HEMINGWAY'S PARIS ~ Part 1
It is not uncommon to envision places and
events in the world through the eyes of the artists and writers who
have depicted them to us, whether through a particularly striking
sunset on canvas, a moving musical overture, or colorful prose. So it
is with Ernest Miller Hemingway's often bittersweet perspective on
Paris, reflected in A Sun Also Rises and A Moveable
Feast. Countless travelers, students of his literary work, and
aspiring young writers yearning to experience their own version of a
bohemian and creative existence in the City of Light, have over a
half-century relied on his descriptions to gain a sense of what is
Paris, France. In this chapter, we will cover the evolution of the
literary community which brought Hemingway and other expatriate
writers to Paris.
The wave of American authors who made their
pilgrimage to Paris after Word War I was not the first to embrace it
as a center for intellectual and artistic expression. During the
years before the war, two American women had already made their mark
on the city, surrounding themselves with distinguished and talented
friends. Gertrude Stein and Natalie Clifford Barney hosted two
literary salons which, though somewhat unconventional for the times,
followed a Parisian tradition dating back three hundred years. Both
lesbians and coming from wealthy backgrounds, living on private
means, they had chosen Paris as much for its atmosphere of tolerance,
which did not then exist at home.
It was Stein's brother,
Leo, who first moved to Paris to live as an artist, renting the
apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus which Gertrude would eventually
make famous. After she had spent four unhappy years studying medicine
at Johns Hopkins, Stein realized that she had mistaken her vocation
and dropped out, accepting her brother's invitation to come to Paris.
Leo introduced her to the work of Cézanne, and -- through
Cézanne -- to modern painting. Against Gertrude's wishes, Leo
also bought the first of the Stein Picassos. It wasn't long before
they were buying Cézannes, Gauguins, Renoirs, a
Toulouse-Lautrec, and had discovered the work of Matisse. Such
patronage helped to foster Gertrude's avant-garde reputation back
home; she was frequently visited by American modernist painters and
Returning to Paris after serving a post
with the American Fund for French Wounded during the war, Stein
resumed her penchant for collecting modern art and writing eccentric
prose. Though a number of her old friends had been scattered by the
war, she received a constant stream of new visitors -- more writers
than painters now, including Ezra Pound, Sherwood Anderson, Robert
McAlmon, Djuna Barnes, and photographer Man Ray. It was Anderson who
arranged her first meeting with Ernest Hemingway in 1922. Then 23,
Hemingway was impressed by Stein's charm and admired her writing; he
arranged for the publication of her novel in the transatlantic
review, listened to her advice on his writing, and even asked her
to be a godmother to his first child.
Stein's and Barney's salons were not the
only havens for the exchange of ideas among expatriate writers. One
other American establishment in Paris served a similar role:
Shakespeare and Company, an English-language bookstore founded
and run by Sylvia Beach, was much more than just a place to buy
books. It was also a meeting place, an information bureau, a
forwarding address for American writers in Paris, and a lending
library where the young Hemingway was an almost daily visitor.
Originally opened in 1919 in a disused laundry on the rue
Dupuytren, the venerable bookstore was moved two years later to
larger and busier quarters at 12 rue de l'Odéon, where
it remained for the next twenty years. Hemingway called Sylvia Beach
"Madame Shakespeare", and Gertude Stein -- not coincidentally -- had
been the lending library's very first subscriber. The store's
international fame was built largely on its one and only publishing
venture, that of James Joyce's Ulysses, a volume which stirred
controversy and protest worldwide at the time.
Author: Ian C. Mills ©1998-99 All Rights
The Cafés of Paris: A Guide, Christine Graf, Interlink
Publishing Group Inc., Brooklyn, NY.
Paris: A Literary Companion, Ian Littlewood, Franklin Watts Inc.,
New York (out-of-print).
Americans In Paris, Tony Allan, 1979, Contemporary Books Inc.,
A Guide To Hemingway's Paris - with Walking Tours, John Leland,
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, NC, division of Workman Publishing Co. Inc., New York.
Passport's Illustrated Travel Guide to Paris, 3rd Edition,
Elizabeth Morris, 1996, Passport Books, division of NTC Publishing Group, Chicago.
Fodor's 97 France, Fodor's Travel Publications, Inc., published
in the U.S. by Random House, Inc., New York.
Tripod LiteraTour: Hemingway.
Image sources: Gertrude Stein in her Paris studio: from A Moveable Feast,
1964 Ernest Hemingway
Ltd., Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Cover shot of "The Sun Also Rises", from
first bestselling novel, first published
in 1926. Set in the 1920s, the novel deals
with a group of aimless expatriates in
France and Spain. They are members of the
cynical and disillusioned post-World War I
"Lost Generation", many of whom suffer
psychological and physical wounds as a
result of the war. Two of the novel's main
characters, Lady Brett Ashley and Jake
Barnes, typify this generation. Lady Brett
drifts through a series of affairs despite
her love for Jake, who has been rendered
impotent by a war wound. Friendship,
stoicism, and natural grace under pressure
are offered as the values that matter in
an otherwise amoral and often senseless
world. A brilliant depiction of the Lost
Generation, which established Hemingway as
one of the great prose stylists of all
ships within 24 hours.
Paperback - 251 pages Reissue edition
Published March 1995
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Hemingway's Paris - Part II: The Lost Generation"