Revisionist Remix for ‘A Moveable Feast’

Hemingway with his first wife, Hadley Richardson, left, and his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. [Source: Hemingway Collection/JFK Library/AP/NYT]
Hemingway with his first wife, Hadley Richardson, left, and his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. [Source: Hemingway Collection/JFK Library/AP/NYT]

Ernest Hemingway said some mean things about Gertrude Stein and Zelda Fitzgerald in A Moveable Feast.  He never forgave Zelda for suggesting that he, Ernest Hemingway, might be a homosexual. Read the scene in which Hem takes F. Scott in tow to measure the manhood of heroic statues in the Louvre. After you stop laughing, you might conclude that Zelda was on to something.

Hemingway was out to settle old scores in his Paris memoir, and he expected to have the last word, even if he didn’t finish the manuscript. But wait – his grandson is revising the history Hem embroidered again and again. According to Motoko Rich in the NYT:

Besides its tart portraits of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway’s posthumous memoir of his early days in Paris, “A Moveable Feast,” provides a heart-wrenching depiction of marital betrayal.

The final chapter, “There Is Never Any End to Paris,” is a wistful paean to Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife, whom the writer left for her best friend. The friend, Pauline Pfeiffer, the wealthy woman who became Hemingway’s second wife, is portrayed as something of a wily predator, and it is Hemingway’s “bad luck” that he falls for her.

It turns out that the story behind the editing of the book is nearly as juicy as the tales within it, and has become something of a multigenerational custody battle over how to cast the larger-than-life author’s stormy romantic history.

Mary Hemingway, the writer’s fourth and final wife, was the one who edited the first edition of “A Moveable Feast,” published by Scribner in 1964, cobbling it together from shards of the unfinished manuscript he left behind. She created a final chapter that dealt with the dissolution of Hemingway’s first marriage and the beginning of his relationship with Pauline, building some of it from parts of the book he had indicated he did not want included.

Early next month, Scribner, now an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is publishing a new edition of the book, what it is calling “the restored edition,” and this time it is edited by Seán Hemingway, a grandson of Hemingway and Pauline. Among the changes he has made is removing part of that final chapter from the main body of the book and placing it in an appendix, adding back passages from Hemingway’s manuscript that Seán believes paint his grandmother in a more sympathetic light.

“I think this edition is right to set the record straight,” said Seán Hemingway, 42, who said Mary cut out Hemingway’s “remorse and some of the happiness he felt and his very conflicted views he had about the end of his marriage.”

Scholars are clear that this new edition should not be regarded as definitive any more than the 1964 version. “This book can’t become a sacred text,” said Ann Douglas, a professor of literature at Columbia University, adding that “there can be no final text because there is not one.”

Indeed, scholars and aficionados have long known that Hemingway did not consider his Paris memoir complete at the time of his suicide in 1961. He wrote a letter — though it was not sent until after his death — to his publisher, Charles Scribner, that “it is not to be published the way it is and it has no end.”

But in an essay she wrote for The New York Times Book Review in May 1964, Mary said Hemingway “must have considered the book finished.” Along with Harry Brague, an editor at Scribner, she shaped the manuscript, changing the order of some chapters, and adding others that Hemingway had decided not to include. Most notably, Mary inserted that final chapter about the end of Hemingway’s first marriage. Read more

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