A Moveable Feast is a memoir by American author Ernest Hemingway about his years in Paris as part of the expatriate writers in the 1920s. The book describes Hemingway's apprenticeship as a young writer in Europe (especially in Paris) while married to his first wife, Hadley. Some of the people featured in the book include Aleister CrowleyEzra PoundF. Scott FitzgeraldFord Madox FordHilaire BellocPascinJohn Dos PassosWyndham LewisJames Joyce and Gertrude Stein.

The book was not published during Hemingway's lifetime, but edited from his manuscripts and notes by his widow and fourth wife, Mary Hemingway. It was publishedposthumously in 1964, three years after Hemingway's death. An edition revised by his grandson Seán Hemingway was published in 2009.

The memoir consists of Hemingway's personal accounts, observations and stories of his experience in 1920s Paris. He provides specific addresses of cafes, bars, hotels, and apartments, some of which can be found in modern-day Paris. The title was suggested by Hemingway's friend and biographer A. E. Hotchner, who remembered Hemingway saying, in conversation: "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."[1]


 [hide*1 Background


In November 1956 Hemingway recovered two small steamer trunks that he had stored in March 1928 in the basement of the Ritz Hotel in Paris. The trunks contained notebooks he had filled during the years he lived in Paris. He had the notebooks transcribed. During the period when he worked on the book The Dangerous Summer, he also brought the Paris memoir to a final draft stage. Scribner's published A Moveable Feast in 1964 after Hemingway's death, when it had been edited by his fourth wife and widow, Mary Hemingway.

Editing history[edit]Edit

Ernest Hemingway worked on the manuscript of A Moveable Feast during his later years, rewriting several key passages. He had prepared a final draft before he died. After his death, his fourth wife Mary, in her capacity as Hemingway's literary executor, edited the manuscript.

Literary scholar Gerry Brenner from the University of Montana documented her edits and questioned their validity in his 1982 paper, "Are We Going to Hemingway's Feast?" He concluded that some edits were misguided, and others derived from questionable motives.[2] He suggested the changes appeared to contradict Mary's stated policy for her role as executor, which had been a hands-off approach.[3] Brenner and other researchers have examined the collection of Ernest Hemingway's personal papers, which were opened to the public in 1979 with the completion of the John F. Kennedy Library, where they are held in Boston. Included are Hemingway's notes and initial drafts of A Moveable Feast.

Brenner indicates that Mary changed the order of the chapters in Hemingway's final draft, apparently to "preserve chronology." The change interrupted the series of juxtaposed character sketches of such individuals as Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Company, and Gertrude Stein. The chapter titled "Birth of a New School," which Hemingway had dropped in his draft, was re-inserted by Mary. Brenner alleges the most serious edit was deleting Hemingway's lengthy apology to Hadley, his first wife. This apology appeared in various forms in every draft of the book. Brenner suggests that Mary deleted it because it impugned her own role as wife.

In contrast, A.E. Hotchner has said that he received a near final draft of A Moveable Feast and the version that Mary Hemingway published is essentially the draft which he had read in 1957. Therefore, the original publication is the version Hemingway intended and Mary Hemingway did not revise or add chapters. He believed it represented Ernest's intentions.[4]


There is no evidence that Mary Hemingway or any other person ever censored the chapter "Miss Stein Instructs." It includes the following passage that was unusually frank for a bestselling American book in 1964.

On this day Miss [Gertrude] Stein was instructing me about sex. By that time we liked each other very much and I had already learned that everything I did not understand probably had something to it. Miss Stein thought that I was too uneducated about sex and I must admit that I had certain prejudices against homosexuality since I knew its more primitive aspects. I knew it was why you carried a knife and would use it when you were in the company of tramps when you were a boy in the days when wolves was not a slang term for men obsessed by the pursuit of women. I knew many inaccrochable terms and phrases from Kansas City days [Hemingway had worked there as a newspaper reporter before moving to Paris] and the mores of different parts of that city, Chicago and the lake boats. Under questioning I tried to tell Miss Stein that when you were a boy and moved in the company of men, you had to be prepared to kill a man, know how to do it and really know that you would do it in order not to be interfered with. That term was accrochable. If you knew you would kill, other people sensed it very quickly and you were let alone; but there were certain situations you could not allow yourself to be forced into or trapped into. I could have expressed myself more vividly by using an inaccrochable phrase that wolves used on the lake boats, "Oh gash may be fine but one eye for mine." But I was always careful of my language with Miss Stein even when true phrases might have clarified or better expressed a prejudice.

"Yes, yes, Hemingway," she said. "But you were living in a milieu of criminals and perverts."

I did not want to argue that, although I thought that I had lived in a world as it was and there were all kinds of people in it and I tried to understand them, although some of them I could not like and some I still hated.

"But what about the old man with beautiful manners and a great name who came to the hospital in Italy and brought me a bottle of Marsala or Campari and behaved perfectly, and then one day I would have to tell the nurse never to let that man into the room again?" I asked.

"Those people are sick and cannot help themselves and you should pity them. [replied Stein]."[5]

Preserved video of two critical reactions from 1964[edit]Edit

The basic cable channel GSN has rebroadcast the kinescope of an appearance that Sheilah Graham made on the American television show What's My Line? 23 years after the death of her boyfriend F. Scott Fitzgerald.[6][7] She appeared on an episode that was telecast live on June 7, 1964, when A Moveable Feast was on bestseller lists.[8][9] Graham appeared on the show to promote a book she had written, and she did not bring up A Moveable Feast.[10][11]

Bennett Cerf, the head of Random House publishing who was also a regular panelist on the television series, initiated talk of Hemingway's new bestselling book.[12] He can be heard calling Hemingway's posthumous book "clearly untrue." (Cerf was two years younger than Fitzgerald and one year older than Hemingway.) Sheilah Graham can be heard agreeing with Cerf, adding that A Moveable Feast is "dreadfully cruel to Scott Fitzgerald."[13]

Publishing history[edit]Edit

In 2009 a new edition, titled the "Restored Edition," was published by Seán Hemingway, assistant curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and grandson of Hemingway and Pauline Pfeiffer. He made numerous changes:

  • The previous introductory letter by Hemingway, pieced together from various fragments by Mary Hemingway, was removed.
  • The chapter called "Birth of a New School" and large sections of "Ezra Pound and the Measuring Worm," "There is Never Any End to Paris," and "Winter in Schruns" have all been re-added. The unpublished "The Pilot Fish and the Rich" has been added.
  • Chapter 7 ("Shakespeare and Company") has been moved to be chapter 3, and chapter 16 ("Nada y Pues Nada") has been moved to the end of the book.
  • Hemingway's use of the second person has been restored in many places, a change which Seán asserts "brings the reader into the story."[14]

From the new foreword by Patrick Hemingway:

[H]ere is the last bit of professional writing by my father, the true foreword to A Moveable Feast: "This book contains material from the remises of my memory and of my heart. Even if the one has been tampered with and the other does not exist."[15]

A.E. Hotchner, a friend and biographer of Hemingway, alleged that Seán Hemingway had edited the new edition, in part, to exclude references to his grandmother, Hemingway's second wife Pauline Pfeiffer, which he had found less than flattering.[4] Other critics also have found fault with some of the editorial changes.[16] Irene Gammel writes about the new edition: "Ethically and pragmatically, restoring an author's original intent is a slippery slope when the published text has stood the test of time and when edits have been approved by authors or their legal representatives." Pointing to the complexity of authorship, she concludes: “Mary's version should be considered the definitive one, while the 'restored' version provides access to important unpublished contextual sources that illuminate the evolution of the 1964 edition.”[17]

Film and television adaptations[edit]Edit

On September 15, 2009, Variety announced that Mariel Hemingway, a granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway and first wife Hadley Richardson, had acquired the film and television rights to the memoir with American film producer John Goldstone.[18]

Cultural references[edit]Edit

  • The book is featured in the movie, City of Angels (1998), during an exchange between Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan.
  • Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (2011) is partly set in the Paris of the 1920s evoked in Hemingway's book. The movie features the Owen Wilson character interacting with the likes of Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and uses the phrase "a moveable feast" on two occasions.
  • The Words (2012) uses an excerpt from this book to represent a book manuscript found in an old messenger bag.
  • The famous Shakespeare and Company in Paris has labeled a stool for reaching books placed in high shelves as "a moveable stool." The stool was created by philosopher Terry Craven and jazz guitarist Alex Frieman who both work at the shop.
  • The 1988 comedy The Moderns brings the characters of The Moveable Feast to life while spoofing the pretense of the Lost Generation.
  • In his early stand-up performances, in the late 1960s, Woody Allen performed a routine where he riffed the feel of the recently published book describing his times spent with Hemingway, The Fitzgeralds, and Gertrude Stein with the repeated line, "And Hemingway punched me in the mouth."
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