Skip to content

looking for hemingway, the lost generation, in the cafés–part 2

In 1971 I traveled to Paris for the first time.  I mentioned finding a Balzac-like pension where I could stay for a couple of months that was around the corner from a former Hemingway apartment on rue Notre Dames des Champs and within easy walking distance from rue de Fleurus, the apartment of Gertrude Stein and Alicxe B. Toklas.

In 2002 I revisited the pension, and Marie, daughter of the owner and now la propriétaire, found a scrapbook of photographs her mother had kept of previous tenants.  She flipped the pages back to the early 1970’s and found the page where I could be.  And there I was.  « C’est moi ! »  I remember looking and wondering, “Who is that guy?”  It was me yet a stranger, too, not me, someone else.  I looked at the picture and tried to remember what I was like then and and how I spent my days in Paris, where I went and what I ate.

The taxi stopped in front of the Rotonde. No matter what café in Montparnasse you ask a taxi-driver to bring you to from the right bank of the river, they always take you to the Rotonde. Ten years from now it will probably be the Dome. It was near enough, anyway. I walked past the sad tables of the Rotonde to the Select.  —Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises.

In college I took several philosophy courses.  In one course I remember reading and talking about “identity” and the language we use when naming something.  For example, a river flows and thus is always changing.  If I step into it and step back and then step into the river again, is it the same river?
But wait, there’s more!

being quiet, but not blind on butte aux cailles

Eiffel Tower ✔︎  Louvre ✔︎  Buttes aux Cailles  Notre-Dame ✔︎  Musée d’Orsay ✔︎  Butte aux Cailles  Jardin du Luxembourg ✔︎  Butte aux Cailles.

The Butte aux Cailles will not be on most tourists’ check lists.  I would be surprised if a Frommer’s Travel Guide or a Rick Steves Paris assigned it any stars as a “must see sight.”  One will visit Paris several times before thinking of the small hill off the Place d’Italie in the 13th arrondissement.

I like the neighborhood because I am sometimes looking for peaceful streets in a large, busy city; I want to eat a good, reliable meal; and I am always surprised by the wall art I find there.

Arriving at the Place d’Italie, a large bustling space, cars and busses are seen racing along the streets and through the intersection.  It is a major metro stop so many people are coming and going on the streets as well.

But walking up rue Babillot from the Place to the intersection with rue de la Butte-aux-Cailles and veering onto the street, one finds a quiet village atmosphere where the buildings are often only two and three stories high.  This street and rue des Cinq Diamants slice up the Butte from which many smaller streets branch out.

As I mentioned I like looking for the wall art.

Finding something to admire on the Butte is easy.  The temptation is to stay on the two main streets, which I mentioned earlier, but do wander onto some of the smaller, very quiet side streets and you will be pleasantly surprised.

During my most recent visit, this piece was my favorite.  The  artist is clever.  I stood for the photograph so that center of the work would be covered by the lamp post, but the artist had painted a lamp post on the wall.  He or she placed the street lamp in the painting and had most likely anticipated photographs being taken.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

In addition the left side is upside down next to the right side.  Even the bird and the artist’s signature in the corner was painted upside down.
But wait, there’s more!

looking for hemingway’s paris and the génération perdue, part 1

When a young mechanic failed to repair the car quickly enough, the garage owner shouted at the boy, “You are all a “génération perdue.”  Stein, in telling Hemingway the story, added, “That is what you are. That’s what you all are. . . .all of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.”

I was 23 years old and single when I went to Paris for the first time.  Ernest Hemingway was 22 years old and married to Hadley Richardson.  They arrived in Paris in 1921 not quite 100 years ago; I arrived in 1971 not quite 50 years ago.  I carried with me a copy of A Moveable Feast.

Recently,  I thought I might retrace my steps of 50 yers ago.  I went looking for the Hemingway who had lived for 7 years in the 1920’s in Paris.

When I arrived in Paris that first time, I rented a room in a Balzac-like pension, think Père Goriot, which exists still at the corner of rue Vavin and rue d’Assas in the 6e arrondissement.  I felt lucky: an apartment where Hemingway had lived was around the corner and down rue d’Assas and to the left on rue Fleurus I could look at the entrance to the building where Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas had lived and directly across the street of the pension was one of the entrances to the Jardin du Luxembourg and certainly one that Hemingway had often used.

Ernest Hemingway and Hadley spent their first night in Paris together at the Hotel d’Angleterre, in room 14.  Ernest returned to the hotel many times after. The hotel still stands, and still allows guests to stay in room 14.

Hemingway and his wife Hadley stayed their first night in Paris at the Hôtel d’Angleterre at 44, rue Jacob.  It is now a 3 star hotel and room #14, une chambre superieure, where they stayed, is offered today for 310 € a night.  During a walk along rue Jacob, one can see where Colette lived (28, rue Jacob) and Wagner lived (14, rue Jacob) and further along and into the court on rue de Furstemberg one can visit the residence and studio of Delacroix, which is now the Musée national Eugène Delacroix.

“He [Hemingway] sat in front of Gertrude Stein and listened and looked. They talked then, and more and more, a great deal together. He asked her to come and spend an evening in their apartment and look at his work. Hemingway had then and has always a very good instinct for finding apartments in strange but pleasing localities and good femmes de ménage and good food.”  —Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.

The Hemingways moved to the rue Mouffetard area and into their first apartment at 74, rue Cardinal Lemoine.  Finding it hard to write there, he rented a studio as well around the corner at 39, rue Descartes.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

But wait, there’s more!

the greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it: looking for molière in paris, 2018

I went looking for Molière in Paris.

A friend asked me for a photo of the location for the original Shakespeare & Company bookstore when it was owned by Sylvia Beach.  For a short time it was at 8, rue Dupuytren.  She moved it to 12, rue de l’Odéon in 1922, where it remained until 1941 when she had to close it.

We were talking about James Joyce which led eventually to discussing the publication of “Ulysses” by Sylvia Beach.  I had mentioned that I knew the location of the two original bookstores.

The second store front, the more famous of the two, no longer exists.  The address remains, and a small historical plaque is placed on the wall.  It reads, “En 1922, dans cette maison Melle Sylvia Beach publia ‘Uysses’ de James Joyce.”  Translated it says, “In 1922, in this building Miss Sylvia Beach published James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’.”

While walking to rue de l’Odéon, I thought about Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias”.  I had taught it to high school students some years ago.  As the article notes, it explores “the fate of history and the ravages of time: even the greatest men and the empires they forge are impermanent, their legacies fated to decay into oblivion.”

Paris was once surrounded by walls.  Portions of those walls still exist and with some initiative, one can find them.  I was intrigued by the podcast “the Earful Tour” which devoted a show to locating what remains of those walls on the right bank.

Molière died 345 years ago.  Paris has changed.  Could I find some remnants of his Paris?  A building?  A brick?  A stone unturned?  Something he may have seen?

The maps represents Paris during the 17th century.  It is obvious how confined it is, and the protective walls are evident.  How accurate it is I cannot tell.  I can imagine, however, Molière walking those streets.  I know Paris well enough to place on the map some some familiar landmarks that exist today. But wait, there’s more!