Does it count as part of the challenge if I haven’t read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast in about….a really long time?? Let’s just say that it was in another century and millennium that I’d first read this memoir of Hemingway’s early Paris years, and since I’m going to Paris myself for the first time in ten (!!) days, I thought I’d do some background re-reading. Not that Hemingway’s Paris of the ’20’s has a lot to do with the Paris of today, from what I’m told, but I was thinking about the famous café Les Deux Magots, now supposedly an over-priced tourist destination (I’ve been warned away by my guidebook), and how this place was where Hemingway went with his friends, writers and artists who now are the definition of culture in the twentieth century–Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Salvador Dali, Picasso. “Une génération perdue” according to Gertrude, but she was wrong–they weren’t “lost.” We found them, venerated them, Miss Stein too, and look back to those days as formative in the way literature and art began to change our thinking and understanding.
The end really says it all: “There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.”
It is truly sad to realize that within a year of writing A Moveable Feast, Hemingway committed suicide, and so the memory of his past happiness becomes in some way his epitaph, something he was reaching towards at the end of his life but remained elusive and momentary.