Literature Study GuidesA Moveable FeastUne Génération Perdue Summary

A Moveable Feast | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast | Une Génération Perdue | Summary

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Summary

Ernest Hemingway makes a habit of stopping at Gertrude Stein's apartment for food and conversation. Stein loves hearing about Hemingway's travels on journalism assignments but wants to hear only positive stories, not tragic ones. Hemingway keeps the tragedies to himself and writes about them.

To improve his writing, Hemingway has learned to stop for the day while he's still inspired. He also reads writers who are still producing work, such as Aldous Huxley and D.H. Lawrence. Stein dislikes Huxley's and Lawrence's works and wonders why Hemingway reads them. She calls Huxley a "dead man" and says Lawrence writes "like a sick man." She lends him a book by Marie Belloc Lowndes, which Hemingway finds a fast, entertaining read. He also discovers the talented author Georges Simenon, recommended by Janet Flanner.

Hemingway notices Stein speaks highly only of authors who have helped her career in some way. She loves Sherwood Anderson but won't talk about his work, or James Joyce's work; bringing up Joyce is "like mentioning one general favorably to another general." She's also angry with Ezra Pound for breaking a small chair in her apartment.

While Hemingway and Stein are still friends, she makes her famous remark about the "lost generation," recounting her experience having her car repaired. She took her car to a garage to get the ignition fixed; when the employee failed to repair her vehicle properly, the garage owner scolded him and said, "You are all a génération perdue" (a lost generation). Stein agrees the phrase perfectly describes those who served in World War I. They "have no respect for anything" and drink too much. Walking home from Stein's apartment, Hemingway thinks about the converted ambulances he drove during the war. He's angry with Stein for assuming their whole generation is lost. A statue of Napoleonic-era French soldier and war hero Michel Ney (popularly known as Marshal Ney) makes Hemingway think "all generations were lost by something." Though he resents Stein's "dirty, easy labels," he later uses the phrase in his first novel. He arrives home and tells Hadley Richardson that Stein "talks a lot of rot sometimes." Hadley responds by saying she never hears Stein because "I'm a wife. It's her friend that talks to me."

Analysis

The Parisian literary and artistic crowd revered and feared Gertrude Stein's judgments; her remarks could enhance or destroy a writer's reputation. Ernest Hemingway portrays her as wary of anyone whose talent might threaten her own. For example, she praises Sherwood Anderson's work after he has "cracked up" and is no longer a threat, and she won't discuss James Joyce at all. (Anderson was an American writer, most famous for his portrait of small-town life in Winesburg, Ohio, published in 1919.) Hemingway shows how writers curry favor with Stein, who only speaks well of friends who review her work positively. He may even suspect she gave Ezra Pound a too-small chair on purpose to have a grievance against him when he breaks it.

Stein does, however, broaden Hemingway's literary world through introductions and recommendations. Hemingway encounters several new writers in this section. The English Marie Belloc Lowndes became famous for her psychological suspense novel The Lodger. Georges Simenon was a Belgian writer and former crime reporter who wrote mystery novels featuring the detective Jules Maigret. (In "Scott Fitzgerald," Hemingway mentions his fascination with the crime section of the French newspaper.) Janet Flanner, an American, was the famous long-term Paris correspondent for the New Yorker magazine.

The "lost generation" remark clearly resonates with Hemingway, at first because it makes him reflect on the war and then because it makes him angry. The young garage employee insulted for negligence was a veteran, someone with whom Hemingway shares a life-changing experience. Stein's hypocritical attitude toward Anderson seems like "egotism and mental laziness" to Hemingway. She never fought in the war, he thinks, and she has no right to call veterans "lost," which is an easy and false generalization. What redeems Stein for him is her championship of the arts. Her support of French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, an advocate for invention in poetry—and a World War I veteran who never recovered from a war wound—makes Hemingway think Stein is on the side of the Lost Generation after all. Hemingway identifies with veterans as well as with writers and poets. The war gave writers the sense not only of being lost but of having lost something, a characteristic Hemingway thinks applies to all generations.

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