Book Corner,  Literary Paris,  Paris

Book Corner: A Moveable Feast Ch. 3 & 4

Hemingway, some books, and some fish. All we need is some bullfighting and we would have the complete package!

Image of Ernest Hemingway in Paris, 1924
Ernest in Paris, 1924

In this installment of our A Moveable Feast exploration, we’ll look at chapters 3 and 4. Ernest takes us to Shakespeare & Company and on a stroll along the Seine, chatting with the bouqinistes, and then to watch some urban fishing. Grab your copy and let’s settle in!

Chapter 3 – Shakespeare and Company

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We start with a quick description of the store and a typically Hemingway assessment of Sylvia Beach’s physical and personal attributes. In addition to admiring her legs, Ernest gives the proprietor and literary legend very high praise: “No one that I ever knew was nicer to me.” A welcome change from his comments on Gertrude Stein in the previous chapter!

Sylvia and Ernest (and one of Ernest’s headwounds)

He then gives us a peek into the workings of the original Shakespeare and Company store. Sylvia gave him a library rental card despite his not having the funds to pay for it, trusting that he would pay her back. This gesture apparently had a big impact on him, which is an interesting insight into both the man and possibly the post-war environment. Did he feel unworthy of such trust? Was he unworthy of such trust? The fees weren’t too high, especially compared to the American Library,* so maybe she was just comfortable with the risk.

Hemingway’s Reading List

What books did he borrow on this first meeting?  Well, he gives us a list of what he recalls:

  1. Ivan Turgenev:  Two Volumes of A Sportsman’s Sketches [affiliate link]. Bonus: a quick essay on Turgenev’s influence on Hemingway.
  2. “An early book of D.H. Lawrence” that he thinks was Sons and Lovers.
  3. Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the “Constant Garnett  [translator] edition” [affiliate link
  4. The Gambler and Other Stories by Dostoyevsky [affiliate link]

He also mentions James Joyce in his conversation and she mentions a French writer, Valery Larbaud, as living in the same neighborhood as Hemingway.  In fact, they lived down the street from each other on rue du Cardinal Lemoine at the time, even though Sylvia uses the past tense. Surely they must have bumped into each other? 

He then heads home with all the books and tells his wife Hadley about his find.  Their conversation is sweet and charming and clearly idealized. In the introduction to our version of A Moveable Feast [affiliate link], Ernest’s grandson Seán Hemingway acknowledges that, in part, the memoir represents Papa “coming to terms with his betrayal of Hadley.” He had left her to marry his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer during their stay in Paris. For a recent discussion of this, check out an interview with Claudine Hemingway (a distant relative of Ernest) about Hemingway in Paris and her take on his time spent there. 

Chapter 4 – People of the Seine

Keeping the reading theme, Chapter 4 starts with a walk along the Seine and perusing the bouqinistes for English language books. He has conversations with two bouqinistes–both women–discussing the quality of these books. I admit I was a tich confused at first about the first woman’s complaint that the English books were not bound. Were the books naked? Being sold unbound and uncut like in Shakespeare’s time? Then we get to the second bookseller, who clarified that they are not bound “properly”–i.e. not hard bound. Paperback books were apparently very déclassé!

Hemingway’s Route in Chapter 4. Click for a moveable map. Yep, went there. 😀

Switching to Fishing

As we continue to stroll along the Seine, Hemingway switches gears (as he does) to fishing along the river. He seems to have greatly admired the fisherman of the Seine, but did not join them. He claims to prefer fishing in Spain, and besides he’s apparently too busy. Was he intimidated by these salty fisherman? Did he feel out-fished? We know he loved fishing, based on his other (non-Parisian) stories, so this whole thing feels a bit, well, fishy. 🤨

Can you name the bridge?

Incredibly, there are still folks fishing in the river!  Oliver Gee from The Earful Tower joined a modern fisherman on his podcast last year and had a blast.  Should you feel like trying it for yourself, you can grab your rod and reel at Des Poissons Si Grands (several locations) or one of several other purveyors of tackle.  Just remember to not eat the fish.  The Seine isn’t quite clean enough for that!

Ernest also mentions in passing a restaurant, La Peche Miraculeuse, in the suburb of Meudon.  It looks like a fun place to enjoy a meal:

Postcard of Le Restaurant de la Peche Miraculeuse, circa 1900.
Did the Hemingways take a boat or other transit?

Weirdly, despite having enough fame to warrant multiple postcards and an actual painting, I couldn’t find much about the fate of the restaurant.  After a pretty epic journey down the rabbit hole, all I can say definitively is that it is gone and there is now an aerospace company located in that spot.  All things must pass, non? 

Fin

That brings us to the end of these brief and light-hearted chapters.  It is this storytelling, Hemingway strolling around Paris while making his observations and asides, that keeps A Moveable Feast perennially popular.  You feel like you are walking along with him! 

Next time, we switch gears again and look at race horses and gambling.  Get ready for the races!


What are your favorite bookstores in Paris?  Are you a die-hard Shakespeare & Co. fan or do you prefer one of the other English language shops?  Or perhaps one of the French shops?  Have you ever bought from a bouqiniste?  And, last but not least, do you want to fish in the Seine?  Let me know below! 

I personally can’t choose my favorite, but it is probably between Shakespeare & Co. and The Red Wheelbarrow, though the huge Smith & Son (aka WH Smith) has that lovely tea room… 

À bientôt!


*Side note:  I was curious about the lending library aspect of this story.  What other options were available to Hemingway to borrow books?  Was the American Library open by this point, for example?  According to their website, they opened their circulation desk in 1920 but it wasn’t cheap.  It was 100 Francs per year, or roughly $6 in 1920.  This translates to roughly $85 per year, not an insignificant sum.  Today, as a private library, they still charge an annual fee of 135EU or about $153, at the writing of this tangent.


Image Credits

Hemingway Outside. EH 7239G. 1924 Ernest Hemingway outside of his residence at 13 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Paris, ca. 1924. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
Sylvia and Ernest. Pinterest. Pin 62980094785932380.
Google Map made with My Maps on Google.
Fishing on the Seine. Pinterest. Pin 386535580494528694.
Restaurant Postcard: “Bas-Meudon – La Seine et le Restaurant de la Pêche Miraculeuse” from Cartorum. Circa 1900.


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One Comment

  • Misti

    thank you for this interesting read! Also I leared about Shakespeare and Company book store which led me to learn what an “eggcorn” is (thanks Wikipedia!)

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