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A Moveable Feast

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Publication date
December 1964

Ernest Hemingway


Originally published
December 1964

United States of America

A Moveable Feast t0gstaticcomimagesqtbnANd9GcTOsKit97MQVePyd

Scribner's (USA) Jonathan Cape (UK)

Fiction, Biography, Memoir, Autobiography

Ernest Hemingway books, Paris books, Memoirs

Book review a moveable feast by ernest hemingway

A Moveable Feast is a memoir by American author Ernest Hemingway about his years as a struggling, young, expatriate journalist and writer in Paris in the 1920s. The book describes the author's apprenticeship as a young writer while he was married to his first wife, Hadley Richardson.


The memoir consists of various personal accounts, observations, and stories by Hemingway. He provides specific addresses of apartments, bars, cafes, and hotels --- many of which can still be found in Paris today. Among other notable persons, people featured in the book include: Sylvia Beach, Hilaire Belloc, Aleister Crowley, John Dos Passos, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Pascin, Ezra Pound, Evan Shipman, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and Hermann von Wedderkop.

The memoir was published posthumously based on Hemingway's manuscripts and notes by his fourth wife and widow, Mary Hemingway, in 1964, three years after Hemingway's death. An edition altered and revised by his grandson, Seán Hemingway, was published in 2009.


In November 1956, Hemingway recovered two small steamer trunks that he had stored in March 1928 in the basement of the Hôtel Ritz Paris. The trunks contained notebooks he had filled during the 1920s. Hemingway's friend and biographer A. E. Hotchner, who was with him in Paris in 1956, later recounted the occasion of Hemingway's recovery of the trunks and notebooks:

Having recovered his trunks, Hemingway had the notebooks transcribed, and then began working them up into the memoir that would eventually become A Moveable Feast. After Hemingway's death in 1961, his widow Mary Hemingway, in her capacity as his literary executor, made final copy-edits to the manuscript prior to its publication in 1964. In a "Note" with which she prefaced the posthumously published 1964 edition of the work, she wrote:

Gerry Brenner, a literary scholar at the University of Montana, and other researchers have examined Hemingway's notes and the initial drafts of A Moveable Feast, which are in the collection of Ernest Hemingway's personal papers opened to the public in 1979, following the completion of the John F. Kennedy Library, where they are held in Boston. In a paper titled "Are We Going to Hemingway's Feast?" (1982), Brenner undertook to document Mary Hemingway's editing process and questioned its validity. He concluded that some of her changes were misguided, and others derived from questionable motives. He also suggested that the changes appeared to contradict Mary's stated policy for her role as executor, which had been to maintain a "hands off" approach. Brenner states that Mary changed the order of the chapters in Hemingway's final draft, apparently to "preserve chronology". This change interrupted the series of juxtaposed character sketches of such individuals as Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare & Company, and Gertrude Stein. The chapter titled "Birth of a New School", which Hemingway had dropped from his draft, was reinserted by Mary. Brenner alleges the most serious change was the deletion of Hemingway's lengthy apology to his first wife, Hadley. 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 his wife.

In contrast, Hotchner has said that he received a near final draft of A Moveable Feast in 1959, and that the version Mary Hemingway published is essentially the draft he had read then. In his view, the original 1964 publication is the version that Hemingway intended, and Mary Hemingway did not revise or add chapters on her own initiative, but simply carried out Ernest's intentions. Hotchner describes Hemingway's memoir as "a serious work", that Hemingway "certainly intended it for publication", and contends: "Because Mary was busy with matters relating to Ernest’s estate, she had little involvement with the book.... What I read on the plane coming back from Cuba [in 1959] was essentially what was published. There was no extra chapter created by Mary.

Source of title

The title of A Moveable Feast (a play on words for the term used for a holy day for which the date is not fixed) was suggested by Hemingway's friend and biographer A. E. Hotchner, who remembered Hemingway using the term in 1950. Hotchner's recollection of what Hemingway had said became the source of the epigraph on the title page for the posthumously published work in 1964.

The term had also been used earlier out of its traditional religious context by Albert Camus in his novel, The Stranger (1942): "Masson remarked that we'd had a very early lunch, but really lunch was a movable feast, one had it when one felt like it."


The 1964 edition of Hemingway's Paris memoir consists of a "Preface" by Hemingway (pg. ix), a "Note" by his widow (pg. xi), and 20 chapters, or individual parts or sections. Each of the chapters can be read as a stand-alone piece or entity, not dependent upon the context of the whole work, nor necessarily arranged in any chronological order—with titles descriptive of the subject matter of each, as follows:

Publishing history

The first published edition was edited from Hemingway's manuscripts and notes by his fourth wife and widow, Mary Hemingway, and published posthumously in 1964, three years after Hemingway's death.

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" and "There is Never Any End to Paris" (which has been renamed as "Winter in Schruns" and moved to chapter 16) had sections previously left out that have 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 as an "Additional Paris Sketch".
  • Hemingway's use of the second person has been restored in many places, a change which Seán asserts "brings the reader into the story".
  • 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'."

    A.E. Hotchner alleged, among his other criticisms of the 2009 edition, that Seán Hemingway had edited it, in part, to exclude references to his grandmother (Hemingway's second wife Pauline Pfeiffer) that he found less than flattering. As Hotchner's over-all assessment of the 2009 edition, he wrote:

    "Ernest was very protective of the words he wrote, words that gave the literary world a new style of writing. Surely he has the right to have these words protected against frivolous incursion, like this reworked volume that should be called “A Moveable Book”.

    Other critics also have found fault with some of Seán Hemingway's editorial changes. 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.”

    Film and television adaptations

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

    Preserved video of two critical reactions from 1964

    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. She appeared on an episode that was telecast live on CBS on June 7, 1964, when A Moveable Feast was on bestseller lists. Graham appeared on the show to promote a book she had written, and she did not bring up A Moveable Feast.

    Bennett Cerf, the head of Random House publishing who was also a regular panelist on the network television series, initiated talk of Hemingway's new bestselling book. Cerf, who was two years younger than Fitzgerald and one year older than Hemingway, had the following exchange with Graham, according to the kinescope of the telecast that is available for viewing on YouTube.

    Cerf: Miss Graham, after, after this new Hemingway book, I hope you're going to answer some of the remarks that were made in that book about Scott Fitzgerald.

    Graham: Well, I would like to. I'm not sure I'm the right person, although I am the right person...

    Cerf: Ah, you certainly are the right person.

    Graham: ... to answer that. I thought it was rather dreadfully cruel to Scott Fitzgerald and, untrue in, uh, in certain areas, shall we say.

    Cerf: Well, I hope you'll straighten the record.

    Graham: [unintelligible] ... try

    Revival in wake of 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris

    Following the November 13, 2015, terrorist incident in Paris, the deadliest attack the city had seen since World War II, A Moveable Feast became a bestseller in France. In the context of the attacks, the book's French-language title, Paris est une fête, was a potent symbol of defiance and celebration. Bookstore sales of the volume surged, and copies of the book became a common fixture among the flowers and candles in makeshift memorials created by Parisians across the city to honor victims of the attacks.


    A Moveable Feast Wikipedia