October 20, 2021
12 Minutes

A Moveable Feast

Book summary of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Read this book summary to review the important takeaways and lessons from the book.

Table Of Contents

1. Cover

2. Preface

3. A Good Café On The Place St. Michel

4. Miss Stein Instructs

5. Une Génération Perdue

6. Shakespeare And Company

7. People Of The Seine

8. A False Spring

9. The End Of An Avocation

10. Hunger Was Good Discipline

11. Ford Madox Ford And The Devil's Disciple

12. Birth Of A New School

13. With Pascin At The Dome

14. Ezra Pound And His Bel Esprit

15. The Man Who Was Marked For Death

16. Evan Shipman At The Lilas

17. An Agent Of Evil

18. Scott Fitzgerald

19. Hawks Do Not Share

20. There Is Never Any End To Paris


  • If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.


  • There's a chance that fiction may throw light on what's written as fact.

A Good Café On The Place St. Michel

  • You belong to me, Paris belongs to me, and I belong to this book and pencil.

  • After writing a story, I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love. I was sure this was a good story, although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.

  • Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris.

Miss Stein Instructs

  • I always worked until I had something done, and I stopped when I knew what'd happen next. That way, I could be sure of going on the next day.

  • I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, "Do not worry. You have always written before, and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." So finally, I would write one true sentence and then go on from there.

  • Up in that room, I decided to write a story about each thing that I knew. I was trying to do this all the time, and it was good and severe discipline.

  • It was in that room, too, that I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from when I stopped writing until I started the next day again. That way, my subconscious would be working on it. At the same time, I would be listening to other people and noticing everything. I hoped; learning, I hoped; I would read to not think about my work and make myself impotent to do it.

  • But if the light were gone in Luxembourg, I would walk up through the gardens and stop in at the apartment where Gertrude Stein lived at 27 Rue de Fleurus.

  • She told me that I was not a good enough writer to be published there or in The Saturday Evening Post but that I might be some new sort of writer in my way. The first thing to remember was not to write stories that were inaccrochable.

  • Work could cure almost anything, I believed then, and I believe now. All I had to get cured of, I decided Miss Stein felt, was youth and loving my wife.

Une Génération Perdue

  • When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written.

  • It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body, and it was good to make love with whom you loved.

  • You had to read to not think or worry about your work until you'd do it again.

  • I had learned never to empty the well of my writing, to stop when there was something in the well. Let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

  • I cannot remember Gertrude Stein ever speaking well of any writer who had not written favourably about her work. Or, do something to advance her career except for Ronald Firbank and, later, Scott Fitzgerald.

  • I thought of Miss Stein and Sherwood Anderson and egotism and laziness versus discipline. I thought who is calling who a lost generation?

Shakespeare And Company

  • In those days there was no money to buy books. I borrowed books from the rental library of Shakespeare and Company, the library and bookstore of Sylvia Beach at 12 Rue de l'Odéon.

  • She did not know me, and the address I had given her, 74 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, could not have been a poorer one.

People Of The Seine

  • I would walk along the quais when I had finished work or when I was trying to think something out. It was easier to think if I was walking and doing something or seeing people doing something they understood.

  • If the day were bright, I'd buy a litre of wine and a piece of bread and sausage and sit in the sun and read one of the books I'd purchased.

  • With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. That was the only sad time in Paris because it was unnatural.

  • You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees, and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it got frozen.

A False Spring

  • People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

  • The one who is doing his work and getting satisfaction from it is not the one the poverty bothers.

  • But then we did not think ever of ourselves as poor. We did not accept it. We thought we were superior people, and other people we looked down on and rightly mistrusted were rich.

  • We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.

  • You said we were lucky today. But we had good advice and information.

The End Of An Avocation

  • For a long time, it was enough to be back in our part of Paris and away from the track. To bet on our own life and work, and on the painters you knew, not trying to make your living gambling and call it by some other name.

Hunger Was Good Discipline

  • You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows. People ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the food.

  • Hunger is good discipline, and you learn from it.

  • I knew I must write a novel. But it seemed an impossible thing to do when I had been trying with great difficulty to write paragraphs that would be the distillation of what made a novel. It was necessary to write longer stories now as you would train for a longer race.

Ford Madox Ford And The Devil's Disciple

  • The Closerie des Lilas was the nearest good café when we lived in the flat at 113 Rue Notre Dame des Champs, and it was one of the best cafés in Paris.

  • These people made it a comfortable café since they were all interested in each other. No one was on exhibition.

  • Being a young man who was commencing his education, I had high regard for him as an older writer. That is not understandable now, but in those days, it was a common occurrence.

Birth Of A New School

  • Creation's probably overrated. After all, God made the world in only six days and rested on the seventh.

With Pascin At The Dome

  • They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure in those who make jokes in life.

Ezra Pound And His Bel Esprit

  • He liked his friends' works. It’s beautiful as loyalty, disastrous as judgment.

  • If a man liked his friends' painting or writing, I thought it was probably like those who like their families, and it was not polite to criticise them.

  • Some people show evil as a great racehorse shows breeding.

  • Ezra was the most generous writer I have ever known and the most disinterested. He helped poets, painters, sculptors and prose writers that he believed in, and he would help anyone whether he believed in them or not if they were in trouble.

  • When you cannot make friends any more in your head is the worst.

The Man Who Was Marked For Death

  • It made me feel sick for people to talk about my writing to my face, and I looked at him, and his mark for death look and I thought, you con man conning me.

Evan Shipman At The Lilas

  • Before we had come to Paris, I had been told Katherine Mansfield was a good short story writer. But, trying to read her after Chekov was like hearing the carefully artificial tales of a young, old maid, compared to those of an articulate and knowing physician who was a good and simple writer.

  • To have come on all this new world of writing, with time to read in a city like Paris where there was a way of living well and working, no matter how poor you were, was like having a great treasure given to you.

  • At first, there were the Russians; then there were all the others. But for a long time, there were the Russians.

An Agent Of Evil

  • "We need more true mystery in our lives, Hem," he once said to me.

  • The completely unambitious writer and the good unpublished poem are the things we lack most at this time.

Scott Fitzgerald

  • His talent was as natural as the pattern that got made by the dust on a butterfly's wings. At one time, he understood it no more than the butterfly did, and he did not know when it got brushed or marred.

  • Scott, I was to find, believed that the novelist could find out what he needed to know by direct questioning of his friends and acquaintances.

  • He wanted me to read The Great Gatsby, as soon as he could get his last and only copy back from someone he'd loaned it to. To hear him talk of it, you'd never know how good it was, except that he had the shyness about it that all non-conceited writers have when they've done something fine. I hoped he would get the book quickly so that I might read it.

  • The Fitzgeralds had rented a furnished flat at 14 Rue de Tilsitt.

  • I said that I did not believe anyone could write any way except the very best he could write without destroying his talent.

  • Since I had started to break down all my writing and get rid of all facility and try to make instead of describing, writing had been wonderful to do.

  • It wasn't easy, and I did not know how I would ever write anything as long as a novel. It often took me an entire morning of work to write a paragraph.

  • I was getting tired of the literary life if this was the literary life that I was leading. Already, I missed not working, and I felt the death loneliness that comes at the end of every day that gets wasted.

  • At that time, Scott hated the French. The only French he met regularly were waiters whom he did not understand, taxi drivers, garage employees and landlords. He had many opportunities to insult and abuse them.

  • The English he often hated, but he sometimes tolerated them and occasionally looked up to them.

  • When I had finished the book, I knew that no matter what Scott did, nor how he behaved, I must know it was like a sickness and be of any help I could to him and try to be a good friend.

  • If he could write a book as fine as The Great Gatsby, I was sure that he could write an even better one.

Hawks Do Not Share

  • Zelda was jealous of Scott's work, and as we got to know them, this fell into a regular pattern.

  • He was always trying to work. Each day he would try and fail. He laid the failure to Paris. The town best organised for a writer to write in that there is, and he always thought that there would be someplace where he and Zelda could have a good life together again.

  • Write the best story that you can and write it as straight as you can.

There Is Never Any End To Paris

  • We were poor when I’d given up all journalism when we came back from Canada and could sell no stories at all; it was rough with a baby in Paris in the winter.

  • Schruns was a good place to work. I know because I did the most difficult rewriting job I have ever done there in the winter of 1925 and 1926. I took the first draft of The Sun Also Rises, which I had written in one sprint of six weeks, and make it into a novel.

  • There is never any ending to Paris. The memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other.

  • Paris was worth it, and you received in return for whatever you brought to it.

  • That is how Paris was in the early days when we were poor and happy.

Join over a thousand readers and get my short and insightful biweekly email. I share seven notable highlights from my latest book summary in the email.