THE PARADOX OF PARIS – PART THREE
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 three days I posted the Preface, Part One and Part Two, today I continue with:
Over the course of the next few days I concentrated on visiting some of the places where Hemingway lived, wrote and hung out with his fellow expatriates. After a short stay in the Hôtel Jacob et d’ Angleterre when he first arrived in Paris, he moved into an apartment at 74 rue du Cardinal-Lemoine where he lived on the fourth floor [Photos 37 – 38]. Today there is a plaque noting his residence there with the famous quote from A Moveable Feast, naturally here in French, “This is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.” A little further down the street at No. 71 [Photos 39 – 40], at the end of the long drive lived Valéry Larbaud, a French translator and literary critic, a friend of Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier and the person who supervised Auguste Morel’s translation of Ulysees into French. Around the corner from Hemingway’s first residence he rented a small room in which he could get away from everything and spend his time writing. This is located at No. 39 rue Descartes [Photos 41 – 42], just before it becomes the rue Mouffetard and is also marked by a plaque, that incorrectly says he lived there when he actually only worked in the room. In 1922, in this cheap room with a view out over the rooftops of Paris, he wrote some of his first short stories, such as Up In Michigan. This house had another famous resident, the great French poet Paul Verlaine who passed away here some 25 years before Hemingway moved in [Photo 43]. Within a minute’s walk of these two locations one comes upon the Place de la Contrescarpe [Photos 44 – 45], a small square that is the heart of rue Mouffetard. Hemingway’s description in A Moveable Feast of this square and the sleazy café he described there provides a sharp contrast to the atmosphere existing there today. But this is true of most of the places I visited. As the Lost Generation all have become ghosts, the ghosts of the past and the places they frequented are fading into the mists of imagination. And yet they haunt still.
37. Hemingway’s first apartment in Paris. He lived here on the fourth floor with Hadley, his first wife.
38. The plaque commemorating his residence there and with the famous quote from A Moveable Feast: “This is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.”
39. Here at No. 71 rue Cardinal-Lemoine, through the gate and up the drive, lived Valéry Larbaud who supervised the French translation of Ulysees.
40. The information plaque at No. 71 rue Cardinal-Lemoine.
41. This is No. 39 rue Descartes, where Hemingway rented a small room to work in. What was then a hotel today is a restaurant.
42. The commemoration plaque that mistakenly says that Hemingway lived in this building from 1921 until 1925, when actually he only rented the attic room here during part of 1921 – 1922 so that he could write without being disturbed.
43. The French poet Paul Verlaine spent his last days here, dying some 25 years before Hemingway rented his room here.
44. A view of the Place de la Contrescarpe a small square on the rue Mouffetard.
45. One of two busy cafés on the Place de la Contrescarpe today.
The next area I concentrated on was in and around the Boulevard du Montparnasse. This was most certainly the very heart of expatriate Paris in the 1920’s and upon his return in 1924 Hemingway moved here with his wife and new baby son. According to one source, this quarter, once known as Mont Parnassus, was dominated by a hill of quarry rubble and was so named by Parisian students after the home of the Greek Muses. The area was leveled in the 18th century and in the nineteenth century cabarets and cafés were located here in what was then the outskirts of Paris. By the turn of the 20th century it had become a bohemian quarter filled with artist’s and sculptor’s studios and attracted many of the poets and novelists then living in Paris. It is within this area, between the Luxembourg Gardens and the Observatory, along the Boulevard Montparnasse that the majority of the famous cafés and watering places of the 1920’s are located. This was the center of expatriate activity, providing opportunities for exchanging information and gossip, serious discussions, feuding and disputing, ogling the passersby or the café customers, eating and, it would seem, especially drinking.
One of Hemingway’s favorite cafés was just up the street and around the corner from his second apartment. La Closerie des Lilas [Photos 46 – 47] was shielded from the busy intersection by thick hedges and, as Hemingway liked to imagine, protected by the imposing statue of Marshal Ney. During the time that he lived in this neighborhood this was his café of residence. He did some of his writing while sitting here and in 1924 worked on the first re-write of The Sun Also Rises. What was in Hemingway’s day a cheap, quiet café is today a busy expensive restaurant. Inside there is a plaque on the bar with Hemingway’s name on it along with a photo of how the café appeared in the past. The atmosphere is also somewhat preserved by the old wooden walls with their brass lamps, the low lighting and live piano music. Tables are marked with small brass plaques with the name of a well known patron who most likely sat there in contemplation or conversation over a glass of wine or a well nursed café crème. I went one evening with an Irish writer and poet and a long time resident of Paris, and we started the evening sitting on the terrace drinking a glass of champagne and then having a meal of lamb with spring vegetables in a piquant sauce, which much to my surprise was excellent, with a few glasses of fine Pinot Noir after which we moved inside and sitting at Samuel Beckett’s table downed another round of exquisite champagne to the background of the piano music and the lively conversation of the obviously regular patrons stretched along the bar. The tab for the evening for two people (dinner and drinks): €120 (approximately $150). If you eat in the exclusive restaurant inside you can multiply that sum by three. Ah yes, how the times have changed since the days when it was a cheap café where Hemingway could muse over a drink for hours at a time for just a few centimes.
46. La Closerie des Lilas the café that was around the corner from Hemingway’s second residence, where he often sat and wrote, is today a fancy restaurant.
47. This view of La Closerie des Lilas is on the Boulevard du Montparnasse.
If you walk out of La Closerie des Lilas, around the frozen bronze figure of Marshal Ney [Photo 48], with his sword raised defiantly high in the air as if seeking some sort of retribution for being executed on that spot, and turn immediately to the left, you will enter a long, narrow street named rue Notre-Dame des Champs [Photo 49], the street where Hemingway found his second residence in Paris, above a sawmill at No. 113. That is all gone now, no more buzzing saws, no more sawdust. Today there is a modern university building on the site and No. 113 no longer exists even as a number [Photo 50]. But, as described in his memoirs, you can still see the shortcut Hemingway used to take, just across the street, up the stairs and through the bakery (which is still a bakery) to quickly get to Boulevard du Montparnasse [Photo 51]. A bit further down this street, is No. 70bis, where Ezra Pound, when he moved from London to Paris in 1920, lived in a rear garden apartment [Photos 52 – 53]. Hemingway was often a visitor to Pound’s pavilion apartment and the opium addicted poet Ralph Cheever Dunning lived here under the care of Pound for a while. Pound, ever restless, abandoned Paris for Rapallo, Italy in October 1924 and Katherine Anne Porter later moved to this address in the 1930’s. The street is also very well known because the artist James MacNeill Whistler had his studio at No. 86.
48. The statue of Marshal Ney waving his sword high in the air, just outside of La Closerie des Lilas, stands on the spot where he was executed and was one of Hemingway’s favorite monuments and places to sit.
49. A view down the rue Notre-Dame des Champs, the street where Hemingway lived in his second Paris apartment in 1924.
50. This is where No. 113 rue Notre-Dame des Champs once stood. Hemingway’s apartment was located above a sawmill. Today this ugly University building occupies the site.
51. This is the stairway that Hemingway would use as a short cut through a bakery to the Boulevard du Montparnasse. It is still a bakery.
52. This is No. 70bis rue Notre-Dame des Champs. Behind this house front through a courtyard was an apartment that Ezra Pound and later Katherine Anne Porter lived in. The entrance to the courtyard leading to the apartment is on the left.
53. It was through this entrance at 70bis rue Notre-Dame des Champs that the ever restless Pound would come and go.
Going back out on to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, which essentially runs parallel to rue Notre-Dame des Champs, I looked up two of the restaurants Hemingway enjoyed going to in his neighborhood. The first, the Nègre de Toulouse at No. 159 [Photo 54] was a place where he enjoyed good wine and celebrations with his friends. Today it is many times changed from the original establishment, but is still a restaurant. The second place was called Le Jockey, a club and cabaret at No. 127 Boulevard du Montparnasse that opened in 1923. Today it is a Brasserie Fernand [Photo 55] with no connection to the original club, which moved in the mid twenties to another location nearby. In the original Le Jockey one could often find not only Hemingway, but Robert McAlmon, Kiki (Alice Prin), Man Ray, and even Sinclair Lewis, who was disliked by his fellow writers as “just an author of best sellers,” and who was humiliated there in 1923. But it is all gone now, even the insults.
54. This is all that is left of the Negre de Toulouse at No. 159 Boulevard du Montparnasse, one of the neighborhood restaurants Hemingway and many other expatriates would frequent.
55. Le Jockey, located at No. 127 Boulevard du Montparnasse, was a place where Hemingway met with friends and was one of the more popular places in Montparnasse. Today it is the Brasserie Fernand.
The next several locations, all congregated around the Place Vivan [Photo 56], represent the true center of expatriate activity in the 20’s and 30’s and are all practically within spitting distance of one another. And for the most part all of them still are in existence today, if only in name. I will begin with the most well known, Café du Dôme at No. 108 Boulevard du Montparnasse [Photo 57]. Today the interior is a rather pricy fish restaurant, with photos of its famous patrons on the walls, and an enclosed café terrace where one can still sit, write poetry and enjoy a café crème, though at a price that would have probably paid Hemingway’s rent for a month in the 1920’s [Photo 58]. After initially coming here, shortly after arriving in Paris with his wife Hadley in the winter of 1921, mainly to keep warm, he would later come here to meet friends and visitors like William Carlos Williams, Malcolm Cowley, Ford Maddox Ford, and Ezra Pound. Even Sinclair Lewis showed his face here in the early twenties. Directly across the street, at No. 103 Boulevard du Montparnasse, is La Rotonde [Photo 59]. Perhaps Paris’ best known café in the 1920’s, it had originally opened next door in 1911 and then moved to the present location in 1924. At first critical of the clientele of La Rotonde, later, after achieving success with his writing, Hemingway became one of the café’s regular visitors. Outside of La Rotonde, on the Boulevard Raspail is Rodin’s statue of Balzac [Photo 60]. But without a doubt the most popular café of the period was Le Sélect at No. 99 Boulevard du Montparnasse and the corner of rue Vavin [Photos 61 – 62]. Along with Hemingway you could have met Kay Boyle, Robert McAlmon, Eliot Paul, Harold Stearns, Margaret Anderson, Morley Callaghan, Joan Miró, William Shirer and even Isadora Duncan here in the 1920’s. And this was where Hart Crane got into a punch up with an employee of the establishment that resulted in his being arrested and thrown into jail. Harry Crosby, the publisher, was finally able to bail him out after a week.
56. A view of the Place Vivan, location of the Café du Dome on the left and La Rotonde on the right. The street running off to the left of the Café du Dome is the rue Delambre.
57. Café du Dome at No. 108 Boulevard du Montparnasse today has an enclosed café terrace with a restaurant inside.
58. Though the prices are high one can still sit nursing a café crème and write poetry or a novel in the Café du Dome.
59. Across from the Café du Dome is La Rotonde, at No. 103 Boulevard du Montparnasse, one of the favourite expatriate hangouts in the 1920’s.
60. Just outside of La Rotonde is Rodin’s statue of Balzac on the Boulevard Raspail.
61. The most popular café in the 1920’s was Le Select, located at No. 99 Boulevard du Montparnasse. This was the primary meeting place for expatriate writers and artists.
62. A close up view of Le Select, which still retains some of the atmosphere it possessed in the 1920’s.
One other location of note, but like the sawmill Hemingway lived above, no longer in existence, at least in its original four walls, is La Coupole at No. 102-4 Boulevard du Montparnasse [Photo 63]. Up until 1988, when it was torn down and replaced with the monstrosity that one now sees on the site, La Coupole had not been remodeled and thus was the last of the old watering places that had preserved its original atmosphere. The new building, I have been told by someone who has been to the restaurant, which is owned by a large national chain, has preserved the original columns and some of the paintings and furnishings. But looking through the window I wasn’t overwhelmed by the new atmosphere. La Coupole was originally a night club and dance hall that opened in 1927.
63. La Coupole at 102-4 Boulevard du Montparnasse, once was a nightclub and dance hall but the original building was torn down and replaced with this monstrosity.
Around the corner from the Café du Dôme is the rue Delambre, a street once home to many writers, painters and sculptors. Edward Titus, publisher of the This Quarter literary magazine and the translator and author Samuel Putnam lived here in the mid 1920’s until the early 1930’s., With its numerous small hotels the rue Delambre had at one time been the home address for Robert McAlmon, Mina Loy, Jo Davidson, Harold Stearns, Tristan Tzara, Jane Heap, John Glassco, Isadora Duncan and Man Ray. Not a bad list of people to have as neighbors. But this street is known for something else. Le Dingo, the famous Dingo Bar, was located at No. 10 rue Delambre. It was here that in April 1925 that the first meeting between Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald took place. The original bar at which they drank together, served by Jimmy “the Barman” Charters, is still in use at the establishment, but today it is an Italian restaurant (sound familiar?) called Auberge de Venise [Photo 64]. Up the street and around the corner on the rue du Montparnasse at No. 42, one finds Le Falstaff [Photo 65], the bar that Jimmy, the famous barman from the Dingo Bar, moved to in the late 1920’s. His clientele essentially followed him there and Le Falstaff became another of the famous watering holes for the expatriate community. At any rate, this must have been a very interesting and very lively neighborhood in mid 1920’s in which all the pathos, emotion, comedy, jealousy, poverty and artistic expression of the well known and the unknown participants took place for better or worse.
64. Here, at No. 10 rue Delambre, was the original Le Dingo, the Dingo Bar, where Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald first met in 1929.
65. At No. 42 rue du Montparnasse is Le Falstaff, the bar to which Jimmy the barman moved after leaving the Dingo in the late 1920’s
In the next post, Part Four, I’ll conclude this excursion through The Lost Generation’s Paris down on the Boulevard Saint Germain at two of the most famous cafés and then take a small side excursion into the late 1950’s and the Beat Poets.
TO BE CONTINUED
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