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Friday, 20th August 2010

A Moveable Feast

In his Norwegian Forest, Haruki Murakami (1949 - ) through one of the characters in the book says that people who has read Scott Fitzgerald's (1896-1940) The Great Gatsby three times could be his friend. He also says that turn to any page of The Great Gatsby and start reading, and you will not be disappointed because there is always something in it.

The Great Gatsby was published in 1925. Fitzgerald's fame was closely associated with the "Jazz Age" in the 1920s. He made several excursions to Europe, notably Paris and the French Riviera, and became friends with many in the American expatriate community in Paris, notably Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1962, Nobel prize in literature 1954).

Hemingway's friendship with Fitzgerald was one of 'admiration and hostility'. He described it in A Moveable Feast, with no lack of humour and a touch of science.

The story is like this. Fitzgerald and his wife had to leave their car, which was without a top, in Lyon because of bad weather. Fitzgerald asked if Hemingway would go down with him to pick up the car and drive up with him to Paris. So there they went and picked up the car, but on the way back, there was again heavy rain and they became held up in a hotel.

Figure 1     Scott Fitzgerald, 1937.
Figure 1      Scott Fitzgerald, 1937.

Fitzgerald somehow felt unwell, became quite irritable and asked for a thermometer. Hemingway accordingly sent for one, but it was late and the pharmacy was closed. After a long time, the waiter came back and brought a thermometer.

"Is this the only one you could get? " Hemingway asked.

"It is the only one in the hotel" was the response. It was a bath thermometer with a wooden back and enough metal to sink it in the water.

Hemingway took it, shook it down, and said to Fitzgerald, "You're lucky it's not a rectal thermometer."

"Where does this kind go? " Fitzgerald asked.

"Under the arm."

So the thermometer was kept under the armpit. It lasted four minutes.

"I thought they only kept them in for one minute," Fitzgerald said.

"This is a big thermometer," Hemingway explained. "You multiply by the square of the size of the thermometer."

B.Y. Lee


a)  Wikipedia
b)  Norwegian Forest, Haruki Murakami, Times Culture (Taiwan, China), 2003 (in Chinese).
c)  A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1964.

Last revision date: <17 Jan 2013>