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4.0 out of 5 stars The Heirs of Hemingway Still at War, July 19, 2009
This review is from: A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition (Hardcover)
This book is Ernest Hemingway's reminisce about his life in Paris in the 1920s and the literary figures he knew, such as Gertrude Stein, Ford Maddox Ford, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was left unfinished at the time of Hemingway's death in 1961 and originally published in 1964, edited by his fourth and last wife, Mary. This new "restored" version presents the same book as re-edited by Hemingway's grandson Sean.

The original book is a highly-regarded literary work of art, leaving open the question of why the world needs a new version. The one and only advantage is the inclusion of new, previously unpublished chapters included after the main text, called "Additional Paris Sketches." Anything new written by Hemingway is always welcome.

The problem is Sean Hemingway's editing and the motivation behind it. In his Introduction, he would have us believe Mary somehow wrecked Hemingway's vision of the book and he has now reshuffled the chapters to reflect what his grandfather would have really wanted. Forty-five years after the original publication, Sean writes with what seems to me unusually strong venom at Mary and what he sees as her agenda in making her edits: "The extensive edits Mary Hemingway made to this text seem to have served her own personal relationship with the writer as his fourth and final wife, rather than the interests of the book, or of the author, who comes across in the posthumous first edition as something of an unknowing victim, which he clearly was not." Sean needed to provide some sort of rationale for the new edition, and this is what he would have us believe: the original book reflected Mary's wishes, not Ernest's.

But since the manuscript was left unfinished when Hemingway died, no one knows what he really would have wanted. There is no "definitive" edition and never can one be. Even worse, Sean can well be accused of the same sin as he asserts for Mary: his edits are designed specifically to paint his grandmother Pauline Pfeiffer, Hemingway's second wife and his own grandmother, in a far more favorable light. Readers and scholars can compare the two editions and judge for themselves: is Sean protecting his grandfather's true wishes--whatever they were--or is he doing a favor for his own grandmother at the expense of Hemingway's conception? Sean dug around in the archives and found some things that look good for his grandmother, included them, and rejiggered the original contents in her favor as well.

The good news surely must be that the various heirs of Hemingway can't destroy his work, no matter what their motivations. The text is still the work of one of the 20th century's greatest and most influential writers. Most readers won't need the new edition, as the original, as literature, hasn't really been improved upon. Scholars and Hemingway fans will want to see the new sketches. Probably 45 years into the future, a "scholar's" edition will be published, sans any input from the various heirs of Hemingway, in an attempt to "set the record straight."
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 19, 2009 6:36:50 PM PDT
I'm not a scholar but I am a great lover of this book. The reading I've done suggests that it is more or less a consensus that the previous edition of "A Moveable Feast" was distorted by its editing along the lines you suggest in your review, so I'll be happy to see an alternative version.

The inclusion of more material is a lot more important to me than any quibbling between the Hemingway heirs -- in that we definitely agree.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2009 6:39:17 AM PDT
It's a shame that a disgruntled heir would change Hemmingway's work. One should read this op-ed piece in the NY Times written by a Hemmingway confidant who was very much involved in the publication of the original. Hemmingway's grandson should be ashamed of himself.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/20/opinion/20hotchner.html?_r=5&ref=opinion

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2009 10:04:47 AM PDT
Well, this matter has been controversial for a long time and is likely to remain so. For a different opinion see this piece:
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/A-New-Taste-of-Hemingways-Moveable-Feast.html

Posted on Jul 15, 2010 5:49:21 PM PDT
The reviewer is quite wrong in asserting that the book was unfinished when Hemingway died. Ernest Hemingway personally handed the manuscript for the book to the publisher while in New York to deliver the Life article on bullfighting he had been commissioned to write called "The Dangerous Summer". There is indeed a definitiive version and that is the version which was published posthumously by his fourth wife, Mary. To assume this is anything like a "restored' version is to stand the facts on their very ears. Avoid this version and read the original version instead. Trust the original author to know what he meant more than his emotionally-driven grandson, who had his own axe to grind and has no ethical right to massively alter his grandfather's book.

Posted on Mar 30, 2011 12:53:00 PM PDT
cmmm says:
It has been so many years since I read Hemingway, but having just read "The Paris Wife" by Paula Mclain, I was prompted to read this version of "A Moveable Feast." Mr. Leary's synopsis seems quite accurate and well said.

Posted on Aug 17, 2011 2:57:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 17, 2011 3:06:50 PM PDT
I have spent years collecting and studying Hemingway, visiting his homes all over the world, meeting with his son Jack, talking to many of his friends and confidants, including A.E. Hotchner on several occasions and even running with the Bulls in Pamplona. When I heard that his grandson, Sean Hemingway, had a "new revised" edition of "Moveable Feast" coming out, I was intrigued and bought 2 copies of the 1st Edition in hardback when it hit bookstores. In 1998, I had been privileged to read actual Hemingway unpublished "drafts", written during his stay at the Paris Ritz Hotel in 1944. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a passage that Ernest wrote that recounts, during a late night walk through Paris, that he felt Paris was "like a Moveable Feast" (his actual words). Hemingway was joined by his future wife Mary while he was at the Ritz in '44, so the chances that he would read this passage to her was very possible. I think that Hemingway would, many years later, also recount his feelings about Paris to his good friend A.E. Hotchner as well. So for Sean to take the mention of where the title of the book came from, out of his revised edition, is not only disappointing, but made me highly suspect of his motives and intentions. We come to see how Sean disrespects Mary's "editing" and with his treatment in general towards her versus his anointing to almost sainthood of his much overlooked Grandmother (and Ernest's 2nd wife) Pauline, his "version" was for me, a sad affair. What Sean should do, especially with his Uncle Patrick (Ernest's only living son) still around, is write a definitive book about Pauline, because I have never seen a single book about Hemingway's second wife, while all 3 of the other wives have multiple books written by and about them on bookshelves.

Posted on Aug 17, 2011 3:03:56 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 17, 2011 3:08:37 PM PDT
I have spent years collecting and studying Hemingway, visiting his homes all over the world, meeting with his son Jack, talking to many of his friends and confidants, including A.E. Hotchner on several occasions and even running with the Bulls in Pamplona. When I heard that his grandson, Sean Hemingway, had a "new revised" edition of "Moveable Feast" coming out, I was intrigued and bought 2 copies of the 1st Edition in hardback when it hit bookstores. In 1998, I had been privileged to read actual Hemingway unpublished "drafts", written during his stay at the Paris Ritz Hotel in 1944. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a passage that Ernest wrote that recounts, during a late night walk through Paris, that he felt Paris was "like a Moveable Feast" (his actual words). Hemingway was joined by his future wife Mary while he was at the Ritz in '44, so the chances that he would read this passage to her was very possible. I think that Hemingway would, many years later, also recount his feelings about Paris to his good friend A.E. Hotchner as well. So for Sean to take the mention of where the title of the book came from, out of his revised edition, is not only disappointing, but made me highly suspect of his motives and intentions. We come to see how Sean disrespects Mary's "editing" and with his treatment in general towards her versus his anointing to almost sainthood of his much overlooked Grandmother (and Ernest's 2nd wife) Pauline, his "version" was for me, a sad affair. What Sean should do, especially with his Uncle Patrick (Ernest's only living son) still around, is write a definitive book about Pauline, because I have never seen a single book about Hemingway's second wife, while all 3 of the other wives have multiple books written by and about them on bookshelves.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2011 11:57:50 AM PST
dudnpad says:
Unfortunately, your link to the NY Times OpEd does not come through here. I do recall reading it and, of course, will revisit it one way or the other! It put forth , as I recall, some compelling comments re "the disgruntled heir's" messing about with the original. I quite agree with you. A big bone to pick, it seems. Thanks for your input.
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