A Moveable Feast: The Revised Edition

From The Telegraph:

Hemingway_main_1695531f Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s suicide, a ghoulish landmark that may prompt reconsideration of the writer but is unlikely to restore the reputation he once had as America’s greatest novelist. His most famous books, A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls, today seem mawkish rather than moving. His reputation has been further eroded by the posthumous appearance of writing that doesn’t show him at his best. A Moveable Feast, which first appeared in 1964, three years after Hemingway’s death, is an exception. It is a series of sketches set in Paris in the early Twenties, where Hemingway lived for five years as a struggling writer. He knew most of the luminaries there – Pound, Madox Ford, Joyce, Stein and Scott Fitzgerald are all brought to life.

The Hemingway of Paris days was little more than a teenager, yet already showed a mature talent for disparagement, which receded in later years as his own persona, inflated by fame, pushed other characters off centre stage in his work. His early novel The Sun Also Rises (1926) starts with a subtle character assassination: “Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn.” Three decades later, Hemingway was happy to dispatch most of his famous contemporaries with equal ruthlessness and the portraits in A Moveable Feast are made deadlier by Hemingway’s half-hearted disclaimers. He tells of overhearing Stein addressed (presumably by Alice B Toklas) “as I had never heard one person speak to another; never, anywhere, ever” – the sinister effect magnified by Hemingway’s tantalising refusal to repeat the words he heard. Madox Ford is depicted, unfairly but hilariously, as a preposterous stuffed shirt, while Pound is a gentle, comical figure, rushing round raising funds to free “Mr Eliot” in London from his bank job. Notoriously, Scott Fitzgerald, despite Hemingway's repeated protestations of friendship, is portrayed at length as a whiny, sexually inadequate weakling. Although Hemingway blames Zelda for her husband’s troubles, he did enough damage to change popular perceptions of Fitzgerald for years. A Moveable Feast is a masterpiece of malice.

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