The chapter begins where the last one left off; Hemingway notes that when he and Hadley were young in Paris, they thought they were “invulnerable.” He argues that people ski much better and “know many secrets now.” Everyone acknowledges that it is possible to break a leg, but some people deny that the same is true for breaking a heart. Perhaps there is nothing where the heart is assumed to be—“nada.” Hemingway remarks that “in writing there are many secrets too”; for example, the secret that the omitted parts of a piece of writing will still be there, or that it is impossible to “possess anything until you have given it away.” Hemingway believes that there are far more “explainers” of writing than there are good writers, and that in order to be a successful writer one must have a great deal of luck.
In this passage Hemingway juxtaposes several seemingly distinct ideas and highlights surprising connections between them. Because the slopes in Austria were the site of the dissolution of Hemingway’s first marriage, he compares the risk of breaking a leg while skiing to the risk of breaking one’s heart. In both cases, the thrill is worth the risk, even if the pain that follows can be devastating. In the second part of the passage, Hemingway returns to an idea introduced at the beginning of the book: that the best parts of a piece of writing should be left out. This inevitably provokes the reader to wonder what has been left out of “A Moveable Feast.”
Hemingway then remembers when Evan had pancreatic cancer and came to Cuba. Evan came to “say goodbye” to Hemingway and during his stay Hemingway could smell the discharge from the cancer draining. Evan didn’t bring his morphine because he heard it was easy to get in Cuba, but it turns out this was not true. He apologizes to Hemingway for “being a nuisance.” The two reminisce about their time in Spain together, concluding that, while Paris was “a happy time,” Spain was “the best.” Although Evan’s pain is bad, they continue to reminisce about people and places from the past. Evan urges Hemingway to “keep on,” saying “you write for all of us.” He asks Hemingway for forgiveness for “speaking so seriously,” but insists that Hemingway must not “forget about the writing.” Hemingway promises himself that he will not. He concludes by saying that this book is full of material from his memory and his heart, “even if the one has been tampered with and the other does not exist.”
The end of the book is surprisingly sentimental. To some extent, it seems that Hemingway wishes to explicitly justify why he wrote the book, and thus he includes the anecdote of Evan insisting that he write about the memories of Paris and the people who congregated there. This also emphasizes that Hemingway’s decision to write the book is not self-centered or egotistical, but rather it is an act done in the interests of other people, many of whom are dead, incapacitated, or otherwise incapable of recalling these memories of their own accord. Is it true that writing the book is an act of generosity, however, given that many of Hemingway’s accounts of people are so ungenerous?