Cafés are a hugely important part of the book, and much of the action takes place within them. Hemingway explains that there are many different types of cafés in Paris, some pleasant and some repellent, some “private” and some social. Hemingway frequents different cafés based on his mood, sometimes going to them in order to work and sometimes to socialize over food and drinks. While working, he orders a café crème or sometimes an alcoholic drink and he watches the people around him. Various people inspire Hemingway as he writes, including the beautiful woman he sees in the first chapter whom he feels “belongs” to him and even the young man who, despite harassing Hemingway, builds Hemingway’s momentum as he writes. The café culture in Paris highlights the way in which art, work, pleasure, socializing, and critique are all mixed together, creating a vibrant culture that straddles the public and private spheres. Although not everything that takes place in cafés is a positive memory, Hemingway’s depiction of the café culture of Paris at the time is deeply infused with nostalgia.
Cafés Quotes in A Moveable Feast
No one emptied the Café des Amateurs though, and its yellowed poster stating the terms and penalties of the law against public drunkenness was as flyblown and disregarded as its clients were constant and ill-smelling.
All of the sadness of the city came suddenly with the first cold rains of winter, and there were no more tops to the high white houses as you walked but only the wet blackness of the street.
You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the food. Then you were skipping meals at a time when you had given up journalism and were writing nothing that anyone in America would buy, explaining at home that you were lunching out with someone, the best place to do it was the Luxembourg gardens where you saw and smelled nothing to eat all the way from the place de l'Observatoire to the rue de Vaugirard. There you could always go into the Luxembourg museum and all the paintings were heightened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry. I learned to understand Cezanne much better and to see truly how he made landscapes when I was hungry. I used to wonder if he were hungry too when he painted; but I thought it was possibly only that he had forgotten to eat. It was one of those unsound but illuminating thoughts you have when you have been sleepless or hungry. Later I thought Cezanne was probably hungry in a different way.
Everyone had their private cafés there where they never invited anyone and would go to work, or to read or to receive their mail. They had other cafés where they would meet their mistresses and almost everyone had another café, a neutral café, where they might invite you to meet their mistress and there were regular, convenient, cheap dining places where everyone might eat on neutral ground.