Today two Between the Wars Stories Set in Paris by Icons of American Literature, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald are featured. Their time in Paris is the stuff of literary legends.
“My Old Man” by Ernest Hemingway - 1923 - first published in Three Stories and Ten Poems by Contact Publishing - A small Parisian publisher owned by Robert Menzies McAlmon - (his time in Paris would be an interesting story, perhaps for Paris in July 2021)
“Babylon Revisted” by F. Scott Fitzgerald - 1931 - initially published in The Saturday Evening Post
Born - July 21, 1899 - Oak Park, Illinois
May 1918. He arrives in Paris just as it is under attack by the Germans
January 1919 - returns to the USA
October 1921 - returns to Paris with his first wife to work as a foreign correspondent for The Toronto Star. He meets James Joyce and Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein becomes his mentor.
September 1923 - He and his wife return to Toronto. Hemingway misses Paris and they return January 1924
By June 1925 he meets F. Scott Fitzgerald and formed an on and off friendship marked by some discord
March 1928 - His second wife wants to return to America so he does
Hemingway returns to France June of 1944 as a War Correspondent. On August 25th he enters Paris with the American Army.
After The war he returns to America but Will come back with his third wife in 1948
October 1954. He received The Nobel Prize.
In October of 1956 he returns to Paris, staying at The Ritz
July 2, 1961 - dies Ketchum, Idaho
“My Old Man” was one of very first Short Stories Hemingway published. Set in Paris, it is narrated by a young American man. His father is a jockey. They ride hordes together, hang out in cafes that horse racing people frequent. They drink a lot. Hemingway gave me a sense of horse racing in Paris. The story ends in tragedy.
This is an historicallly interesting story. Hemingway is just starting to learn his craft.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was the author of four novels and 164 Short Stories
Born: September 24, 1896 - St. Paul, Minnesota
1920 to 1940 - Married to Zelda Fitzgerald
April 1924 - With Zelda he moves to Paris
The Great Gatsby is published in April of 1925, initially the reviewers were unkind. To me the last ten pages are among the most transcendently beautiful I have ever read. He completed it while living on the French Rivera.
From 1924 to 1926 they will alternate between Paris and the French Rivera with stays in Rome
He becomes friends with numerous American expatriates including Ernest Hemingway
October, 1926. He and Zelda move to Hollywood where he begins a career as a screen writer
Dies: December 21, 1940 - Hollywood, California
“Babylon Revisited”, opens in the Ritz Bar in Paris, Charles Wilson is talking to the bartender, the stock market crashed not long ago, about the days when Paris was full of rich Americans living an alcohol fuel stock market money funded life of non-stop partying. He runs into a still rich American couple he used to spend time with. This turns out to be a very unfortunate meeting for him.He has himself returned to Paris from the USA. Much of the focus of the story is on how the Depression has changed the behavior of Americans in Paris. Most Parisians are glad many of the once rich Americans have gone home.
Charles used to be an extreme drinker and party goer, living the life of the rich in the Roaring Twenties. He now has one drink a day. He lost his money in the market crash, his wife died, he gave up custody of his daughter to her sister-in-law. He now has a job lined up in Prague and wants to regain custody of his daughter. He plans for his sister to join them to help out.
His sister-in-law blames Charles for her sister’s death. One night Charles saw his wife kissing another man at a party. He leaves her out in the snow. After this she develops pneumonia and dies. She was evidently a serious alcoholic and her sister blamed Charles for this.
The daughter Honoria wants to go live with her father. His sister-in-law overcomes her initial trepidation at the idea, being convinced Charles is reformed, agrees to let him have his daughter. All seems going well when the friends he met at the Ritz Bar stop by to see him at the house of his sister-in-law. They are drunk and invite Charles to go to a party with them. I will leave the conclusion untold but it is not a happy ending.
The movie, Midnight in Paris, features Ernest Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds. I found it fun to watch it, on Amazon