Ernest Hemingway: A Moveable Feast
Summary by Michael McGoodwin, prepared 1998

Acknowledgement: This work has been summarized using the Touchstone 1996 edition.  Quotations are for the most part taken from that work, as are paraphrases of its commentary.   

Overall Impression: Hemingway's nostalgic, remorseful, boozy, and sometimes bitter and unkind recollections of his years in Paris as an expatriate in the 1920's with his first wife Hadley [Richardson, married 1921], of whom he has nothing but fond memories. 

Notes: Written 1957-60-- he died 1961.


He describes a great deal of drinking (about which he seems to have no expressed regret), writing in the cafes he frequented, visits to Gertrude Stein, her homosexuality and views thereof, and her characterization of his generation as a "lost generation". His kindest comments are about Sylvia Beach, the American who ran an English bookstore called Shakespeare and Company-- it was a hangout for English-speaking authors and others, and was an oasis for individuals seeking English-langauage books. 

He depicts his genteel poverty (especially after he gave up journalistic activities to devote fulltime to writing), his obsession with gambling on horse races, his new interest in bicycle racing. Hadley loses all of his manuscripts. There is a little mention of their first son Bumby (John). He courts influential people such as Ford Madox Ford, who is described very unfavorably, and has great admiration for war veterans. He describes the obnoxious Hal, who becomes a critic. His artist friend Pascin invites him to bang his models, but he declines. 

His friend Ezra Pound is trying to get up a collection for T. S. Eliot to rescue him form mundane bank work. He teaches Pound boxing. He cuts off his friendship with Stein, apparently in part repulsed by her lesbian relationship with Alice B. Toklas. 

The editor and book promoter Ernest Walsh is dying of TB and unkindly portrayed as a con man who entices multiple authors with thoughts of the same prize money.

He debates the merits of Doestoevsky with poet Evan Shipman. Ezra Pound charges him with delivering opium to the addicted poet Ralph Dunning, but Dunning rejects the help. 

Hemingway spends considerable time describing F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda (a "Hawk"). They are heavy drinkers and she want him for a drinking and play companion-- she is destructive to his career. He is delicate, not masculine, hypochondriacal. He joins Fitzgerald in Lyons to drive his car back. Soon after he reads The Great Gatsby. Zelda, who is going insane, is the cause of Fitzgerald's decline as a writer. Hemingway is writing The Sun Also Rises ([publ. 1926]). Zelda disparages Fitzgerald's physical proportions and is not sexually satisfied by him. 

The book end with an account of the idyllic time he and Hadley spent in the Voralberg Alps of Austria, skiing (which involved vigorous climbing with skins), studying snow and avalanches. A single woman ([Pauline Pfieffer]) arrives and this develops into an affair that will destroy his marriage. [He divorced Hadley and married Pauline 1927; divorced her and married Martha Gellhorn 1940; divorced her and married last wife Mary Welsh 1944]).