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. — Ernest Hemingway

I have come late to the work of Hemingway.  Most of the writers in my circle of friends crossed his path for better or worse in their teens or early twenties; I am 44, and only today finished reading A Moveable Feast.  That book chronicles slices of Hemingway’s life as a member of the expatriate community in Paris in the early 20’s — a community that included F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Henri Matisse, and many others.  Published posthumously, it’s a swan-song for an age that has past and for the city that nourished them.

What I discovered in Hemingway’s memories was my own sense of longing: to travel and see sights I’ve only read about in books, to discover the magic of old cities — those truly old, not the noveau antiquitè of American cities.  I want to sit in the shadow of Notre Dame and wander the streets of Marseilles; I want to take a train to Venice and listen to the phantom song of La Serenissima.  I want to read Homer by candlelight in the shadow of the Parthenon and write in a secluded studio on Rhodes . . .

But, I think the world I want to see no longer exists.  It is the world of a hundred years ago — slower, simpler; back when writers were the luminaries of the age, not to be eclipsed by actors or painters.  I barely understand the psychology of this longing, wanderlust combined with Golden Age thinking, and I acknowledge it manifests in me so strongly due in no small part to my own insecurities, professional as well as personal.  But none of that changes the fact that I want to crawl inside the pages of A Moveable Feast so I might sit in a Parisian street cafe, order a cafe au lait, and fill the pages of a small notebook with tales.

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2 thoughts on “A Feast for the Ages

  1. I’ve been lucky enough to climb a section of the Great Wall (hereby known as the Eternal Staircase of Fortitude Sapping), to weave in and out of the Acropolis at Athens, stride below the Cyclopean gates of Mycenea, and wander the ruins of Korinthos. I’ve been swept away on the streets of Brussels, lost in Bangkok, Beijing, and Xian, and swaggered (or was that staggered) through Amsterdam.

    Of all the places that I’ve been, Korinthos created the most wonder. Perhaps because it wasn’t overrun with tourists like the other places. You could climb the walls and stare down at the sheer rock face below, imagining what it would take to siege the place. It might have been the different architectures of Greek, French, and Italian periods of ownership, or it might have have been the lack of information I’d had of the place beforehand. There’s something about letting the imagination wander over the slick cobbles that imprints such a place firmly in the mind’s eye.

    Or something like that… *grin*

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