There is a widespread curiosity about the manuscripts known to include prose and poetry about the Second World War which Ernest Hemingway did not release for publication before his death.The first of the posthumous volumes, A Moveable Feast, the Book-of-the-Month Club selection for May, is the subject of this lively evaluation by Alfred Kazin, and it is hoped that there will be others to come.
Hemingway used to say that he wanted to write a novel about his home town, Oak Park, but could not for fear of hurting living people.
Most of the people he pulls to pieces in this book, including the second Mrs.
They remind me of the many first-class writers who have consciously altered, combined, and retouched real facts to provide us with pleasures of the imagination.
To recall the model is to see how life verges on imagination.
By the time he sat down to write anything, he was so conscious of what he had experienced, what he had already written about it, and what others had written, that he had as much to triumph over the critics, imitators, and scholars as he did over his early self.
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Hemingway wrote so much, in his fiction and out of it, about his parents, his wives, his hunting companions, his newspaper cronies (sometimes using their real names and known nicknames), he was so open, interested, and driving in this use of his experiences, that the real question about him is not whether he invented anything, but why his own life became the very ritual of his imagination.
Indeed, when you consider how many people turn to "fiction" only to discharge at us their awful relatives and lost loves, it is remarkable how steadily, still, good novelists depend on real people in order to create imaginatively.
A good novelist will often return to facts already used in his fiction, even recorded in his memoirs, in order to make fresh use of his imagination.
But the subject fascinated Hemingway; his lyric imagination was bound up with it; like a matador performing best the turns he has made famous, Hemingway was sure of success whenever he turned to certain rites of hunting and fishing, certain memories of Paris and Spain.
No matter how often and subtly he had used them before, he had still once more to return as autobiographer to the scenes he had used first as a writer of fiction.