“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.”
Every time I leave France, in whatever capacity I might have visited, it’s a bit of a struggle. Whether it’s Arras or Brittany or Normandy or Paris, I find it difficult to return home; I’m often plagued with the sad feeling that I’m actually leaving my home behind. Last weekend, it was a whistle-stop trip back to Paris and I’m still feeling a little melancholy now. (Oh, Paris. City of light, city of love. I’m infatuated with you and I think I always will be.) A self-confessed Francophile, I’ve always felt the strongest of affinities with its culture and its way of life, and each time I visit is a chance to connect even deeper with that feeling, often through food or history or literature. This time around, it was through Hemingway.
America’s most-celebrated writer, he’s infamous for his brawn, his brains, and, of course, his drinking. Hemingway created a world for himself (in his literature, at least) that was dangerous and exhilarating, a world of hunting and heroism and women; an antidote for his fear of death and his impulse towards suicide, which overcame him at the age of 62.
His writing prowess aside, my main fascination with him really comes from the fact that, at least for a little while, he was living a life which he was happy with (as seen in the posthumously published A Moveable Feast) and of which I’m envious; Paris, in the 1920s, swaying in its literary circles with Fitzgerald and Joyce and Stein. Last Sunday afternoon, in the French capital, sitting in ‘Les Deux Magots’, one of his most well-known haunts in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district—cold, blue skies above and champagne in hand—I could almost, almost, convince myself that I was back there, too.
Here’s a small pick of Hemingway’s best quotes, taken from both his novels and his essays.
“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”
— The Old Man and the Sea
“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”
— A Moveable Feast
“They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.”
— Notes on the Next War
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
— A Farewell to Arms
“Every day above earth is a good day.”
— The Old Man and the Sea