Since my grandfather's personal papers and manuscripts became available to the public in 1979 through the Hemingway Room at the Kennedy Library in Boston, scholars have examined and debated the changes made to the text of A Moveable Feast before publication. The new Restored Edition published in 2009 commemorates the 50th anniversary of Hemingway's completion of the first draft of the manuscript. It seeks to restore the original text that my grandfather wrote and make it available to a wider audience.
Significant changes were made to the text of A Moveable Feast after my grandfather's death in 1961 for the posthumous edition first published in 1964. The order of the chapters was changed. The author's preface was fabricated. The last chapter was moved and reworked by the editors to include material that the author had considered for an ending but decided against using. The title had also not been decided on by Hemingway and was chosen by his widow, Mary Hemingway. To see all of the changes in the Restored Edition, you would really need to read it side by side with the first posthumous edition.
The editors Mary Hemingway and Harry Brague of Scribner's changed in many places Hemingway's use of the second person in the narrative, evident from the very first paragraph of chapter one and then throughout the book. This intentional and carefully conceived narrative device had given the effect of the author speaking to himself and, subconsciously, through the repetition of the word "you," it brought the reader into the story. See, for example, the opening lines of the book:
Then there was the bad weather. It would come in one day when the fall was over. You would have to shut the windows in the night against the rain and the cold wind would strip the leaves from the trees in the Place Contrescarpe. The leaves lay sodden in the rain and the wind drove the rain against the big green autobus at the terminal and the Café des Amateurs was crowded and the windows misted over from the heat and the smoke inside.
There are places where snippets of text were taken out or changed. In the chapter entitled "With Pascin at the Dome" the editors deleted the following sentence shown here in italics:
The two models were young and pretty. One was very dark, small, beautifully built with a falsely fragile depravity. She was a lesbian who also liked men. The other was childlike and dull but very pretty in a perishable childish way. She was not as well built as her sister, but neither was anyone else that spring.
Readers of the posthumous edition have no doubt wondered what Hemingway meant by her "falsely fragile depravity" and, regardless of whether you agree with his assessment,the original text reveals the complex sexual preferences that were current in Montparnasse in the 1920s among the artistic community, which Hemingway originally reported in a matter-of-fact manner.
One of the most puzzling and egregious changes that was made is to the foreword to the chapter entitled "Scott Fitzgerald." Hemingway's final text reads:
His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly's wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think. He was flying again and I was lucky to meet him just after a good time in his writing if not a good one in his life.
But in the posthumous edition1, it reads:
His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly's wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.
It is clear that the editors culled this text from an earlier draft discarded by Hemingway, but this kind of editorial decision, which castes Fitzgerald in a less sympathetic light than Hemingway's final version, seems completely unwarranted.
As a classicist, perhaps I am more accustomed to fragments of literature from the Greek lyric poets to the tragedians, butto my mind there is poetry in some of the fragments of Hemingway's writing that are included from manuscripts for the book. Unlike in the case of the ancients, where we imagine these fragments survive from some greater complete work, we know that the fragments from A Moveable Feast are kernels of writing by Hemingway that never came to fruition. Still they are evocative to read:
When we lived in Austria in the winter we would cut each other's hair and let it grow to the same length. One was dark and the other dark red gold and in the dark in the night one would wake the other swinging the heavy dark or the heavy silken red gold across the others lips in the cold dark in the warmth of the bed. You could see your breath if there was moonlight.
Or on a very different vein:
In those days it was no disgrace to be crazy, but, on the other hand, you got no credit for it. We, who had been at the war, admired the war crazies since we knew they had been made so by something that was un-bearable. It was unbearable to them because they were made of a finer or more fragile metal or because they were simple and understood too clearly.
Why is A Moveable Feast one of Hemingway's most beloved books? Ezra Pound, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald — and it could just be true. One of Hemingway's working titles for the book was "The Part Nobody Knows." As the old adage goes, "If it isn't true, it ought to be." Then, of course, there is Paris. The American's love affair with Paris began at least a generation before Hemingway, when artists and writers flocked to Montparnasse, and it continues to this day. As Hemingway himself once observed, ParisI think part of the fascination is that it's juicy, it's gossipy, and at times irreverent. It makes people come alive who are famous figures from a legendary time — Gertrude Stein,
was a fine place to be quite young in and it is a necessary part of a man's education. We all loved it once and we lie if we say we didn't. But she is like a mistress who does not grow old and she has other lovers now. She was old to start with but we did not know it then. We thought she was just older than we were, and that was attractive then. So when we did not love her anymore we held it against her. But that was wrong because she is always the same age and she always has new lovers.
Mary Hemingway wrote in her article for the New York Times Book Review on the making of the book that Hemingway described A Moveable Feast as biography by remate — a final parting and decisive killing shot. Indeed, many of Hemingway's portraits of people such as Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald are extremely cutting. Readers of the Restored Edition will see that Hemingway had written and considered including even more stories that supported his carefully crafted portraits. Fitzgerald, who was already the focus of more chapters than any other person, had two more, and readers will be amazed to see that Hemingway actually held back with his portrait of Ford Maddox Ford by cutting an especially poignant chapter which I have entitled "The Acrid Smell of Lies."
As part of the research for the Restored Edition, I visited Paris and many of my grandfather's old haunts.One thing that struck me was how writers are creatures of habit and even a bit lazy. Joyce's favorite restaurant, Michaud's, was just a stone's throw from his apartment. Hemingway's favorite café was literally the closest café and just down the street from where he lived. Hemingway famously writes about his discipline for writing in A Moveable Feast and one of the interesting aspects of the new Restored Edition is that it provides a further window into Ernest Hemingway's writing process.
I think that my grandfather would be happier with the text presented in A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition. Lovers of literature the world over will find much of interest from a new text for Feast to a wealth of supplementary material, including a personal foreword by Patrick Hemingway and a selection of facsimile manuscript pages that enhance our understanding of this critical period in the author's life and how he wrote.
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Seán Hemingway is the editor of A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition and is a grandson of Ernest Hemingway.
Books mentioned in this post
Sean Hemingway is the author of A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition