherine Mansfield and Stephen Crane, seem weak in comparison to the depth and detail in the Russian writing. Hemingway thinks having time to read and write in Paris is like "having a great treasure given to you." He's surprised to learn Ezra Pound has never read the Russians. Pound himself is teaching Hemingway how to write without adjectives and search for the "mot juste," "the one and only correct word to use."

When Hemingway arrives home one afternoon, the wife of the sawmill owner tells Hemingway that Hadley Richardson has gone out and that a young man has stopped by to visit him. Hemingway meets the young man, the poet Evan Shipman, at the Closerie des Lilas café and is concerned Shipman is dressed too lightly for the cool autumn weather. The two discuss the power of Dostoyevsky's writing,

Shipman mentions the café is under new management, and the new owners will make waiters André and Jean shave their mustaches. Hemingway is alarmed because the mustaches signify the men's service in a cavalry regiment. Hemingway tells their waiter, Jean, not to do it, but Jean says sadly he has no choice. When Hemingway returns to the café on Monday, he sees the waiter André has shaved his mustache. Jean, who won awards in the cavalry, is taking longer to accept the change. André tells Hemingway Jean and Shipman are gardening together.

Analysis

Ernest Hemingway sees books as their own "moveable feasts." The place where he reads them makes a difference. Reading Russian writers in the wintertime near the hills where he skis seems especially evocative to him. He is drawn to Russian portrayals of wartime; war and its traumas and loyalties will, in fact, inspire some of Hemingway's best known and most admired works, such as A Farewell to Arms.

Ezra Pound finds his inspiration elsewhere. Pound helped create the literary movement called imagism. Imagist poets created concrete, clear, musical descriptions without generalities, abstractions, or any unnecessary words. This minimalist style contributed to Hemingway's evolving technique, as did the more ornate and lengthy storytelling of his favorite Russian authors.

Evan Shipman, a poet Hemingway thinks isn't talked about enough, became known in later years for his coverage of American horse racing. Shipman and Hemingway continued to be close friends when both moved back to the United States. In fact, Hemingway dedicated his second story collection to Shipman. In Paris, Shipman is still an aspiring poet and member of Hemingway's crowd.

Shipman and Hemingway's discomfort with the café's new rules shows they don't want the war, or the past, to be erased completely, even as the world moves forward. The waiters Jean's and André's mustaches are military or dragoon mustaches. This mustache on military servicemen was a point of pride in the 19th century, but by the early 20th century it was beginning to fade out of fashion. The waiters choose to follow orders and keep their jobs, though the transition is more difficult for Jean, who was wounded in the war. The lasting effect of war wounds recurs with many characters in the book, from Ernest Walsh to the veterans at the Closerie des Lilas. Hemingway and Shipman realize there is not much they can do but drink as a weak "direct action"; time moves forward despite all human acts.

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