Literature Study GuidesA Moveable FeastShakespeare And Company Summary

A Moveable Feast | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast | Shakespeare and Company | Summary

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Summary

Without much money to buy books, Ernest Hemingway borrows them from Shakespeare and Company, a library and bookstore owned by Sylvia Beach who is kindhearted and nicer to him than anyone he has ever met. She gives him a library card and waives his deposit, despite his address in a poor neighborhood. Hemingway checks out books by Ivan Turgenev, D.H. Lawrence, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The two discuss inexpensive places to eat in Paris. Beach reveals that James Joyce sometimes comes to the bookshop.

At home Hadley Richardson tells Hemingway he should return to pay Beach for the books. The couple decides to go out to lunch first. They feel lucky they've found the library because they can check out different books to read when they travel. Hadley says, "We'll never love anyone else but each other."

Analysis

Sylvia Beach's bookshop famously united Parisian residents from all over the world. In 1922 Beach took a chance on publishing James Joyce's Ulysses, a modernist book with sexual explicitness that shocked the literary world. She provided expatriate writers, like Hemingway, with a "home away from home," including a postal address and a financial loan if they needed one. Beach is a maternal and considerate figure in the book, advising Hemingway on how to live cheaply and well in the city. This sketch shows Hemingway's literary interests at the time, especially his fascination with Russian writers, which he will discuss further in "Evan Shipman at the Lilas." Furthermore, while Hemingway is there he sees the shop as an archive of the past, with "famous writers both dead and living" photographed on the walls. Like the hotel where Hemingway works, Beach's store harbors literary ghosts.

Beach's bookstore was so central to her identity, and to Parisian literary life, that she kept it open during the 1939 Nazi occupation of Paris despite censorship and Gestapo threats. Beach later spent six months in a concentration camp. When the Allies freed France in 1944, Beach joyfully reunited with Hemingway but never reopened the bookstore after World War II.

Hemingway recounts a domestic dialogue between him and Hadley Richardson, showing their youthful hope and enthusiasm for Paris. The future they imagine for themselves is full of exaggerated promise. Hadley imagines they'll own "all the books in the world" when they travel. Her poignant declaration of love and Hemingway's agreement provide a contrast between Hemingway the author (who knows how the relationship ends) and Hemingway the innocent protagonist.

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