Sunday, July 26, 2009

Changing "A Moveable Feast"

Not everyone is excited as I am about the new edition of Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast." A. E. Hotchner weighs in:
Bookstores are getting shipments of a significantly changed edition of Ernest Hemingway’s masterpiece, “A Moveable Feast,” first published posthumously by Scribner in 1964. This new edition, also published by Scribner, has been extensively reworked by a grandson who doesn’t like what the original said about his grandmother, Hemingway’s second wife.

The grandson has removed several sections of the book’s final chapter and replaced them with other writing of Hemingway’s that the grandson feels paints his grandma in a more sympathetic light. Ten other chapters that roused the grandson’s displeasure have been relegated to an appendix, thereby, according to the grandson, creating “a truer representation of the book my grandfather intended to publish.”

It is his claim that Mary Hemingway, Ernest’s fourth wife, cobbled the manuscript together from shards of an unfinished work and that she created the final chapter, “There Is Never Any End to Paris.”

Scribner’s involvement with this bowdlerized version should be examined as it relates to the book’s actual genesis, and to the ethics of publishing.

I'll have more to say about this later but to be clear, I'm excited about this new edition not because I think it restores Hemingway's true vision but because it gives me a chance to re-visit the book and read some new Hemingway prose. I'll save my conclusions about whether it's a better book than the original for later.

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