“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.” – Ernest Hemingway
Although Hemingway wrote the Moveable Feast later–two or three wives later–it is about the years between 1921 and 1925, when he was married to his first wife Hadley and when the couple lived in Paris.
“A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures the love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.
“Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking, fast-living, and free-loving life of Jazz Age Paris. As Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history and pours himself into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises, Hadley strives to hold on to her sense of self as her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Eventually they find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
“A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.” Amazon
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Moveable Feast stands alone as a good read–Hemingway’s Memoir, and it is an excellent resource for fully appreciating The Paris Wife by Paula McClain.
Is Moveable Feast Fact or Fiction?
“If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.” – Ernest Hemingway – Preface to Moveable Feast.
The opening lines of Moveable Feast [Hemingway’s Memoir about the years 1921 – 1926 in Paris]:
“Then there was the bad weather. It would come in one day when the fall was over. We would have to shut the windows in the night against the rain and the cold wind would strip the leaves from the trees in the Place Contrescarpe. The leaves lay sodden in the rain and the wind drove the rain against the big green autobus at the terminal and the Café des Amateurs was crowded and the windows misted over from the heat and the smoke inside. It was a sad, evilly run café where the drunkards of the quarter crowded together and I kept away from it because of the smell of dirty bodies and the sour smell of drunkenness.
. . .
“The Café des Amateurs was the cesspool of the rue Mouffetard, that wonderful narrow crowded market street which led into the Place Contrescarpe. The squat toilets of the old apartment houses…emptied into cesspools which were emptied by pumping into horse-drawn tank wagons at night. In the summer time, with all windows [p. 3] open, we would hear the pumping and the odor was very strong.
. . .No one emptied the Café des Amateurs though, and its yellowed poster stating the terms and penalties of the law against public drunkenness was as flyblown and disregarded as its clients were constant and ill-smelling.
“All of the sadness of the city came suddenly with the first cold rains of winter, and there were no more tops to the high white houses as you walked but only the wet blackness of the street and the closed doors of the small shops, the herb sellers, the stationery and the newspaper shops, the mid-wife–second class–and the hotel…where I had a room on the top floor where I worked.
“It was either six or eight flights up to the top floor and it was very cold and I knew how much it would cost for a bundle of small twigs, three wire-wrapped packets of short, half-pencil length pieces of split pine to catch fire from the twigs, and then the bundle of half-dried lengths of hard wood that I must but to make a fire that would warm the room. ” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, ps. 3-4.
“I was writing about up in Michigan, and since it was a wild, cold, blowing day it was that sort of day in the story.
. . .
“But the boys [in the story he was writing] were drinking and this made me thirsty and I ordered a rum St. James. This tasted wonderful on the cold day and I kept on writing, feeling very well and feeling the good Martinique rum warm me all through my body and my spirit.” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, p. 5.
. . .
“The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it. I ordered another rum St. James and I watched the girl whenever I looked up, or when I sharpened the pencil with a pencil sharpener with the shavings curling into the saucer under my drink.” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, p. 6.
. . .
“Now that the bad weather had come, we could leave Paris for a while for a place where this rain would be snow coming down through the pines and covering the road and the high hillsides and at an altitude where we would hear it creak was we walked home at night. Below Le Avants there was a chalet where the pension was wonderful and where we would be together and have our books and at night be warm in bed together with the windows open and the stars bright. That was where we would go. Traveling third class on the train was not expensive.
. . .
“Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris as in Paris I could write about Michigan.
. . .
“Anyway we would go if my wife wanted to….
“She had a gently modeled face and her eyes and her smile lighted up at decisions as though they were rich presents.” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, p. 7.
“When we came back to Paris it was clear and cold and lovely. The city had accommodated itself to winter, there was good wood for sale at the wood and coal place across our street….Our town apartment was warm and cheerful. …on the streets the winter light was beautiful. Now you were accustomed to see the bare trees against the sky and you walked on the fresh-washed gravel paths through the Luxembourg gardens in the clear sharp wind. The trees were sculpture without their leaves when you were reconciled to them….
“…I did not notice…the climb up to the top floor of the hotel where I worked, in a room that looked across all the roofs and the chimneys of the high hill of the quarter, was a pleasure. The fireplace drew well in the room and it was warm and pleasant to work. I brought mandarines and roasted chestnuts to the room in paper packets and peeled and ate the small tangerine-like oranges and threw their skins and spat their seeds in the fire when I ate them and roasted chestnuts when I was hungry, I was always hungry…[p. 11].
. . .
I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going…I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and yo will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write teh truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on for there. It was easy then….” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, ps. 11-12.
Ernest Hemingway Writes about Gertrude Stein in 1920’s Paris:
“My wife and I had called on Miss Stein, and she and the friend who lived with her had been very cordial and friendly and we had loved the big studio with the great paintings. It was like one of the best rooms in the finest museum except [p. 13] there was a big fireplace and it was warm and comfortable and they gave you good things to eat and tea and natural distilled liqueurs made from purple plums, yellow plums or wild raspberries. These were fragrant, colorless alcohols served from cut-glass carafes in small glasses…they all tasted like the fruits they came from, converted into a controlled fire on your tongue that warmed you and loosened it.
“Miss Stein was very big but not tall and was heavily built like a peasant woman. She had beautiful eyes and a strong German-Jewish face that also could have been Friulano and she reminded me of a northern Italian peasant woman with her clothes, her mobile face and her lovely, thick, alive, immigrant hair which she wore put up in the same way she had probably worn it in college. She talked all the time and at first it was about people and places.
“Her companion [Alice B. Toklas] had a very pleasant voice, was small, very dark, with her hair cut like Joan of Arc in the Boutet de Monvel illustrations and had a very hooked nose.” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, ps. 13-14.
Gertrude Stein on The Lost Generation
” ‘All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.’
. . .
“”You have no respect for anything. you drink yourselves to death…’ ” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, p. 29.
Hemingway On Walking and about the River Seine
About Autumn, Winter, and Spring
“I would walk along the quais when I had finished work or when I was trying to think something out. It was easier to think if I was walking and doing something or seeing people doing something they understood.” [p. 43]
. . .
“With the fishermen and the life on the river, the beautiful barges with their own life on board, the tugs with their smoke-stacks that folded back to pass under the bridges, pulling a tow of barges, the great elms on the stone banks of the river, the plane trees and in some places the poplars, I could never be [p. 44] lonely along the river. With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.”
“In those days, thought, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, ps. 43-45.
Painting by Corot
Hemingway – & the Goatherd
“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.
“In the spring mornings I would work early while my wife still slept. The windows were open wide and the cobbles of the street were drying after the rain. The sun was drying the wet faces of the houses that faced the window. The shops were still shuttered. The goatherd came up the street blowing his pipes and a woman who lived on the floor above us came out onto the sidewalk with a big pot. The goatherd chose one of the the heavy-bagged, black milk-goats and milked her into the pot while his dog pushed the others onto the sidewalk. The goats looked around, turning their necks like sight-seers. The goatherd took the money from the woman and thanked her and went on up the street piping and the dog herded the goats on ahead, their horns bobbing. I went back to writing and the woman came up the stairs with the goat milk. She wore her felt-soled cleaning shoes and I only heard her breathing as she stopped on the stairs outside our door and then the shutting of her door. She was the only customer for goat milk in our building.” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, p. 49.
“The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of early morning, sweeping out and mopping, and luck were al you needed. For luck you carried a horse chestnut and a rabbit’s foot in your right pocket. The fur had been worn off the rabbit’s foot long ago and the bones and the sinews were polished by wear. The claws scratched in the lining of your pocket and you knew your luck was still there.” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, p. 91.
Hemingway on Ezra and Dorothy Pound
“Ezra Pound was always a good friend and he was always doing things for people. The studio where he lived with his wife Dorothy on the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs was a poor as Gertrude Stein’s studio was rich. It had very good light and was heated by a stove and it had paintings by Japanese artists Ezra knew.
. . .
“Dorothy’s paintings I liked very much and I though Dorothy was very beautiful and built wonderfully. ” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, p. 91.
. . .
“Ezra was the most generous writer I have ever known and the most disinterested. He helped poets, painters, sculptors and prose writers that he believed in and he would help anyone whether he believed in them or not…. He worried about everyone and in the time when I first knew him he was the most worried about T.S. Eliot who, Ezra told me, had to work in a bank in London and so had insufficient time and bad hours to function as a poet.
Ezra Pound, Bel Esprit, and T. S. Eliot
“Ezra founded something called Bel Esprit with Miss Natalie Barney who was a rich American woman and a patroness of the arts. Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, p. 110.
. . .
“The idea of Bel Esprit was that we would all contribute a part of whatever we earned to provide a fund to get Mr. Eliot out of the bank.
. . .
“I cannot remember how Bel Esprit finally cracked up but I think it had something to do with the publication of The Waste Land….”
Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, p. 112.
F.Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda
Hemingway on F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda
“Scott was a man then who looked like a boy with a face between handsome and pretty. He had very wavy hair, a high forehead, excited and friendly eyes and a delicated longplipped Irish mouth that, on a girl, would have been the mouth of a beauty. His chin was well built and he had good ears and a handsome, almost beautiful, unmarked nose. [p. 149]
. . .
“He was lightly built and did not look in awfully good shape, his face being faintly puffy. His Brooks Brothers clothes fitted him well and he wor a white shirt with a buttoned-down collar and a guards tie.” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, pgs. 149-50.
“Scott Fitzgeral invited us to have lunchwith his wife elda and his little daughter at the flat they had rented at 14 rue Tilsitt. I cannot remember much about the flat except that it was gloomy and airless and that there was nothing in it that seemed to belong to them except Scott’s fist book bound in light blue leather with the titles in gold. Scott also showed us a large ledger with all of the storied he had received for them and also the amounts received for any motion picture sales, and the sales and royalties of his books.
. . .
“Zelda had a very bad hangover.
. . .
“On this day Zelda did not look her bet. Her beautiful dark blonde hair had been ruined temporarily by a bad permanent [p. 179] she had gotten in Lyon…, and her eyes were tired and her face was tootaut and drawn.
“She was formally pleasant to Hdley and me but a big part of her seemd not to be present but to still be on the party she had come home from that morning.
. . .
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda, and Their Daughter Frances or Scottie
“Scott was being the perfect host and we ate a very bad lunch that the wine cheered a little but not much. The little girl was blonde, chubby-faced, well built, and very healthy looking and spoke English with a strong Cockney accent. Scott explained that she had an English nanny because he wanted her to speak like Lady Diana Manners when she grew up.
“Zelda had hawk’s eyes and a thin mouth and deep-south manners and accent. Watching her face you could see her mind leave the table and go to the night’s part and return with her eyes blank as a ca’s and then pleased, and the pleasure would show along the thin line of her lips and then be gone.
. . .
“Zelda was jealous of Scott’s work…. [p. 180]
“He would start to work and as soon as he was working well Zelda would begin complaining about how bored she was and get him off on another drunken party. They would quarrel and then make up and he would sweat out the alcohol on long walks with me…Then it would start all over again.” [p. 181]
. . .
“All that late spring and early summer Scott fought to work but he could only work in snatches.” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, pgs. 180-83.
Hemingway is Seated Between His First Wife Hadley and His Second Wife Pauline
Hemingway On Adultery
“Before these rich had come we had already been infiltrated by another rich using the oldest trick there is> It is that an unmarried young woman becomes the temporary best friend of another young woman who is married, goes to live with the husband and wife and then unknowingly, innocently and relentingly set out to marry the husband. [p. 209]
. . .
“The husband has two attractive girls around when he has finished work. One is new and strange and if he has bad luck he gets to love them both.
“Then, instead of the two of them and their child, there are three of them. First it is stimulating and it goes on that way for a while. All thins truly wicked start from an innocence. So you live day by day and enjoy what you have and do not worry. You lie and hate it and it destroys you and every day is more dangerous, but you live day to day as in a war.
. . .
Hemingway and Mr. Bumby [Jack]
“When I saw my wife again standing by the tracks as the train came in by the piled logs at the station, I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her. She was smiling, the sun on her lovely face tanned by the snow and sun, beautifully built, her hair red gold in the sun, grown out all winter awkwardly and beautifully, and Mr. Bumby standing with her, blond and chunky and with winter cheeks looking like a good Vorarlberg boy.
. . .
“I loved her and I loved no one else and we had a lovely magic [p. 210] time while we were alone.
. . .
“That was the end of the first part of Paris. Paris was never to be the same again although it was always Paris and you changed as it changed.
. . .
“But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.” Hemingway, Ernest. Moveable Feast, pgs. 209-211.
A Moveable Feast Is Quoted Repeatedly in the Following Documentary, Which is Excellent: