Finding Ernest Hemingway in Paris
Posted on 03/11/2018 28 shares

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Paris left its mark on Hemingway, but those looking for Hemingway in Paris have to do some digging.

In the wake of World War I, favorable property prices and a low cost of living drew Americans to Europe in droves. Ernest Hemingway was no exception. The writer started out in Paris as a reporter, covering everything from the Greco-Turkish War to European social life, but four years after arriving in the city, his career as a fiction writer took off. Paris looked good on Hemingway, and it was here that he first sharpened his work down to its essence, crafting his signature, spare style that still reverberates through contemporary writing.

It takes some searching to find Hemingway in Paris. For a city that shaped a writer so intensely, it doesn't like to show off. With so many great minds passing through its narrow streets, sometimes it's hard to keep track. But signs of "papa" are still all over the city. You just have to know where to look.

Hotel d'Angleterre, 6th Arrondissement

Hotel d'Angleterre, 6th Arrondissement
© birillo81/123RF

The trip starts at Saint Sulpice in the 6th arrondissement. Hemingway, his first wife, Hadley, and their son would've spent their first nights in Paris near the church and its fountain at the Hotel d'Angleterre a few streets away. They arrived in 1921, barely a month before Christmas, and stayed in room number 14. Number 14 is still available and costs 223 EUR per night.

Les Jardins de Luxembourg, 6th Arrondissement

Les Jardins de Luxembourg, 6th Arrondissement
© ixuskmitl@hotmail.com

The gardens of the French Senate haven't changed much over the years, so it's easy to imagine Hemingway strolling moodily and occasionally killing pigeons. In A Moveable Feast, the author claims to have done just that when money was tight, hiding the dead birds in his son's stroller to save for dinner.

Not unlike today's Parisians, Hemingway and his small family would come to the park to get a break from their cramped living quarters. The family's apartment nearby at Rue Cardinal Lemoine had no running water and barely a bucket for a bathroom, a far cry from the neighborhood's current appearance. James Joyce also lived on the same street, in similar conditions. The Latin Quarter is no longer a maze of dilapidated buildings, and its streets are lined with chic eateries and high-end shops, with prime real estate being located near the park.

Shakespeare & Company, 5th Arrondissement

Shakespeare & Company, 5th Arrondissement
© Wieslaw Jarek/123RF

According to the shop's founder, Sylvia Beach, Hemingway just wandered in one day in 1921. This was before Hemingway was Hemingway, and prior to the publication of The Sun Also Rises. He became a regular customer, both buying and borrowing books.

The original Shakespeare & Company was situated at 12 Rue de l'Odeon and played host to many writers in the English-speaking expat community including Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and of course Hemingway. It closed after the Fall of Paris during World War II. Beach herself spent six months in an internment camp until February 1942, and in 1944 Ernest Hemingway arrived at 12 Rue de l'Odeon in a jeep to personally liberate the empty shop. As a war correspondent, Hemingway had linked up with the 22nd Infantry Regiment and was present during the liberation of Paris. Despite the grand gesture, the original bookstore never reopened.

The current Shakespeare & Company sits at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, and has become its own literary hub. Writers such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Alan Ginsberg spent considerable time there, ushering in a new era of English-speaking writers in Paris. Even now, Shakespeare & Company offers a free place to sleep for aspiring writers and avid readers in Paris, capturing the same ethos of the original bookstore.

Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore, 6th Arrondissement

Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore, 6th Arrondissement
© Petr Kovalenkov/123RF

Hemingway frequented these two cafés while working, and he wasn't the only one. Literary figures and artists also stopped by often, including Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Pablo Picasso. These cafes at Saint Germain des Prés were for both work and play, full of some of the world's brightest minds. Now, they're guaranteed to be full of tourists and ageing locals, sharing bottles of wine and planches des charcuterie.

Le Dôme, 14th Arrondissement

Le Dôme, 14th Arrondissement

The establishments at Saint Germain des Prés aren't the only two cafés Hemingway visited. Le Dôme at Montparnasse also played host to a whole slew of artists and writers, collectively dubbed "Dômiers." Here, Hemingway kept the company of T.S. Eliot and James Joyce, and is listed among other names such as Khalil Gibran, Anais Nin, and Vladimir Lenin.

Cafe Pre aux Clercs and Le Closerie Des Lilas were also Hemingway favorites, but the "good cafe" at Saint-Michel described in A Moveable Feast still eludes.

The Ritz Carlton Hotel, 1st Arrondissement

The Ritz Carlton Hotel, 1st Arrondissement
© kiev4/123RF

The man who became the voice of the Lost Generation kept Paris in mind even after he'd left, driving a military jeep through the city in 1944 in symbolic liberation. He didn't just stop at Shakespeare & Company, but he allegedly drove right up to Place de Vendôme and stormed the Ritz Carlton Hotel with the intention of liberating it, as the Luftwaffe had been using it as their headquarters.

According to legend, after finding no German troops, he left his borrowed (or stolen) gun in the car, and bought everyone a round of martinis in celebration. The legend is most likely just a legend, but it's true that the Paris Ritz Carlton was one of Hemingway's favorite haunts. He was known to have said that "when I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz." Upon his return to Paris in 1944, he most likely just reunited with his friends including Pablo Picasso and Sylvia Beach, but the hotel bar was nevertheless renamed Bar Hemingway in his honor.

A permanent guest

A permanent guest
© William Perry/123RF

Paris is inescapable in Hemingway's work, but if you want to find him in this city of bright stars, you have to dig a little deeper. The cafés he frequented are no longer the lively centers of discourse and art that they once were. Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein have been replaced by tourists and retirees eating oysters. Even his old neighborhood, now full of sushi joints and designer shops, seems to have left him behind.

After leaving Paris, Hemingway headed to Key West, and then Cuba, both of which have done a more concrete job memorializing the writer. But in its own, private way, Paris remembers him. If you look closely at the 15th arrondissement, you'll find a tiny street just next to the ring road, almost outside of the city limits, named after the man who was made by the city, called Rue Ernest Hemingway.

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