Friday, 25 November 2011

Something for the Weekend

Ernest Hemingway- 'A Moveable Feast'

Paris between the wars became for many writers and artists the only place to be. Among the scores of Americans who crossed the Atlantic seeking a place at the epicentre of western culture was a young Ernest Hemingway. He had recently quit a promising career as a journalist to dedicate himself to writing fiction, was newly married, and he was skint. 'A Moveable Feast' is his memoir of those years.

I say 'his memoir' because all sorts of things are inaccurate or unfair. He wrote it towards the end of his life and there is a fair amount of score settling (with the Fitzgeralds and Gertrude Stein in particular) as well as the customary Hemingway bluster. All that is entertaining knockabout stuff, but not a good enough reason to write the book. On closer reading Hemingway seems to be settling scores with himself, trying to comfort himself that he was not always the man he had turned out to be: a man he couldn't stand.

His evocation of Paris life, the characters, cafes, apartments, is extraordinarily powerful. He and the reader both feel its pull still. In a jocular, paternal tone he encourages the romantic and idealist in us all that romance and idealism have integrity, and that being poor doesn't have to be the end of the world. Of course nostalgia colours his view, and in those years the dollar allowed Americans to live very cheaply in Europe but that is not the point. It is a wonderful book. It will cheer you up. It is beautifully written, very entertaining, and it is very short so can be read easily on a Sunday afternoon.

Buy it here

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