Hemingway, too, lived for a time in Paris. An older Paris, yes, but in such old cities not a lot changes...People, Architecture, Culture-all of these things may morph and evolve...but in reality, the city's heart remains the same...the roads, the street names, the way one makes their way from street to another. Perhaps it's my being here that caused me to feel as though I really understand some of Hemingway's recounts of Paris, or maybe it is just his writing style...Regardless of the cause, the way in which Hemingway writes in this book (from the point of view of an expat) makes sense to me. His style, chapter construction, and what he focuses on describing his life here seems close to home. Let me explain.
Firstly, Hemingway's book's structure corresponds to my experience, I think. Before I started reading this book, I decided that I was going to try to journal (one of the professors at NYU Paris told us all about how he journaled all through South America when he went to teach english and travel there for a year, and he relayed his experience with it as being as extremely rewarding). So, I bought a notebook, sat down at a café, then tried to think of how to write about my experience in Paris...I contemplated for a while before I put pen to paper- should I write it like an article? Should I write how I'm feeling? What I'm seeing? Should I write it for an audience? Should I pretend that my great granddaughter will read this if she ever comes to Paris? That sort of thing.
While I was trying to decide how to go about it, I watched an interaction between a little girl with her non-french family, and a man trying to do some law reading for a class. She kept waving at him through a window, while her family was too busy looking at a map to pay attention to her. He'd look up, smile a toothy grin revealing uneven teeth and crinkling eyes, and wave back occasionally- flattered that this little girl was so enamored with him. When her family was ready to go they finally noticed that she'd been staring at the man through the window, upon which they made faces of regret assuming she had been bothering him. He shook his head slightly to indicate that that was not the case. The mother then took the little girl by her hand so as to lead her along their path to their hotel, friends home, next monument or whatnot. The little girl then turned around, stuck her lips to her palm, and blew the reading man a kiss. He blew one in return, and she waddled away, her pudgy hand in that of her mother's.
I then realized that that moment was just part of my life here, and that documenting things like that simple, darling interaction was how I should go about documenting my time in Paris. For me, Paris had been (before reading this book) and has been my experiencing things like those simple moments. In this sense, the way Hemingway writes about Paris makes sense to me...In snippets of his life. While yes, there is continuity from one petit chapter (if you would call them that) to another, Hemingway's book is like reading a bunch of his own little moveable feasts, his collection of memories. From a chapter about the first time he met Gertrude Stein, to a chapter about Fitzgerald, to a chapter about horse racing, to a short chapter about Shakespeare & Co...Hemingway shows us his Paris through his snippets of his moments in time.
Lastly, Hemingway's idea of "A Moveable Feast" Although, as the introduction tells me, Hemingway never actually named his book about his time in Paris "A Moveable Feast," it was taken from a quote of his referring to books as being moveable feasts...That sentiment is something I find appealing- an amassment of memories, all your own. While he writes about Hadley Richardson (his first wife), and how they were essentially poor, but so in love, that was from a time before he did this writing (he eludes to how he should have knocked on wood when she said something like "we always have good luck, Tatie"...foreshadowing their future end). Even so, he is able to write about her in that time
in Paris- in that moment- in those moments when she was essential to him, and they were living their lives amongst the monuments (Hemingway has a tendency of describing exactly where he is/what paths he takes in Paris, which I like) and well-known writers, and painters. He is able to capture his memories, his moveable feasts, and put them to paper. We all have them, our memories/sentiments/knowledge of how we felt about someone or something at some time in our pasts...and those are ours to carry with us forever. I think that can be good or bad, but it's kind of reassuring to know that no matter where we go we'll always have some sort of access to the things that make us us, our memories, our moveable feasts.