Papa Does Paris
A new, revised edition of Hemingway's memoir.
Sep 21, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 01 • By LIAM JULIAN
A Moveable Feast
Ernest Hemingway, after tossing off dozens of potential titles for what he was calling his Paris Sketches, eventually settled on The Early Eye and the Ear (How Paris was in the early days). Then he killed himself. His widow, Mary, was left to move her late husband's drafts through the stages of publication, and it was she who decided to rename the final product A Moveable Feast.
Good decision. The title comes from A.E. Hotchner's recollection--detailed in his memoir, Papa Hemingway--of a time in 1950 when he and Hemingway were chatting at the Ritz Bar in Paris. Hotchner was considering whether to forsake his New York editing job and move overseas. Papa told him, "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."
It is a moveable feast that Hemingway might never have relayed had he not, in 1956, checked into a room at that same Ritz on the Place Vendôme. When the luggage had been delivered, "Ernest over-tipped the bagagistes as usual," Mary later wrote, "but they glowered at him, cornered him, and made a speech." It was a speech that they had been making for a long while, in fact: Monsieur Hemingway--you really must collect the two trunks containing your old belongings, which have been in storage in our basement since 1928. The containers are decaying; if you don't take them, the city dump will.
The writer assented. The receptacles were brought to his room, their locks popped, and Hemingway was suddenly confronted with notebooks, letters, papers, news clippings, and even clothes that he hadn't seen for three decades. As he sorted through the trunks' contents, he told Mary, "It's wonderful."
Sparked by this re-acquaintance with times past, Hemingway began work on A Moveable Feast--a compilation of condensed tales about his life in 1921-1926 Paris--and kept at it sporadically over the next several years. He was distracted and not well, and the writing did not come easily. But he managed to complete the drafts and to select an overarching title for them.
"Making a list of titles and choosing one were the final chores Ernest performed for a book," according to Mary. "He must have considered the book finished except for the editing which even the most meticulous manuscripts require."
Mary was mistaken. Her husband did not consider the book finished. Hemingway had, in fact, written a letter to his publisher in which he explicitly stated that his Paris memoirs were incomplete. The work "is not to be published the way it is," he wrote, "and it has no end." He was not satisfied with the final chapter and had yet to compose a proper introduction. He would write neither an introduction nor conclusion before committing suicide in July 1961.
In 1963, Mary Hemingway and Harry Brague, an editor at Scribner, began to prepare A Moveable Feast for publication. They devised chapter headings, rearranged material, and excised passages that Hemingway had intended to use while inserting others he had not. In addition to picking the title, Mary assembled a preface out of scattered bits from assorted drafts and constructed a final chapter. The result was released in 1964 and has been with us ever since.
Now, however, comes a new version edited by the author's grandson, Seán Hemingway, who arranged it from original manuscripts housed at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. The "restored edition," Seán writes, "is Ernest Hemingway's original manuscript text as he had it at the time of his death in 1961." Thus, it has no introduction, and readers familiar with the 1964 version will notice that several chapters have been realigned. Seán also includes as addenda 10 additional chapters; he contends, though, that they must be regarded as unfinished and that his grandfather did not want them included in the final manuscript--instructions Mary did not heed.
For example, the final chapter of the 1964 book is a heavily edited combination of two distinct sketches, one of which Hemingway hoped to leave unpublished. The first sketch, titled "Winters in Schruns" in the restored edition, depicts lovely winters spent skiing in Austria. The second, which the restored edition calls "The Pilot Fish and the Rich" and files among the 10 extra chapters, reports how mountain respites were eventually ruined by the arrival of rich people, one of whom inserted herself between Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, and eventually separated them for good.