St. Louis Author Defends A Moveable Feast, Reveals That Hemingway's Friends Called Him "Ernest"


A new edition of Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast hits bookstores today, to the outrage of at least one of Hemingway's old pals, writer and St. Louis memoirist A. E. Hotchner, best known for King of the Hill.

A Moveable Feast, published posthumously in 1964, is Hemingway's own memoir of his impoverished years in Paris in the twenties and includes, among other things, descriptions of bullfights, Ford Madox Ford's body odor and F. Scott Fitzgerald fretting about his penis-size and ability to satisfy Zelda.

All of these things presumably remain in the new edition, which was assembled Hemingway's grandson, Seán. Seán Hemingway was more concerned with the original edition's final chapter, which portrayed his grandmother, Pauline Pfeiffer, Hemingway's second wife, as a husband-stealing floozy.

  • Hemingway in 1960.
(Hemingway and Pfeiffer's courtship was quite soap-operatic: At the beginning of their affair, her best friend was Hadley Richardson, also known as the first Mrs. Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway eventually left Pfeiffer for Martha Gellhorn, who was the only Mrs. Hemingway to dump the old goat's ass.)

Seán Hemingway maintains that the final chapter about the end of Hemingway and Hadley's marriage was written not by his grandfather, but by Mary Welsh, Hemingway's fourth and final wife. This chapter, and several others, are missing from the new edition.

Hotchner begs to differ, and in an interesting op-ed piece in The New York Times explains why:

In 1956, Ernest and I were having lunch at the Ritz in Paris with Charles Ritz, the hotel's chairman, when Charley asked if Ernest was aware that a trunk of his was in the basement storage room, left there in 1930. Ernest did not remember storing the trunk but he did recall that in the 1920s Louis Vuitton had made a special trunk for him. Ernest had wondered what had become of it.

Charley had the trunk brought up to his office, and after lunch Ernest opened it. It was filled with a ragtag collection of clothes, menus, receipts, memos, hunting and fishing paraphernalia, skiing equipment, racing forms, correspondence and, on the bottom, something that elicited a joyful reaction from Ernest: "The notebooks! So that's where they were! Enfin!"

There were two stacks of lined notebooks like the ones used by schoolchildren in Paris when he lived there in the '20s. Ernest had filled them with his careful handwriting while sitting in his favorite café, nursing a café crème. The notebooks described the places, the people, the events of his penurious life.

Upon his return home to Cuba, Hotchner writes, Hemingway had a secretary type up the notebook's contents, which he edited into what became A Moveable Feast. Hotchner visited Hemingway several times during the next few years, read some chapters in progress and, he says, hand-delivered the final manuscript to Charles Scribner, Jr., Hemingway's publisher.

Later, after Hemingway's suicide, Hotchner met with the book's editor to go over the galleys and came up with the title.

These details are evidence that the book was a serious work that Ernest finished with his usual intensity, and that he certainly intended it for publication. What I read on the plane coming back from Cuba was essentially what was published. There was no extra chapter created by Mary.

Proof of a friendship. - PRESS.UMSYSTEM.EDU
  • Proof of a friendship.

Hotchner concludes: "All publishers, Scribner included, are guardians of the books that authors entrust to them. Someone who inherits an author's copyright is not entitled to amend his work."

Hotchner's piece raises another question, unrelated to publishing and copyright, applicable to those of us whose grandparents were not famous and literary: Who, in the end, has the right to our family stories? And how do we know that what we accept as "what really happened" is actually true?

It does answer an important question that has been plaguing at least one reader for years and years: Apparently, Hemingway's friends did not call him "Ernie."


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