Hemingway's Paris - A Moveable Feast
"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."
- Ernest Hemingway
A Moveable Feast is one of Hemingway's masterpieces and it describes the American author's life in Paris as a young struggling artist during the 20s.
"In Paris, then, you could live very well on almost nothing and by skipping meals occasionally and never buying any new clothes, you could save and have luxuries."
The book, however, was written many years later after Hemingway found his notebooks in a forgotten Louis Vuitton trunk that was stored in the basement of the Ritz Paris hotel. The first edition was edited and published by his fourth wife Mary in the 60s after his death. This version was then revised by his grandson Séan and published in 2009.
During the 1920s, many famous writers and artists were also living in Paris, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and Pablo Picasso. They all formed part of a community referred to by Gertrude Stein as the 'Lost Generation'. This may all seem familiar to you from the film Midnight in Paris...
"Ezra was the most generous writer I have ever known and the most disinterested. He helped poets, painters, sculptors and prose writers that he believed in and he would help anyone whether he believed in them or not if they were in trouble."
"Much later Picasso told me that he always promised the rich to come when they asked him because it made them so happy and then something would happen and he would be unable to appear."
I have taken out my favourite passages of the book and given them life by photographing the places mentioned and by adding a vintage touch to take you on a Hemingway Paris tour back in the wonderful era of the 1920s...
"The Café des Amateurs was the cesspool of the rue Mouffetard, that wonderful narrow crowded market street which led to the Place Contrescarpe." (that Café no longer exits)
"I walked past the Lycée Henri Quatre and the ancient church of St-Etienne-du-Mont and the windswept Place du Panthéon." (it's still always very windy at the Panthéon)
"As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans."
"There was only the rent of 74 rue Cardinal Lemoine which was nominal." (where Hemingway initially lived in Paris with his first wife Hadley)
"I would stand and look over the roofs of Paris and think."
"But if the light was gone in the Luxembourg I would walk up through the Gardens and stop in at the studio apartment where Gertrude Stein lived at 27 rue de Fleurus."
"I borrowed books from the rental library of Shakespeare and Company, which was the library and bookstore of Sylvia Beach at 12 rue de l'odeon." (it's now at 37 rue de la Bûcherie)
"In the bookstalls along the quais you could sometimes find American books that had just been published for sale very cheap."
"The Tour d'Argent restaurant had a few rooms above the restaurant that they rented in those days, giving the people who lived there a discount in the restaurant."
"At the end of the Île de la Cité below the Pont Neuf where there was a statue of Henri Quatre, the island ended in a point like the sharp bow of a ship and there was a small park at the water's edge with fine chestnut trees, huge and spreading, and in the currents and bank waters that the Seine made flowing past, there were excellent places to fish."
"We walked back through the Tuileries in the dark and stood and looked through the Arc du Carrousel up across the dark gardens with the lights of the Concorde behind the formal darkness and then the long rise of lights toward the Arc de Triomphe."
"We had lunch at the square Louvois at a very good, plain bistro with a wonderful white wine. Across the square was the Bibliothèque Nationale."
"You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the food."
"After you came out of the Luxembourg you could walk down the narrow rue Férou to the place St-Sulpice, the quiet square with its benches and trees. There was a fountain with lions, and pigeons walked on the pavement and perched on the statues of the bishops."
"Then I started to think in Lipp's about when I had first been able to write a story after losing everything."
"The Closerie des Lilas was the nearest good café when we lived in the flat over the sawmill at 113 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, and it was one of the best cafés in Paris."
The number 113 no longer exists on the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs as it was taken down but Hemingway did mention this bakery just opposite as he used to walk all the way through it to reach the Boulevard Raspail on the other side.
"I walked down the street between the high, stained and steaked white houses and turned to the right at the open, sunny end and went into the sun-striped dusk of the Lilas."
"It was a lovely spring day and I walked down from the Place de l'Observatoire through the little Luxembourg."
"I met Joyce who was walking along the Boulevard Saint Germain. He asked me to have a drink with him and we went to the Deux-Magots and ordered dry sherry."
"Scott Fitzgerald invited us to have dinner with his wife Zelda and his little daughter at the furnished flat they had rented at 14 rue de Tilsitt."
"There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other."
- Ernest Hemingway
I truly enjoyed walking around Paris to discover all of these places and thinking about how it must have been at the time when Hemingway was living in the City of Lights. I hope you liked this post and that it will encourage you to read the book if you haven’t already because it represents a lifestyle in Paris that hasn't really changed even to today's date...