“This is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy,” writes Ernest Hemingway of the years between 1921 and 1926 when, as a struggling young writer, he lived in Paris with his first wife, Hadley, and their son, Bumby. A Moveable Feast, a collection of twenty essays published after Hemingway’s death, captures the moods of a city.
Having quit his job as a journalist, Hemingway lived in an apartment overlooking a sawmill. Selling only a few stories and living on very little money, he skimped on firewood, wore sweatshirts as underwear, and skipped more than a few meals. He borrowed books from Sylvia Beach’s famous bookstore, where his credit was good and Sylvia herself could be counted on for small loans. Occasional windfalls came from lucky bets on the horses, but new clothes and dinners out were rare. The couple did not consider themselves poor. They found poverty ennobling and looked down on the rich.
The book offers without pardon or apology Hemingway’s unvarnished opinions on the legendary writers and artists who worked in Paris at that time. He relished Gertrude Stein’s food, liqueur, and encouragement but resented her treatment of him and his wife as “promising children.” He judged the poet Ford Madox Ford foul-smelling, forgetful, and abusive and the painter Wyndham Lewis arrogant and cruel. Three essays reveal Hemingway’s assessment of F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose talent, he writes,...
(The entire section is 402 words.)