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Sales of Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’ surge after Paris attacks

Patrick Kovarik, AFP | A photo taken in Paris on November 20, 2015 shows copies of Ernest Hemingway's “A Moveable Feast” (“Paris est une fête” in French)

In the wake of the November 13 Paris attacks, Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” has become a symbol of life in the French capital, climbing to the top of bestseller lists as it flies off the shelves of bookstores across France.


Published posthumously in 1964, “A Moveable Feast” is a memoir of Hemingway’s experiences living in Paris during the 1920s.

In the shocked aftermath of the November 13 attacks, which killed 130 people, copies of the book have been placed among the flowers and candles at makeshift memorials across the city.

The book’s sudden revival has been partly attributed to a woman known as “Grandma” Danielle, who evoked the tome during an interview with France’s BFM TV at a memorial outside of the Bataclan concert hall days after the attacks.

“It’s very important to bring flowers to our dead, it’s very important to read Hemingway’s book ‘A Moveable Feast’ over and over again,” said the woman who was only identified by her first name. “We are an ancient civilisation and we will uphold our values. We will fraternise with the 5 million Muslims who practise their religion freely and peacefully and we will fight against the 10,000 barbarians who kill, in the so-called name of Allah.”

Since then, “A Moveable Feast” (translated to “Paris est une fête”) has surged to the top of French retailer FNAC and Amazon France’s bestseller lists.

“The title [in French] is very symbolic because it’s an act of resistance in that it is saying, ‘Paris is alive,’” David Ducreux of Editions Gallimard, which publishes the book in France, told FRANCE 24. “It describes Hemingway’s Paris during the 1920s, when people were out on terraces, drinking glasses of wine and talking. It’s very close to how the youth of Paris live today.”

Orders of “A Moveable Feast” rose from 10 to 500 per day following the attacks, according to Ducreux, before jumping to 2,100 last Friday. The sudden spike in demand has forced Editions Gallimard to urgently reprint 30,000 new copies of the book.

‘An ideal vision of Paris’

For Boris Vejdovsky, a professor of American literature at the University of Lausanne and co-author of a book on Hemingway, part of the appeal of “A Moveable Feast” is that it depicts a Paris that no longer exists.

“It’s a book that’s predicated on nostalgia, that’s predicated on a world that’s already gone… It presents us with an ideal vision of Paris,” he told FRANCE 24. “I think this is exactly what people are looking for.”

“You have access to an authentic Paris through the experience of the streets, the food and the [romantic] relationships that the protagonist describes in the book. These are not things that we experience firsthand when we go to Paris now, let alone after what happened on Friday,” Vejdovsky said, referring to the attacks.

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