Two years ago I flew to Paris, France for an amazing adventure: to spend a semester studying abroad for a graduate internship at La Sorbonne Université. Last month, I returned to Paris, with my husband, to continue my Parisian journey!
Before this trip, I researched the life and works of Ernest Hemingway and his days in Paris through two sources. The first was his memoir, A Moveable Feast, which was edited and published posthumously in 1964. This was the last book that Hemingway was working on when he took his life, a half-finished page from the manuscript found in his typewriter. The title is taken from a remark Hemingway said to his friend A.E. Hotchner,
“If you’re lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”.
The second source is Paris without End: The True Story of Hemingway’s First Wife by Gioia Diliberto. This nonfiction work is well researched and a very engaging read which includes a detailed look into Ernest and Hadley’s lives before their courtship, their brief marriage of just five years and their life with their baby, Bumby. Diliberto gives a comprehensive look into Ernest’s first wife and the great impact she had on Ernest’s early development as a writer. She even compares the fictional characters and events in Hemingway’s stories to the real life events in their marriage which has encouraged me to go back and reread his classics The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms.
Both books recount the first years of Hemingway and his new bride, Hadley, living in the Latin Quarter in 74 rue Cardinal Lemoine. During my study abroad semester, I lived on rue Linné, one street over, and often walked by Hemingway’s apartment on my way to class at the Sorbonne without even realizing it. He also spent much time in sitting at cafe’s in Place de Contrascarpe, behind my apartment, and wrote some of his novels there.
I knew of the great American writers of the Belle Epoque living, writing and hanging out in this area and on the blvd. of St. Germain des Pres (Brasserie Lipp, Café le Flore, Le Select) but at the time, I was actually more interested in the French writers of the 19th century and retracing the walks of Jean Valjean from Hugo’s Les Miserables and Père Goriot from Balzac’s novel.(see my posts “My Parisian Journey: The Paris of Les Miserables and My Parisian Journey: On my way to class through the Latin Quarter with Hugo and Balzac!)
As Ernest and Hadley were both raised in the Midwest, they moved to Paris for a new adventure in their lives. Even through the hardships in the cold winter months in this rough neighborhood (at the time) with very little money for food or wood to heat their apartment, Ernest reflects back on this time in A Moveable Feast as some of the best years of his life. His love for Hadley and their experience here inspired him to begin writing his novels.
According to both sources, Ernest spent much time at Shakespeare and Company as he had developed a good friendship with Sylvia Beach, the owner. Sylvia constantly loaned Ernest books from her library as well as money for food and necessities. As part of my Hemingway tour, I purchased a hard copy of A Moveable Feast from S&C complete with the famous stamp on the inside cover.
Unfortunately, there is an unhappy ending to this story as Ernest has an affair, divorces Hadley and marries his mistress, Pauline Pfeiffer, a wealthy American journalist he meets in Paris. Ernest regrets this decision to divorce Hadley for the rest of his life, as he confesses to her in many letters written over the course of his life. Also, in the final chapter of A Moveable Feast, Ernest says :
“When I saw my wife again standing by the train track I wish I had died before I ever loved anyone but her…Paris was never to be the same again although it was always Paris and you changed as it changed. This is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.”
To complete the Hemingway walks, here are some landmarks we visited which are mentioned in A Moveable Feast:
- Jardin du Luxembourg: where Ernest and Hadley often took Bumby to play and fish
- 39 rue Descartes: Ernest and Hadley’s 2nd apartment
- 113 r Notre-Dame des Champs- 3rd apt after returning with Bumby in 1924
- Café La Closerie, 171 blvd du Montparnasse: Where Ernest spent many hours writing
- Les Deux Maggots, Café Le Flore, Brasserie Lipp: favorite café’s of Hemingway where he would go to work on his novels or meet friends
Copyright 2016 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)