Following Ernest Hemingway Through Paris
By: Tom Malone - Summer 2017
Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel Prize-winning writer and avid world adventurer, spent the beginning of his career in Paris. From 1921 to 1927, Hemingway spent his time writing about his Paris life through fictional stories that reflected his own experiences.
Along with F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and other members of the “Lost Generation”, Hemingway sought creativity and meaning by frequenting bars, cafes, and parks throughout the city. Most of Hemingway’s old haunts are still there, ready to be experienced by a new generation.
Hemingway is my favorite author, and his journey sparks intrigue worthy of exploration. Here’s the path we took through Paris to follow in Hemingway’s footsteps.
1. Shakespeare and Company
Opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, Shakespeare and Company provided Lost Generation writers with a place to meet, read, gather inspiration, and publish their work. Sylvia Beach published James Joyce’s Ulysses when it was turned down by dozens of other major publishers. She served as a friend for Hemingway, who frequented the bookstore, and she eventually placed Hemingway’s work on her shelves. The store featured so prominently in Hemingway’s Paris life that he mentions it frequently in A Moveable Feast.
Beach’s original shop closed in 1940 after the German occupation of France, but the new shop opened in 1951 and remains open to this day. The only true connection between the old and new stores is the name, but the new shop reflects the way in which Hemingway’s Shakespeare and Company used to feel. You can purchase novels and short stories from the writers who got their start from this risk-taking bookstore.
2. Les Deux Magot
Hemingway spent a lot of time eating, drinking, and soaking in the Parisian experience in Les Deux Magot. It was a meeting place for the literary culture of Paris, and Hemingway even used it specifically as a setting in The Sun Also Rises. Order the Hemingway Special (a daiquiri - Hemingway’s usual order), but be prepared to pay for it; Les Deux Magot’s neighborhood has grown into an extremely upscale part of town since Hemingway lived there.
3. La Closerie des Lilas
This bar became a favorite meeting place for the artistic subculture in Paris in the 1920s, especially for expatriates, like Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway frequented La Closerie so much that it essentially became an office. He wrote a majority of The Sun Also Rises there, and it was the first place where Fitzgerald gave Hemingway a drafted manuscript of The Great Gatsby to proof. The bar itself has a small gold placard that immortalizes Hemingway’s usual spot at the bar. Now a slightly expensive restaurant, the place used to be a standard watering hole for the starving artist.
4. Jardin du Luxembourg
Located near a few of Hemingway’s favorite writing cafes, the Jardin du Luxembourg was a way for him to experience nature in the city. Before any of his work took off, he and his new family were quite poor, so he would stroll through the park and hunt pigeons for food.
5. Hotel d’Angleterre
When Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, moved to Paris, they stayed here. In Room 14, to be precise. Hemingway’s first few years in Paris left him in a small room with no running water and a bathroom that was essentially a glorified bucket. When his writing began to take off, he was able to move into a nicer apartment, but his roots are here at the Hotel d’Angleterre. You can stay in Room 14 to this day; don’t worry, the rooms have been updated to meet modern health codes.
6. Cafe de Flore
Though he didn’t visit this spot as regularly as La Closerie des Lilas or Les Deux Magot, Hemingway did write and meet often in this alternative location. Another former watering hole for the starving artist, Cafe de Flore now boasts frequent celebrity sightings, from Robert Deniro to Quentin Tarantino.
7. Harry’s New York Bar
The birthplace of the Sidecar, the Paris 75, and maybe even the Bloody Mary, Harry’s New York Bar was a favorite spot for American expatriates living in Paris after World War I, including Hemingway. Currently located on the Right Bank, the bar itself actually came from New York; the owner had it dismantled and took it with him to Paris, where he reassembled it to create the place that Hemingway used to visit.
This area in northern Paris was the epicenter for artistic and Bohemian culture from the 1880s to the beginning of World War I, just before Hemingway arrived in Paris. Montmartre stood outside the city walls and was an area in which the poor, starving artist could live, work, and experience life with like-minded people. It also housed the famous red-light district, brothels, and cabaret houses, like Moulin Rouge, that made this district disdained by the upper class of society (though the men of the social elite still visited often). World-renowned artists, like Renoir, Picasso, and Van Gogh, spent time in this neighborhood, ushering in some of their most creative periods.
It’s because of this neighborhood and the artistic culture it developed that Hemingway and the artistic minds of the Lost Generation sought out Paris as a creative refuge. Though the neighborhood wasn’t quite the Bohemian focal point by the time Hemingway arrived, its legacy remained.