After you came out of the Luxembourg you could walk down the narrow rue Fèrou to the Place St.-Sulpice and there were still no restaurants, only 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. There was the church and there were shops selling religious objects and vestments on the north side of the square. From this square you could not go further toward the river without passing shops selling fruits, vegetables, wines, or bakery and pastry shops. But by choosing your way carefully you could work to your right around the grey and white stone church and reach the rue de l'Odèon and turn up to your right toward Sylvia Beach's bookshop and on your way you did not pass too many places where things to eat were sold.
Participating in the Paris in July challenge by fellow bloggers Thyme for Tea and BookBath has been such a fabulous journey through all things Parisian. I chose this week to read, while preparing for my vacation at the Hemingway Days festival in Key West by reading Ernest Hemingway's, A Moveable Feast. Set in 1920s Paris, it is a retrospective by Hemingway of his life at that time, married to Hadley and surrounded by fellow ex-pats that ranged from Gertrude Stein to Ezra Pound and to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Almost every page provides an image into life in Paris, and I found myself wandering the rue Cardinal Lemoine or by the Seine, drinking from a small carafe of wine or eating in one of the cafès that Hemingway gathers to write. Perhaps he is at the next table?
Although Ernest Hemingway writes in his preface, "If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact." This he relates after he has completed writing A Moveable Feast in 1960, and it is honestly told, no fluff to his descriptions of streets, stores, and life for him and his wife. It is before Hemingway has become the famous writer, and in Paris, he is a struggling writer, being turned down by American magazines, and only being accepted by German publications. Each page is his daily life writing and struggling, living and struggling, and providing for his family. He writes of Hadley in a favorable light, almost sweetly, and she is his supportive wife, and I felt regret from Hemingway. I thought of him writing these events, now an older man living in Cuba, about his younger life in Paris, loyal or insane or sad ex-pats rounding out his circle of friends, and he is unashamedly blunt in his thoughts on each writer or poet that he interacts with.
Hemingway is honest in every detail that he shares. If it is a dark day with black clouds, that is how he writes it, with nothing more, nothing less. I was enchanted by that and I was left to my own imagination, as Hemingway would walk the streets to Sylvia Beach's bookshop, Shakespeare and Company. He writes of being provided books to read on credit, and how he and Hadley save to go on trips together, and how much love they had for each other. Together, they played the races, but it never created tensions between them, only people did, he writes. I found it all to be incredibly sad, especially in the final pages as he writes about deception and his first affair, and it drips with sadness, regret for his choices, and my heart broke again. Perhaps I was so sad about these events because Hemingway, shortly after finishing this book, commits suicide. Does he wish for life to be done over again, to make better choices?
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
Perhaps I am such a fan for Hemingway and his life that this book touched me so deeply. Or perhaps it is the stark grittiness and beauty of Paris that he shares, and the grief of a writer in the midst of it all, that made me feel his lamentations and remorse? I can say that I read books with small Post-It notes to highlight pages that strike me as touching, funny, brilliant, grieving, and I can only honestly convey to you how I felt about this book by sharing this picture of it with you. I loved this story.