Literature Study GuidesA Moveable FeastPeople Of The Seine Summary

A Moveable Feast | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast | People of the Seine | Summary



There are many routes from the Hemingways' apartment to the river. In the bookstalls along the Seine, Ernest Hemingway sometimes finds American or English books, some of which are left behind by people renting rooms above the Tour D'Argent restaurant and which a vendor buys cheaply and later sells at her stall. He and the bookseller discuss how to determine a book's value. Many hotels in Paris try to sell books customers leave behind; when he learns these books have been given to travelers to read on ships, Hemingway says they're passed from traveler to traveler and become "ships' libraries."

Hemingway enjoys walking to a park on the edge of the Seine, eating a picnic lunch, and watching the fishermen bring home their catch. He and Hadley enjoy fried goujon, a local fish from the Seine. Fishing on the Seine is "serious and productive fishing," contrary to what most travel books write. Hemingway doesn't have the gear in Paris to fish himself, but he loves following the fishermen and their life on the river. He can watch the spring arrive by the river, unless cold rain turns and kills the spring weather, creating the only sad season in Paris because it is unnatural.


Any portrait of Paris includes the river Seine, France's second-longest river and major economic, social, and historical part of the city. Ernest Hemingway is writing a very literary and literate travelogue about Paris, and he sees life on the river as an extension of urban Paris life; people are constantly occupied and on the move. His discussion about the value of books shows the hope he finds in each book, borrowing novels without knowing if they're good or not (which the bookseller sees as a "form of gambling").

He is free of worry as he watches fishing, but the older writer Hemingway hints at the troubles behind Paris's facade. The Halle aux Vins winehouse, which he passes to get to the river, reminds him of a "military depot or prison camp," and the comparison reminds the reader of war. The fishermen don't yet know their pensions "would become worthless with inflation." Cold in the spring is unnatural and even threatening. Hemingway associates warm weather with youth and promise, and the cold rains create an effect "as though a young person had died for no reason." The older Hemingway knows many characters in the book will die before he does, and his own idyllic time in Paris will end along with his youth.

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