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A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway (1964)

*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.”*

A Moveable Feast is a classic example of an older author looking back to his earlier years in a ‘fictional’ retelling. There is a lot of Hemingway-esque descriptions of pursuits and a longing to Paris in the 1920’s, living cheque to cheque as a budding author whilst rubbing shoulders with some of the greats of the twentieth century, including Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Ralph Dunning and Ford Madox Ford. In classic Hemingway style you definitely know who he likes and who he doesn’t, which makes you wonder how much of a polarising individual he was in his day-to-day life (and more importantly, how many fights he probably got into). It’s also amazing as to what he focuses in on in the novel, and what he glosses over – he describes single conversations in great detail but only subtly hints at larger issues here and there, like breadcrumbs down a dark path.

As a rule, you either love Hemingway or you hate him. As an author who was constantly searching for the perfect sentence, he is renowned for lean, cut down prose in which he lay bare the principles of storytelling, seeking the truth in a medium often overflowing with the unnecessary. In a lot of regards, Hemingway was the perfect modernist author. Refined, defined, to the point. Some of the chapters were brilliant, and really drive home how great an author he was – the descriptions of the location and the people provide an accurate snapshot to a place and a life that has undoubtedly changed. Other chapters were a slog, but considering that he wrote this later in life it suggests that revisited themes and relationships are ones which he held onto, and, in some regard, felt the need to atone for.

Is this his best work? Not at all. But it provides a glimpse to the life Hemingway led in the early years, and packs the brutal honesty unique to all of his writing.

*By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.”*

Jon Clay (Armidale Chapter)

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