Memories of Paris

A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway

I have to admit that I have now discovered one of the major disadvantages of reading something on a smartphone. After finishing Snows of Kilimanjaro and still having three Hemingway pubs to visit, I wanted to read some more Hemingway, and what better book to read while one is in Paris, drinking wine at a Hemingway pub, than A Moveable Feast. Well, the problem is that nobody actually knows that you are reading this particular book. In fact, if you are just staring at your smartphone people either think you are playing Pokemon Go, or checking your Facebook status. However, the problem was that when I wandered into an English language bookshop I discovered that the one Hemingway book that they didn't have was this one. Mind you, I did end up finding one, at Shakespeare and Company of all places (though they make sure that there is always a copy available), and within half an hour of wandering through the streets of Paris somebody saw the book in my hand and said 'A Moveable Feast – Awesome book!”.


Well, as it turns out this particular book is incredibly popular here in Paris, but then again I'm not at all surprised since it is about somebody living in Paris. Mind you, as I was sitting down at a cafe having lunch I noticed that I wasn't the only person who makes a habit of reading a book associated with the city, or country, in which I am visiting. Some guy sat down at a table near me and immediately pulled out a copy of [book:Down and Out in Paris and London], a book that I myself would love to read, however I am unlikely to read it anytime soon as I already have my London book set aside (Mrs Dalloway), though if I manage to get through that one I might grab a copy once I hit London and visit one of the famous bookstores there.


Anyway, what I might do is suggest the best way to read this book. Okay, I know that not everybody is able to go to Paris, but if you do happen to land up here before reading the book visit each of the Hemingway Pubs, sit down and have a drink of wine while reading something of Hemingway (who else would you read while sitting at a cafe that Hemingway drank at), and maybe ask the waiter where Hemingway used to sit (the waiters at Brasserie Lipp and Le Select showed me, while the waiters at La Closerie des Lilas really didn't care that Hemmingway used to drink here and basically told me 'somewhere inside'). Once you have done that, go to Shakespeare and Company, buy a copy of A Moveable Feast (and ask them to stamp it), and then go to Le Jardin du Luxembourg, find a statue that you really like, grab a chair, sit in front of it, and start reading.


The reason I say that is because you have pretty much visited all of the places that Hemingway talks about (though Shakespeare and Company has moved since Hemingway used to visit the place and is just across the river from the Notre Dame), and it creates a much better image of what Hemingway is writing about. Mind you, make sure that you have got a bit of coin on you because those six cafes are not cheap. In fact Le Dome is now an incredibly expensive seafood restaurant and unless you are dressed like you have money (which I never am), then they will treat you like the vagrant that they think you are (by the way a main course will cost you something like fifty eight Euros, and a simple glass of pineapple juice will set you back ten euros, as well as the indignity of being treated like a piece of rubbish by the waiter).


As for Paris, well, it has its moments, and there is certainly an awful lot of things to do here (that doesn't involve sitting at Le Select drinking wine at the bar where Hemingway used to sit, getting drunk, and then stumbling home, where-ever that may be), and even five days simply won't allow you to really experience the true nature of the setting (particularly if that experience involves sitting the the Luxembourg Gardens, in front of a really cool statue, and reading a book for four hours, though don't walk on the grass). Mind you, even sitting in the courtyard of my hotel near Gare St Lazare listing to the trains roaring past has this really romantic feel about it – where else on Earth can the rattle of trains be romantic?.


Mind you, Paris does have it's fair share of dodgy people, but then again it is a major city. For instance a rather amusing thing happened to me as I was dragging my luggage around Gare du Nord. I needed to catch a cab to St Lazare and this guy came up to me to ask me if I wanted a cab. Well, anybody coming up to me offering me a cab is going to set off a lot of alarm bells, but he then tried to convince me that all of the cabs leaving the cab rank only went to the airport, and proceeded to point to a sign that also said taxi (despite the fact that the sign actually said taxi drop off). Mind you, this joker was really persuasive (or should I say pushy – actually I think that is the better word because he didn't persuade me at all), and dragged me down to the car park. Well, not really, because when he went into the rental car area and opened an unmarked door, I proceeded to swear at him in German, and went off and caught a real cab (which, as it turned out, took me to St Lazare).


As for this book, well, the one thing it does is that it shows us that writers don't exist in isolation. It is very easy to think that writers exist in a void of their own, but Hemingway drops so many famous names it is not funny. Here we will encounter Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein among others (or, I can't forget T.S. Elliot, and how he used to work it a bank which mean writing really difficult for him, until he got rave reviews for The Wasteland). Mind you, it isn't a story about how Hemingway sat in cafes in Paris and gets drunk (if you want that you should read A Sun Also Rises but it does give us an insight into his time in Paris, and an experience that he will take with him for the rest of his life.