A Generation Lost and Found

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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