A Generation Lost and Found

A Generation Lost and Found

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Writers are to Paris what breathing is to living. The
continual pilgrimage of poets, authors, journalists, would-be Balzacs
and scribblers from every corner of the globe to the City of Light is
testimony of the inspiration this beautiful city inspires in the
creative spirit. Paris, ripe with museums, statues, and monuments
dedicated to the memory of its writers, has been home to and has held a
special place in the hearts of such luminaries as Lawrence
Ferlinghetti, James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway, Emile Zola, Barbara
Chase Riboud, Gertrude Stein, and Colette. From the dusty aisles of
Shakespeare and Company Bookshop near Notre Dame Cathedral, to the
busts that litter the stunning Luxembourg Gardens, Paris is a living
monument to generations of writers whose inspiration continues to
surge. From Paris, our Senior Editor explores writers living and dead,
along with the city that served – and continues to serve – as the
backdrop to some of their greatest artistic achievement.

Ernest
Hemingway came to Paris in the 1920’s to become a great writer and felt
that Paris gave him the freedom he needed. Like the painters,
musicians, and composers who made Paris their adopted home, Hemingway
also embraced the City of Light. Once here, He made acquaintances
easily and quickly made a point of getting to know those writers who
were already well known or those soon destined to be. Paris in the
1920’s was a time when writers, painters, musicians, and composers came
to France to make names for themselves. It was a time known as the Lost
Generation a phrase coined by Gertrude Stein to describe the
intellectuals, novelists, poets, and artists in the Parisian expatriate
community. This generation of American writers in Europe held a
prominent place in American literature. It became very popular as
counterculture presence. The length of the Boulevard Montparnasse from
the Closerie des Lilas at the Observatoire, any direction to Saint
Germain-des-Pres and the Seine became the territory of the Lost
Generation where they drank excessively, loved with abandon, and
created some of the greatest American literature ever written.

 
It
was during this period that Hemingway wrote his first novel entitled
The Sun Also Rises—a story about Paris. ‘’If you are lucky enough to
live in Paris as a young man’’ Hemingway told a friend in 1950, ‘’then
wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you. For Paris
is a movable feast.’’ Although a few things have changed in the city
today, restaurants have changed names and a bookshop or two are no
longer here, much of Hemingway’s Paris still exists. Hemingway
frequented Harry’s New York Bar near Opera in the 1920’s. Another of
his favorites was Le Trou dans la Mur in the same area. On Montmarte
Hill at Place de Tertre is one of the first places he stayed. But the
neighborhood where Hemingway first lived is on Rue
Notre-Dame-des-Champs, where he had a small rented room over a sawmill.
And everyday at noon, he would meet friends for Bloody Marys in the
Little Bar of the Ritz Hotel.

To
many of his fans, Hemingway’s writing offers a nostalgic narrative of
life in Paris – A life that centered on cafes, great food and drinking
and still allures writers today.

Christiann
Anderson is the co-author of Paris Reflections: Walks through African
American Paris (McDonald & Woodward, 2002.) and writes a column on
Living Single in Paris for The Paris Woman Journal and Cafe de la Soul (
www.pariswoman.com, www.cafedelasoul.com)

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