Even today you can still sip a premium coffee in a Parisian cafe and soak up the atmosphere once experienced by Ernest Miller Hemingway. The great American writer and winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature lived in the French capital in the 1920s and his presence is still felt to this very day.
The Lost Generation
A flurry of American writers and artists made their way to Paris in the years following World War I, drawn by its reputation as a haven for free intellectual and artistic expression and as a place where an expatriate could live for relatively little money. This ‘Lost Generation’ as they came to refer to themselves, embraced the Parisian cafe culture with enthusiasm. The Americans and others such as Picasso and Sartre would sit in cafes discussing art, philosophy and politics. Hemingway arrived in 1921, found Paris to be creatively stimulating, and embarked on what many consider to be his prime creative period. One of the best loved expatriate hangouts of the 1920s and 1930s still stands. The Shakespeare and Company bookshop on the rue de la Bouderie was where Hemingway purchased his English language books while in Paris and talked about fondly in his novel A Moveable Feast.
Following In Hemingway’s Footsteps
There are plenty of Parisian locations to be enjoyed by the Hemingway enthusiast. He loved to wander the area of the Left Bank known as the Latin Quarter. The streets around the boulevard Montparnasse provided the backdrop for the opening scenes of his novel The Sun Also Rises. At the junction of rue Jacob and rue Bonaparte is the Café Pri aux Clercs, a particular favourite of the writer, which remains today a romantic and typically Parisian bistro-café with real atmosphere and where they whip up a great salad. On the boulevard Montparnasse stands La Closerie des Lilas, where Hemingway loved to spend time eating, drinking and savouring the Paris cafe culture. Today this is a restaurant with a pleasant dining terrace and presents live music most evenings. When the writer visited his literary mentor Gertrude Stein in her apartment at 27 rue des Fleurus, he walked there via the delightful surroundings of the Jardin du Luxembourg, which may well have been his favourite location in all of Paris, and remains today perhaps the most picturesque green space in the city. It was an exciting time in an exciting city, and today it’s still possible to envision Paris as it was in Hemingway’s glorious 1920s.
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