A Moveable Feast | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast | Introduction | Summary

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Summary

The Introduction is written by the book's editor and Ernest Hemingway's grandson Seán Hemingway. As a child, Seán noticed the steamer trunks Hemingway brought to the United States from Europe, full of writing he had done in Paris. Hemingway began work on a book called The Paris Sketches in 1957 and delivered a draft to his publisher in 1959 before his death. His draft included everything but the introduction and the final chapter, and he hadn't decided on a title.

Hemingway never saw the complete version. Between Hemingway's death in 1961 and the book's first publication in 1964, editors Mary Hemingway and Harry Brague added, deleted, and rearranged several chapters and sections. Seán Hemingway believes the restored edition, published in 2009, reflects more accurately the book Hemingway meant to publish. For instance, the restored edition includes Hemingway's use of the second-person in some sketches, and his original and more sympathetic opening paragraph about F. Scott Fitzgerald in "Scott Fitzgerald."

The "Additional Paris Sketches" are stories Hemingway considered incomplete, and he omitted them from his draft. They have been restored as a supplement. Like the 19 original sketches, the "Additional Paris Sketches" section is organized not chronologically but in an "idiosyncratic style." Seán explains the unique perspective of each sketch and the insights they give into Hemingway's character, including his writing process, his bohemian life, his relationships with writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ford Madox Ford, the end of his marriage to Hadley Richardson, and his struggle with depression.

Hemingway listed possible titles for the book, deciding on The Early Eye and the Ear (how Paris was in the early days). Seán thinks the title was meant to illustrate the importance of observation, through the eye and ear, to Hemingway's writing and to writing in general—"the need to hone your craft." After her husband's death, Mary Hemingway chose the title A Moveable Feast from a phrase Hemingway once used to describe Paris.

Seán says the manuscript reflects Paris as "an inspiring and vital place of beauty and light, and history and art." Paris remained the city Hemingway loved most, and readers of A Moveable Feast will be transported there by his detailed writing.

Analysis

The Introduction provides a guide to the book's nonlinear structure and shows how an editor's voice can influence a book or collection of pieces. Seán Hemingway explains the sections he chose to enhance, reduce, or reorder. Mary Hemingway, who worked on the first edition, made her own editing choices with her own biases. For instance, as Hemingway's fourth wife, she presented his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, less positively. Her edits to "The Pilot Fish and the Rich" made Hemingway seem like an "unknowing victim" of Pfeiffer. Likewise, Seán's edits to the restored edition make F. Scott Fitzgerald a more sympathetic character than he otherwise would be. The edits show how history is up for interpretation depending on the point of view, an idea Hemingway explores elsewhere as he discusses how each resident's experience of Paris is different.

Everyone has a version of Hemingway to present. Even Ernest Hemingway, who tells the story, presents an imperfect but generally positive image of his younger self. Though autobiography and memoir are classified as nonfiction genres, authors can still fictionalize details of their lives, as Hemingway does here, presenting himself and his colleagues as characters in a story.

Told from a reader's perspective, the Introduction places the book in the context of Hemingway's fiction. The "Secret Pleasures" section in "Additional Paris Sketches," describing Hemingway's attempt to grow out his hair and fit in with Paris's bohemian styles, is placed in context with his novel The Garden of Eden. His sketch "On Writing in the First Person," in which he discusses sources of inspiration, helps explain his portrayal of a soldier's life in A Farewell to Arms.
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