In May of 2010 I spent a week in Paris looking up some of the cafés, clubs, restaurants and residences that were frequented during the 1920′s and 1930′s by the American, English and French poets, writers and artists and in particular some of Hemingway’s Left Bank hangouts. I then wrote an essay for my friends on Facebook, most of whom had never been to Paris. It was more or less a personal account of my stay there and the places I found. The essay was accompanied by numerous photos. I intend, over the next few days, to post that essay, slightly revised, here along with some of the photos. Over the past two days I posted the Preface and Part One, today I continue with:
THE PARADOX OF PARIS – PART TWO
Later, on the same afternoon of my arrival, I made my pilgrimage down to the Seine [Photo 13], Notre Dame [Photo 14] and Shakespeare and Company at No. 37 rue de la Bûcherie [Photo 15], George Whitman’s modern namesake of a much older and no longer in existence American/English bookshop and lending library, Sylvia Beach’s establishment, first at No. 8 rue du Dupuytren [Photo 16] and later at No. 12 on the rue de l’ Odeon [Photo 17 – 18].
13. The Seine, the view from the Pont des Arts looking towards Ile-de-Cité and Notre Dame.
14. Notre Dame, the heart of Paris.
15. George Whitman’s Shakespeare and Co. at Kilometre 0, Paris.
16. No. 8 rue du Dupuytren, the first location of Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Co. Today it is a beauty shop.
17. This is No. 12 rue de l’ Odeon, the second and most famous location of Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Co. It was here that Joyce’s Ulysses was published. The original shop front no longer exists and this bare boutique front gives no hint to the literary history made here other than a small plaque above the shop door and window.
18. Only this plaque gives any indication that this was once the literary heart of the Lost Generation.
Silvia Beach was the driving force behind getting James Joyce’s “Ulysees” the recognition it deserved; she published it at a time when no one else would touch it. And as a thank you Joyce never paid her a penny for over a decade of faithful slavery in his service, saying nothing when she eventually signed over her publishing rights to him. Devotion and friendship mattered little to Joyce unless there was money behind it. Joyce may have been a genius, but that didn’t excuse him for being an asshole. Just across the street at No. 7 on the rue de l’Odeon [Photo 19] was La Maison des Amis des Livres, Adrienne Monnier’s famous bookshop and salon that served as a focal point for the French literary movements of the 1920’s and 1930’s. A list of the authors and poets that regularly visited these bookshops is a literal Who’s Who of twentieth century literature. Throughout those two decades these establishments were the heart and working soul of the American, British and French literary worlds, unless, of course, you chanced to ask Gertrude Stein. According to Ms. Stein, the small apartment she shared with Alice B. Toklas (Stein shared her salon at No. 27 rue de Fleurus [Photos 20 – 22] first with her brother Leo and then, from 1910 on, with Alice) was the center of twentieth century literary innovation and she was the bright burning orb occupying ground zero. As far as she was concerned everything, everyone else was irrelevant. On this visit, thanks to one of the nice residents, I was lucky enough to gain entrance to the inner garden where I was able to photograph their small apartment [Photo 23] in the right rear corner of the garden. Behind those walls was the studio room that one always sees in the old photographs with a virtual Museum of Modern Art hanging on those stained and dingy walls. Today those same paintings are in private collections and hang in museums all over the world and are worth millions of dollars. Back then, at first anyway, no one seemed to be that interested in Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse or Gris. Except for Gertrude and Leo.
19. This is No. 7 rue de l’Odeon, La Maison des Amis des Livres, Adrienne Monnier’s famous bookshop and salon that served as a focal point for the French literary movements of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The actual shop was on the right hand side and like No.12, the original shop front is long gone but was similar to the one on the left.
20. Here we see No. 27 rue de Fleurus, where Gertrude Stein lived at first with her brother and then with Alice B. Toklas.
21. The commemoration plaque recognizing Stein’s contribution to literature.
22. The spiral design door handle to the entrance of Gertrude Stein’s apartment building. The thought crossed my mind of how many famous hands have opened this entrance, from Gertrude and Alice to Hemingway, Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Pound, Anderson, Wilder and many others.
23. I had the luck on this visit (I had been here before in 2008) to meet a lady coming out and naturally I asked if I could take a few quick photos in the garden of the apartment and she let me in for a few quick photos. This is a view of part of the garden, Steins apartment was on the ground floor to the right.
In my original text at this point I recommended two very good modern bookshops in this area. Unfortunately since I wrote this essay in 2010 the first shop, not too far from Saint Sulpice [Photo 24], Hemingway’s favorite church in Paris and the Café de la Marie [Photo 25], where in the 1920’s you could find Ernest, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Samuel Beckett, Djuna Barnes and no doubt many others eating and drinking, has shuttered its doors and windows and closed. This was The Village Voice Bookshop at No. 6 rue Princesse [Photo 26], which offered a very large and comprehensive selection of new English books. Its closing is a sad loss for Paris, but a sign of the times as more and more people buy books online. The second shop, just around the corner from the rue du Dupuytren (remember, the first location of Shakespeare and Co.), is called The San Francisco Book Company at No. 17 rue Monsieur le Prince [Photo 27]. It has a large assortment of secondhand books and offers friendly excellent service and good conversation.
24. The church of Saint Sulpice, seen from a side street, which has been undergoing renovation work since I began regular visits to Paris a few years ago. This time one of the towers that had been hidden by scaffolding was finally to be seen. (The renovation work has since been completed).
25. The Café de la Marie on the Place Saint Sulpice, where Hemingway and many others enjoyed a good drink and meal in the 1920’s and people still do today.
26. The Village Voice Bookshop was located at No. 6 rue Princesse. The shop had a large selection of new English language books and often sponsored readings by well known authors and poets on the premises. It is greatly missed.
27. The San Francisco Book Co. located at No. 17 rue Monsieur le Prince offers readers books on a wide variety of subjects, from pocket-books and hard covers to first editions and rare books.
Two blocks from where Stein lived is the Jardin du Luxembourg [Photos 28 – 29], the Luxembourg Gardens. In the decades between the wars many of the American expatriates lived within a short walk of this green oasis just down rue Soufflot from the Pantheon [Photos 30 – 31]. Hemingway remembered the Gardens fondly in A Moveable Feast and it was one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s favorite places for a stroll too. Hemingway often cut through the Gardens on his way to down to the quais, to walk and peruse the bookstalls or watch the fisherman [Photo 32], or on his way to or from rue de l’ Odeon or over to Harry’s American Bar on the Right Bank and for Fitzgerald it was probably a good short cut to the next bottle of booze.
28. A view of the Luxembourg Gardens looking towards the Pantheon with the French Senate building on the left.
29. Another view of the Luxembourg Gardens looking directly at the French Senate building, the Palais du Luxembourg. It was originally built between 1615 and 1645 to be the royal residence of the regent Marie de Médicis. In 1750, the palace became a museum, the forerunner of the Louvre. Today it is where the French Senate meets.
30. The Pantheon. The inscription above the entrance reads AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE . The absence of a verb in French emphasizes that the implicit notion of honour is given from the homeland to the great men. Among those who are buried here are Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Louis Braille, Marie Sklodowska Curie, Jean Moulin, Alexandre Dumas, Soufflot and Jean Jaurès.
31. The view towards the Luxembourg Gardens from the Pantheon along the rue Soufflot.with the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
32. Although there are less fisherman today (and probably less fish) than in Hemingway’s day, there are still a few to be seen. In the ten minutes I observed this gentleman there were no nibbles.
I do recall mentioning that the primary purpose of this visit was to do some writing and relax and one of the places that I most enjoy when I am in Paris is the Arenes du Lutece [Photos 33 – 35], the remains of the Roman Arena, just off the rue Monge, first discovered in 1869 with further excavations between 1883 and 1885, and reconstructed in 1917-1918. Here I can sit on late mornings and write in relative peace and quiet, scarf down a chocolate éclair and a bottle of milk, while Parisians practice their T’ai chi and the children kick a couple of soccer balls around or the old men play Boules [Photos 36 – 37].
33. The entrance on the rue Monge to the Arenes de Lutece. This is always one of my favourite places to relax and write. And have a picnic lunch.
34. This is the information plaque for the Arena.
35. This view, taken from the rue Rollin looking out over the rue Monge into the rue Navarre shows the way to the back entrance to the Arena (where the trees are to the left, next to a Metro entrance). Down this street is a very good jazz LP and CD shop.
37. A view looking up to where I usually enjoy my late mornings or afternoons writing and munching on good éclairs from a boulangerie on the rue Monge.
In the upcoming Part Three I’ll be looking at some of Hemingway’s haunts and take a wander through the heart and soul of the Lost Generation along the Boulevard du Montparnasse..
TO BE CONTINUED
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