by Aimee Levitt
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.
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."