Sunday, June 7, 2009
Reading Earnest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast - the story of Hemingway's post World War I years in Paris, France - we learn that Hemingway and his wife Hadley had, at the time, an infant son named Bumby. Bumby was a nickname of course; his real name was John or Jack, as he was called throughout his life. Jack was the father of Margaux and Muriel Hemingway, and himself an interesting individual.
There are at least two great stories of Jack. One was his experience as an OSS officer who was captured by the Germans behind enemy lines near Vosges in September of 1944. You can read of his father's attempts to free him in Hemingway's Final Years, by John Reynolds. I would like to find Jack's own story somewhere, but haven't so far.
The other interesting story is Jack's later year reminesence of life in Paris with his father before the divorce of Hadley and Ernest. You can read this in Hemingway in Sun Valley. We learn from Jack that the years recounted in Hemingway's book were abridged. In a Moveable Feast, Bumby appears as an infant in a crib, but according to Jack's own recollections, he lived in Paris at least until kindergarten. Jack remembers accompanying his father to Shakespeare & Company where Ernest, too poor at the time to purchase books, rented books to read from Sylvia Beach.
"I’d get to go with him to Shakespeare & Company on the rue de l’ Odeon," Jack recalled. "The store had a little semi-attic that was at a level just above the ground floor. There were some children’s books up there that I’d look at while Papa was down below talking to Sylvia Beach or James Joyce. I’d give anything to have had the perspicacity or to have been a child savant to remember everything that went on."
Memories are inexact. That his father remembers Bumby as an infant, while Jack remembers life in Paris from the kindergarten years is not surprising. Jack could not, in any event, remember life as an infant, and Ernest is more likely to remember the first years when his impressions of Paris, and the writers who lived there, were new and fresh. Later, when Hemingway had an affair with Pauline is, after all, the beginning of the end, when the grandeur of the Paris years was to fade.
If you would like to see photos of the years in Paris visit the John F. Kennedy Library.