Monthly Archives: May 2010

Re-Editing the Past: A Moveable Feast

"The Restored Edition," 2009

Hemingway is known for his many revisions, almost always editing events from the way they appeared in his moleskines. Well this week, I finally got around to reading to newest version of A Moveable Feast, (to be honest, I read the new sections and skimmed the rest). This edition is edited by his grandson Sean, who claims it is the most accurate edition.

After Hemingwayโ€™s death in 1961, his fourth wife, Mary, was left with the unfinished pieces that would eventually compose A Moveable Feast, which document his life as a struggling writer and sketch out the relationship with his first wife, Hadley. This included a collection of autobiographical notes and three novels which Mary would single-handedly piece together and publish in 1964.

Ernest and Hadley, Chamby, Switzerland, Winter 1922

Patrick Hemingway, son to Ernie’s second wife, Pauline, never liked the way his mother was depicted in the novel: The work portrays Pauline Pfeiffer as the friend who betrayed Hadley’s trust by seducing Hemingway. (Hemingway, of course, betrayed Hadley too, but whatever — in Bukowski’s words, “Hey man, I’m the hero of my shit,” so Hemingway gets to be the hero of his shit…). So anyway, Patrick suggested that his nephew, Sean, who had already edited a few of Hemingway’s works, compose more accurate compilation of the chapters left at the time of Heminway’s death. The edition that Mary edited is basically a canonical work of American literature at this point — the fact begs the question: does sheer accuracy really matter, especially for an author who fiercely re-edited the “truth”?

Granted, Mary has been publicly criticized for truncating passages in which Hemingway expressed remorse to Hadley, (and understandably so). Patrick and Sean objected to these exclusions because it also excluded the good times Hemingway had with Pauline.

First Edition, 1964

We have no way of knowing, of course, whether Hemingway would have ultimately kept the same order of chapters as appeared in his outline, or whether he would have approved of Maryโ€™s particular interpretation, nor ifย  he would have approved the edition Sean has rehashed. Nonetheless, I would definitely suggest that fans of A Moveable Feast, and those that wish to expand their knowledge of the veritable soap opera that is Hemingway’s prose/psyche, check out this and interpret it as they will. If anything, it adds to the mystique.

After that, go re-read Hills Like White Elephants.

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