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Hemingway’s Paris and the american exodus

You are the lost generation, said Gertrude Stein, the woman that knew them well. You could see them sitting in the cafes all day long, busy drinking and socializing, or boxing in the gym, playing tennis. Ernest Hemingway was one of them, one of the many american expatriots that came to Paris in the 1920’s. They were mostly writers, some artists, all reunited on the left bank, all in search of happiness and inspiration. Hemingway put his sejour in Paris into words and wrote The Sun also Rises, the book that made him famous and launched hisd career as a prominent novelist.

This essay is about Hemingway’s Paris and about the city he painted in his books; it is a look at the way he incorporated his own feelings for the place into his litterature and made a great city even greater. America has no souvereign, no personnal loyalty, no aristocracy, no country gentlmen, no palaces, no manors, nor ivied ruins, nor cathedrals, nor little Normand churches … Paris was a magical millieu that appreciated my stories . After the first world war, the young generation was highly depressed, the war wasn’t the heroic quest every youngster dreamt about, but killings and suffering and savagery.

America has turned their backs on them and became much more orthodox, with the return of traditional bourgois values. Ans so they decided to exile, artists like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, John Fitzgerald, maxdor Ford, Sylvia Beach, Robert McAlmon, etc. They were after the discovery of the Europeean culture and Paris was the most international, open, cultural city of them all, where the imagination could roam free and where the writers were appreciated. Paris welcomed them with open hands and a cheap lifestyle.

The writers embraced the French culture, the french took it even for granted and with their lifestyle made out of Paris a very lighted place. They didn’t mix with the French lot a lot, prefering the stay in the American club and the multicultural left bank. … when they [Ernest with his wife] arrived in Paris the city was cold, damp, crowded, jolly and beautifull. … But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there… Ernest arrived in december of 1921, as a young novelist for the Toronto Star, and moved into an appartment, rue Jacob.

His wife, Hardly Richardson, was known to him since his childhood and incarnated his best teenage years. He came with an open heart, ready to absorb new experiences, totally in love and very, very happy. He was greeted with a city that welcomed all artists, living together in deep, sometimes nonchalent friendship and a dynamic way of life. The love between him and Paris was complete and everlasting. In that city he spend the best years of his life, in love head over feet, living a bohemic way of life in the gaiest city on earth and crearting books that launched his carreer.

It is no coincidence that Hemingway, 40 years after living in the city, wrote A Moving Feast, piece of writing that elevates Paris to quasi spiritual location. Despite that, people that knew him well say that he didn’t lead such a bohemic life that legend made, but was seen much more in li! braries reading or in cafes writing then socializing. We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other. Ernest wrote The Sun Also Rises in 1926, it became an instant classic and launched his carrer.

The book is in large part autobiography, characters in The Sun ressemble closely Hemingway and his friends. It was written about one year after the events described in the book passed and some critics say that this short interval gives the book the much appreciated freshness. However, Samuel Putnam says that the book “marks the point of clevage between the earlier and latter bath of exiles”. The thing is that befor the middle of the 20’s, expatriots in Paris, having seen the suffering of the war, came to Paris as rebels, seeking artistic and spiritual freedom.

After The Sun Also Rises, Americans coming to Paris came for the Party, for the cheap way of life, to see the city and the artists that made it popular. There weren’t writters anymore, but turists. The thing is that The Sun Also Rises is a book about the hoplesness of a generation, because it describes the early expatriots, an! d exiles are never happy. Even Hemingway, probably one of those happier expatriots, seemed to get annoyed with the new immigrants from the US. Morley Callaghan, writting about his experience in Paris in 1929, wrote in his book: “Many other Americans were there.

That year Paris was crawling with Americans wanting to see everything, and having the money to see it”. In The Sun Also Rises, this attitude is evident in a few places. Especially when Jake talks with Georgette and see says “there are lot of those (American writters and artists) on this side of the river” Jake responds “Too many”. A man has the feeling like the old breed of Americans, those that mixed exclusively with the patriots and British and made no contact with the French, are trying to get away form the new, fake, expatriots.

When Harry and Jake dine at Madame Lecompte, after it has gone public that the resto is “as yet untouched by Americans”, that can’t get a place because it is crowded in them. Even though, even after The Sun Also Rises, ther were still some real writters left in Paris, in 1929, Hemingway returned after leaving in 1927, Fitzgerald was writting Tender is the Night, and James Joyce, Sinclair Lewis, Ford Maxtor Ford were still living and writting in Paris. Pound came to Paris to stay for a week and remained for twenty years.

The city still conserved some of its original charm. This essay has talked long about how Paris inspired writters, and in The Sun Also Rises there is no exeption: Frances urged him to come to Parism where Cohn could write. Robert Cohn and Jake are exemples of writters that are in Paris to wrrite (Jake is only a newpaper correspondant, but thinks about wrriting). The only difference is that Cohn hates Paris, but stays, to wrrite, contrary to Jake that stays because he loves the city.

Reading the novel, a man notices the love/hate relationships the caracters have with Paris. It is indeed an important part of the book. Even though it serves little to advance the story, every meeting between two new people starts with “Do you like Paris? ” This little question is the official ice breaker in the Paris society. Jake asks Georgette, Frances asks Mme Hubin, Bill asks Brett, the count asks Brett and indirectly, Jake asks Cohn and Brett. After reading the first part of the book, we know exactly how every character feels about Paris.

Georgette hates it, Jake loves it, Cohn can’t stand it, Frances adores it, count is happy with it, Bill is contempt and Brett doesn’t dislike it. Jake is annoyed with Cohn’s dislike of Paris the same way Hemingway was annoyed by Fitzgerald’s. Maybe it isn;t important for the reader, a presons opinion about the city, but we can guess that Hemingway was very touchy when people were dissing his city. Hemingway loved Paris, for him it was the most beautifull city in the whole world, spending his adult life in Key West and Cuba, in relative solitude, Paris was the only city that he really cared about.

He puts some of his admiration for it in The Sun Also Rises and all of it into A Movable Feast, Hemingways memoires of Paris. Little things lie Hemingways love for bridges found it’s way into his second book. The river looked nice, it was always pleasant croosing bridges in Paris, says Jake, echoing Hemingways own though of it is wonderfull in Paris to stand n a bridge accross the Seine”. Wasn;t the town nice at night, asks Jake and get’s Cohns answer I don’t care for Paris, becomes midly angry.

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