A Moveable Feast: The Last Nude Literary Challenge Answers Revealed

Hemingway_MoveableFeastAlas, I did not have any takers for my Last Nude Literary Paris Challenge but I hate loose ends (and yes, I love literary Paris).

The question was to identify the real names of these characters from the book:


  1. Anson
  2. June
  3. Bobby Nightingoul
  4. Bobby’s wife
  5. Bobby’s wife’s lover

(A hint for #5: she was a poet)

And the answers are….

  1. Ernest Hemingway. This kind of annoyed me, I’ll admit. There were just too many parallels to Hemingway’s life, from the general (being from the Midwest) to the specific (the lost manuscripts, the connection to Gertrude Stein) that Anson was so obviously Hemingway and so then why not just use his name? And, if the author didn’t want to use his name, why not just create a new character whole cloth? This quasi-cloaking just distracted me and didn’t add anything to the story. A frustrating choice.
  2. Djuna Barnes. Her first name is revealed towards the end but just in case you missed it. The references to the problems with her lover are the earlier giveaway and alludes to her most famous book, Nightwood.
  3. Robert McAlmon. A pretty fascinating guy. The publisher of Contact Editions in Paris, he published Hemingway’s Three Stories and Ten Poems, among lots of other avant-garde writers of the time, including many women and unknowns.  Shakespeare and Company was his postal address because he was married to…
  4. Winifred Ellerman, known as Bryher. Heir to a shipping fortune, Bryher did some incredible things with her privilege including helping women artists and saving Jews during WWII, but she married McAlmon as a cover for her lesbian relationship with the Imagist poet….
  5. H.D. (Hilda Doolittle). Friend of Ezra Pound, analyzed by Sigmund Freud, unapologetically bisexual, and a damn fine poet, H.D.’s life is also quite the drama.

Have I piqued your interest? My favorite books on these lives and this time period are:

Women of the Left Bank by Shari Benstock. A very readable and lively overview that packs a lot of history, criticism and juicy bits into its pages. It can be tough to track down but worth it.

Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation by Noel Riley Fitch. She was the best on pretty much every level (Avery got that very right) and one of the great tragedies of my life is that I wasn’t able to visit her in that store. (That’s Joyce there on the cover with her.)

A Moveable Feast by Hemingway. The book in which Hem burned many a bridge but gave us some powerful portraits of Fitzgerald (“the mouth worried you until you knew him and then in worried you more”) and the drinking (and writing) life in Paris.  A classic—and so I will stick with that edition, rather than the restored. Not sure how I feel about that one yet.

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3 Responses to A Moveable Feast: The Last Nude Literary Challenge Answers Revealed

  1. Suzanne Stroh says:

    Just finished “The Last Nude” on your recommendation, and I thought it was one of the best novels of the period in a long time. (Margaret Vandenburg’s “An American in Paris,” a story also told in the first person, has had to do for quite some time, so well done Ellis Avery for upping the ante.) Thanks for the recommendation. Great quiz! More, please! I must be pretty fluent, though, because I wasn’t stumped for a minute while reading.

    To qualify my appreciation, though, I wished the dual narratives had been more integrated–which would have required a much more ambitious, if not sophisticated, concept for a book that really did read like a guilty pleasure I devoured overnight. I felt the exquisite tension in viewpoints in the beginning, when Raphaela’s descriptions of Tamara contained so many cold, metallic elements….but then Avery dropped the tension to focus on Raphaela’s story….Perhaps the book needed a third person narration, after all. But that would not have made it as much fun, I get it. Even so, truth be told, I did not like the two-part structure. Did you? I felt it was a bit of a copout, or perhaps a concession to popular trade publishing tastes…. As I was reading and getting more and more drawn in, I kept thinking, this book could truly have been another “The Horse’s Mouth”–that masterpiece about Michelangelo–or a volume of “The Alexandria Quartet” with all its ironic and Cubist attention to fragmented viewpoints.

    Instead it’s a fun, racy and tragic novel about bent geniuses and their muses in Paris in the Twenties. Nothing wrong with that..just a missed shot at greatness, perhaps?

    But the book was far from shallow. As both a writer about this period and a voracious reader in it, I love the major philosophical question at the core of of “The Last Nude,” and I will be thinking about this for months to come. Posed by the Muse in Love, Raphaela, it has to do with what we truly desire from art (“What do you want? The painter, the model or the painting?”) then how do you answer as far as books are concerned? Take the perennial appeal, for instance, of “A Moveable Feast.” Is it Hemingway’s writing that we return to, lustily, over and over, or is it indeed his portrait of Paris…or is it all the pretty girls who modeled for him (and here I must grudgingly include Scott Fitzgerald in that Pantheon) ? 🙂

    Same question applies when appraising the appeal of the truly magical lesbian biographies by Diana Souhami. I’m reading the gaslit memoirs of Lily de Gramont in French right now, wondering the same thing….

    Your turn….and thanks again for your great work on this site.

    Suzanne Stroh

    • I am so thrilled you enjoyed the book so much! When done well, I love alternating narratives and I thought Ellis did a pretty good job. For me, it was the last section that really fell flat, with Tamara as an old woman. I can see why she felt the need to tie up some loose ends and drive home the “meaning” of the past events but it felt tacked on to me and to me that was the cop out. Have you seen Midnight in Paris? I think Allen understands much of what compels us to look back at that period as well as the tendency to look back in general. For me, I think it’s the intense creative atmosphere the writers of the period portray in their work and how tragic and fleeting the whole period was, opening with the novel horror of WWI followed by the 1929 crash and culminating in WWII. And yes the pretty girls!

      Have you heard of All we Know by Cohen? It just came out. I haven’t read yet but sounds like we would both like it.


      • Suzanne Stroh says:

        Am I replying in the right place? Hope so! I like tor comments about alternating narratives.

        I was delighted by MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and even happier that our ten year-old and her friends “got it.” So down it goes in my pantheon. The other memorable films of the period, for me, are PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE, HENRY AND JUNE and THE MODERNS. What did you think of those? But I still think the masterpiece in this genre has yet to be filmed. If it were adapted from a book, which book would it be?

        Tell us more about the Cohen book!

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