A century on from the American writer’s ‘very poor and very happy’ days in the city, Stanley Stewart goes in search of his favourite haunts
By Stanley Stewart, October 19 2022
When good Americans die, wrote Oscar Wilde, they all go to Paris. Of course, Americans can be impatient people, and quite a few, hoping to beat the queues, don’t wait for death. Many good American writers, plus quite a few British and Irish writers, have made their way to Paris with the idea that in the City of Light they will be able to find their literary voice in a way that would not be possible in Des Moines or Darlington or Dublin. Or at least get a seat on the terrasse of Café de Flore.
A hundred years ago, Ernest Hemingway, arguably the most famous of the American literary expatriates, first climbed the stairs with his wife Hadley, past the shared toilets on each landing, to their cramped fourth floor flat in 74 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine. The apartment, Hemingway wrote to a friend back home in Chicago, “would not be uncomfortable to anyone used to a Michigan outhouse”. Hemingway was only 22, and hadn’t yet written anything of note. The couple were sustained by Hadley’s small trust fund and by news stories that Hemingway filed to the Toronto Star.