A Moveable Feast

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This article is about Ernest Hemingway's memoir. For holy days without a fixed date, see moveable feast. For the album, see Fairport Live Convention.
A Moveable Feast
First American edition
Author Ernest Hemingway
Country United States
Language English
Genre Autobiography
Publisher Scribners (USA) & Jonathan Cape (UK)
Publication date
December 1964

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, not published during Hemingway's lifetime, was edited from his manuscripts and notes by his fourth wife and widow Mary Hemingway, and published posthumously in 1964, three years after Hemingway's death. An edition 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. He had the notebooks transcribed and then worked them up into a memoir during the period when he was working on his book The Dangerous Summer (written in 1959 and 1960, and published posthumously in 1985). He rewrote several key passages and prepared a final draft, but after his death, his fourth wife, Mary, in her capacity as Hemingway's literary executor, edited the manuscript.

Gerry Brenner, a literary scholar at the University of Montana, and other researchers have examined Hemingway's notes and 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 documented Mary Hemingway's editing process and questioned its validity. He concluded that some of her changes were misguided, and others derived from questionable motives.[1] 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.[2] Brenner indicates 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, A.E. Hotchner has said that he received a near final draft of A Moveable Feast, and the version Mary Hemingway published is essentially the draft he had read in 1957. Therefore, in his view, the original 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.[3]

Source of title[edit]

The title of A Moveable Feast, a play on the term for a holy day whose date is not fixed, was suggested by Hemingway's friend and biographer A. E. Hotchner, who remembered Hemingway saying in a letter which is referenced at the beginning of the book: "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."[4] The term was also used 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."[5]

Publishing history[edit]

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", "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".[6]

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."[7]

A.E. Hotchner, a friend and biographer of Hemingway's, 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.[3] Other critics also have found fault with some of the editorial changes.[8] 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.”[9]

Film and television adaptations[edit]

On September 15, 2009, Variety announced that Mariel Hemingway, a granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway's, and Hadley Richardson, his first wife, had acquired the film and television rights to the memoir with American film producer John Goldstone.[10]

Cultural references[edit]

In films[edit]

  • The comedy film The Moderns (1988) brings the characters of The Moveable Feast to life while spoofing the pretense of the Lost Generation.
  • 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 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" in two instances.
  • The Words (2012) uses an excerpt from A Moveable Feast to represent a book manuscript found in an old messenger bag.
  • In the American superhero film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), one of the books on the shelf in the character Steve Rogers' apartment is Heminway's A Moveable Feast.

In literature[edit]

In stage performances[edit]

  • In his early stand-up performances in the late 1960s, Woody Allen performed a routine wherein he riffed the feel of the then recently published book while describing imaginary times spent with Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, and Gertrude Stein with the repeated punch line: "And Hemingway punched me in the mouth."[11]

In other uses[edit]

  • The famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris has labeled a stool for reaching books on high shelves as "a moveable stool".[when?] The stool was created by philosopher Terry Craven and jazz guitarist Alex Frieman, who both work at the shop.[citation needed]

Preserved video of two critical reactions from 1964[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.[12][13] She appeared on an episode that was telecast live on CBS on June 7, 1964, when A Moveable Feast was on bestseller lists.[12][13] Graham appeared on the show to promote a book she had written, and she did not bring up A Moveable Feast.[12][13]

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.[12] 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.[14]

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[edit]

Following the November 13, 2015, terrorist incident in Paris, the deadliest attack the city had seen since World War II,[15] A Moveable Feast became a bestseller in France. 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.[15][16]


  1. ^ Brenner, Gerry (December 1982). "Are We Going To Hemingway's Feast?". American Literature 54 (4): 528. 
  2. ^ Hemingway, Mary. How It Was. New York: Ballantine\date= 1977. 
  3. ^ a b Hotchner, A. E. (2009-07-20). "Don't Touch 'A Moveable Feast'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  4. ^ Hotchner, A.E. (1966). Papa Hemingway. New York: Random House. p. 57. 
  5. ^ Camus, Albert (1942). The Stranger. 
  6. ^ Hemingway, Ernest & Hemingway, Seán (ed.) (2009). A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition. New York: Scribner's. p. 4. 
  7. ^ Hemingway (2009), p. xiv
  8. ^ Massie, Allan (August 5, 2009). "Rewrites and Wrongs". The Spectator. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  9. ^ Gammel, Irene (August 21, 2009). "A Changeable Feast". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  10. ^ Fleming, Mike (2009-09-15). "Hemingway's 'Feast' Heads to Screen". Variety. Retrieved 2010-04-05. 
  11. ^ Buchanan, Kyle (March 14, 2012). "Fifty Years Ago Woody Allen Plotted Midnight in Paris in this Stand Up Routine". Vulture. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Episode in which Sheilah Graham and Bennett Cerf comment on A Moveable Feast". What's My Line. June 7, 1964. 
  13. ^ a b c "Text written by people who watched the 2006 GSN broadcast of the 1964 What's My Line kinescope". What's My Line. 
  14. ^ "Kinescope of What's My Line episode that aired live on CBS on June 7, 1964, cue it to 10 minutes 19 seconds". What's My Line (YouTube). 
  15. ^ a b Watson, Ivan & Sandrine, Amiel (November 22, 2015). "A Moveable Feast: Sales surge for Hemingway's Paris memoir". CNN. 
  16. ^ Chandler, Adam (November 23, 2015). "How Hemingway's A Moveable Feast Has Become a Bestseller in France; Following the deadly attacks in Paris, the author’s memoir about life in the city has sold out of bookstores". The Atlantic. 


Further reading[edit]

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