Literature Study GuidesA Moveable FeastWinters In Schruns Summary

A Moveable Feast | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast | Winters in Schruns | Summary

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Summary

In October 1923 Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson's son Jack is born. After Jack's birth, Hemingway and Hadley begin leaving Paris during the winter. They can't easily take Jack, nicknamed affectionately Bumby or Mr. Bumby, to a city café. So, in winters they travel to Schruns in the Vorarlberg province of Austria. The first winter they spend there is December 1924. Hemingway describes the Hotel Taube where they stay and the nearby hills they climb to ski. Everyone in town is friendly, and the Hemingways admire their ski instructor, Herr Walther Lent. Between ski runs they eat and drink well, read books, and play poker.

At Schruns, Hemingway revises his first draft of The Sun Also Rises, which he'll publish two years later in 1926. He spends time with Austrian army veterans, bonding over their experiences in the war and witnesses conflict between a German naval officer and Austrian guests who blame the officer for ruining Germany.

One year, several guests are killed in avalanches. One kills nine German skiers who venture outside despite Herr Lent's warning. Hemingway is disturbed in particular by the memory of one dead man who was dug out of the avalanche and died clearly fighting for his life. After the year of avalanches, almost everyone but the Hemingways leaves the Alpine ski school.

Despite the deaths, Hemingway has happy memories of the avalanche winter, the last good winter he had in Schruns. He recalls climbing up the hills in early morning with heavy ski loads and being called "the Black Christ" by the local peasants because of his heavy beard. Other peasants distrust the visitors and call them "foreign devils."

The next winter Hemingway and Hadley become "careless in our confidence and pride" and their relationship falls apart. The story of his marriage's unraveling is "complicated, valuable, and instructive," but Hemingway doesn't want to go into the details. He takes the blame and he says he's glad Hadley was able to remarry a better man and be happy.

Analysis

This sketch provides the last picture of Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson's domestic bliss before their marriage falls apart. It takes place in a dreamlike landscape completely different from Paris. The addition of Bumby makes Hemingway more of a family man. He is active, far away from the pressures of Paris, and able to get plenty of writing done.

There are hints of past and future conflicts brewing again throughout Europe. Austria is still under the shadow of World War I. Hemingway mentions the "desperate inflation and poverty" in Germany; post–World War I devastation led to the inflation of German currency and economic collapse in the country. "Gendarmes," or armed police officers, surround the cabin where Hemingway and his friends are gambling. Hemingway meets fellow World War I soldiers from the Austrian Alpine regiments and feels instant camaraderie. Guests blame the German naval officer at the resort for ruining Germany. They feel nervous around German military and predict future destruction, foreshadowing World War II.

Even in the ski resorts Hemingway is surrounded by physical injury and death. Though he loves the risk of skiing, considering the proximity to danger part of the fun, he admits the sport was more treacherous in the 1920s: "No one could afford a broken leg. There were no ski patrols." He sees fellow skiers dug out of avalanches.

Like skiing, love and relationships are perilous. Hemingway hints at the loss he will personally experience in Schruns, described further in "The Pilot Fish and the Rich" and recounted here in violent terms: "the bulldozing of three people's hearts." He leaves out all the details and keeps them unknown, focusing instead on the impermanent joy of being in Paris and Austria with his first wife.

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