In November 1956 Hemingway recovered two small steamer trunks that he had stored in March 1928 in the basement of the Ritz Hotel in Paris. The trunks contained notebooks he had filled during the 1920s. He had the notebooks transcribed and then worked them up into a memoir during the period when he was working on his book The Dangerous Summer. He rewrote several key passages and prepared a final draft, but after his death, his fourth wife, Mary, in her capacity as Hemingway's literary executor, edited the manuscript.
Gerry Brenner, a literary scholar at the University of Montana, and other researchers have examined Hemingway's notes and initial drafts of A Moveable Feast, which are in the collection of Ernest Hemingway's personal papers opened to the public in 1979, following the completion of the John F. Kennedy Library, where they are held in Boston. In a paper titled "Are We Going to Hemingway's Feast?" (1982), Brenner documented Mary Hemingway's editing process and questioned its validity. He concluded that some of her changes were misguided and that others derived from questionable motives. He also suggested that the changes appeared to contradict Mary's stated policy for her role as executor, which had been to maintain a "hands off" approach. Brenner indicates that Mary changed the order of the chapters in Hemingway's final draft, apparently to "preserve chronology". This change interrupted the series of juxtaposed character sketches of such individuals as Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare & Company, and Gertrude Stein. The chapter titled "Birth of a New School", which Hemingway had dropped from his draft, was reinserted by Mary. Brenner alleges the most serious change was the deletion of Hemingway's lengthy apology to Hadley, his first wife. This apology appeared in various forms in every draft of the book. Brenner suggests that Mary deleted it because it impugned her own role as wife.
In contrast, A.E. Hotchner has said that he received a near final draft of A Moveable Feast and that the version Mary Hemingway published is essentially the draft he had read in 1957. Therefore, in his view, the original publication is the version that Hemingway intended, and Mary Hemingway did not revise or add chapters on her own initiative, but simply carried out Ernest's intentions.