Thursday, April 26, 2012

Paris, a nerdy literary homage

I toured the idyllic cafés where Parisians readily sip wine and coffee, strangely lined up along loud streets full of traffic, and sought out where great writers wrote. 

 A Balzac A Rodin, at the top of Boulevard Montparnasse

Many of the big name literary cafés were on the Boulevard Montparnasse. A newspaper said of the Montparnassians, they 'sleep in the morning and afternoon, and spend the evening upon the terraces of the Dôme, the Rotonde, the Select, and other neighbouring cafés. They have dark circles under their eyes, have read parts of Ulysses…'
In La Closerie des Lilas, Hemingway worked on The Sun Also Rises and F. Scott Fitzgerald complained that a novel he had written called The Great Gatsby was not selling.

Kiki de Montparnasse sings at the cabaret (Brassai 1934)

The original Jockey club was synonymous with artist’s model Kiki, where she sang risqué songs and became a muse to many. Hemingway in his introduction to her memoirs Kiki de Montparnasse said, 'She never had a room of her own and never was a lady at any time. But for about ten years she was as close as people get nowadays to being a Queen, but that of course is very different from being a lady.'
It turns out that it is Kiki who graces some of Man Ray’s most iconic images.

 Le Violon d’Ingre (Man Ray 1924)
Saint-Gemain was where Hemingway first stayed after his arrival in Paris, and where he would get into the habit of stopping and writing a short story. 'After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love.'

The Deux-Magots was where he drank with James Joyce. He also frequented Café de Flore, where I had the pleasure of catching up with my old Berlin-crony, Isabelle.

Hemingway didn't seem to like anyone. But he gushed over Joyce, calling him, 'The greatest writer in the world' and dammit, I've been inspired to try and read Ulysses again. And alas!... I’m past page 200 and am rather enjoying it!

The real place of worship for the literary nerd is the Odéonia/ Saint-Sulpice area, where Sylvia Beach had her bookshop and many literary giants of the twentieth century lived and worked. In Montmartre, we couldn't help go into Amelie's café, full of film posters and memorabilia and tourists taking endless photos; a similar fare at Oscar Wilde’s tomb in the Père Lachaise Cemetery (lots of tourists taking photos, I mean), where we also said hello to the family Proust (thank you to my lovely host Pat for taking me there xx

A lot of the trivia from the last two posts were taken from a great little book: Walks in Hemingway's Paris by Noel Riley Fitch. 

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