Expatriate American Authors in Paris - Disillusionment with the American Lifestyle as Reflected in Selected Works of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Master's Thesis, 2001

94 Pages, Grade: 1.3 (A)


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Expatriate Artist Community in France
2.1 The “Lost Generation” of American Expatriates
2.2 Paris as the Center of the Expatriate Community

3. Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald in France
3.1 Ernest Hemingway
3.1.1 The Road to France – Hemingway’s Early Years
3.1.2 Life in Paris
3.2 F. Scott Fitzgerald
3.2.1 The Road to France – Fitzgerald’s Early Years
3.2.2 Life on the Riviera

4. Disillusionment in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises
4.1 The Expatriates and Their Way of Life
4.2 The “Lost Generation” of Americans
4.3 The American Government
4.4 Money and New Values
4.5 American Values in Contrast

5. Disillusionment in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
5.1 The Effects of Wealth
5.2 Corruption in the 1920s
5.3 Commerce as the New Religion
5.4 The Corruption of the American Dream

6. Summary and Conclusion


1. Introduction

Paris has traditionally called to the American heart, beginning with the arrival of Benjamin Franklin in 1776 in an effort to win the support of France for the colonies’ War of Independence. Franklin would remain in Paris for nine years, returning to Philadelphia in 1785. Then, in the first great period of American literature before 1860, literary pioneers such as Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne were all to spend time in the French capital. Henry James, toward the close of the nineteenth century, was the first to create the image of a talented literary artist who was ready to foreswear his citizenship. From his adopted home in England he traveled widely through Italy and France, living in Paris for two years. There he became close friends with another literary expatriate, Edith Wharton, who made Paris her permanent home. Between them they gave the term “expatriate” a high literary polish at the turn of the century, and their prestige was undeniable. They were the ‘in’ cosmopolitans, sought out by traveling Americans, commented on in the press, the favored guests of scholars, as well as men and women of affairs.

This thesis investigates the mass expatriation of Americans to Paris during the 1920s, and then focuses on selected works by two of the expatriates: Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926) and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925). The specific emphasis is on disillusionment with the American lifestyle as reflected in these novels. The two books have been chosen because both are prominent examples of the literary criticism that Americans were directing at their homeland from abroad throughout the twenties.

In a first step, necessary historical background regarding the nature of the American lifestyle is provided in chapter two. This information is included in order to facilitate a better understanding of what Hemingway and Fitzgerald were actually disillusioned with. Furthermore, that lifestyle was a primary motivating factor behind the expatriation of many United States citizens. Attention is given to the extraordinary nature of the American migration to Paris in the twenties, as the sheer volume of exiles set it apart from any expatriation movement – before or since – in American history. Moreover, a vast majority of the participants were writers, artists, or intellectuals, a fact which suggests the United States during the 1920s was not a supportive environment for such people. Therefore, this study investigates the socio-political factors, and the disillusionment that resulted from America’s involvement in World War I, which also motivated the exile. After that, the second part of chapter two examines the allure of Paris as a destination. It explains why the expatriates chose to gather in such large numbers in the French capital rather than in other European cities. The focus is on the development of an American literary expatriate community within Paris, detailing the amenities which the city offered, and the permissive environment that led Gertrude Stein to declare: “Paris was where the twentieth century was.”[1] In addition, this section looks at the changes which occurred in the expatriate community during the 1920s. The chapter concludes with information about some of the important members of the American literary sphere in Paris.

Biographic information on the early lives of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald is provided in chapter three. The purpose of this section is to illustrate the development of each author’s respective personal disillusionment with the American lifestyle, and to recount the events which led them to leave the United States. Moreover, Hemingway and Fitzgerald represent different aspects of the expatriate experience. Hemingway became part of the American literary community in Paris, whereas Fitzgerald initially lived on the French Riviera for a year, and moved to Paris after completing The Great Gatsby. Despite the authors’ divergent experiences, however, France provided them both with a basis for comparative as well as objective analysis of American life. Accordingly, chapter three examines Hemingway’s and Fitzgerald’s differing personal lives in France, as well as the effect their residence abroad had on the two novels in question. As the focus of this thesis is on The Sun Also Rises and The Great Gatsby, the biographies are restricted to events which occurred before the publication of those two novels.

The work Hemingway and Fitzgerald produced in France asserts their respective disillusionment with the American lifestyle, portraying its identifying characteristics and negative consequences. Certainly, both novels indict a society that has lost its ethical bearings, and both comment unfavorably on the socio-political climate in the United States. Furthermore, Hemingway and Fitzgerald each emphasize a moral confusion in which money becomes the principal measurement. Chapter four looks at The Sun Also Rises, wherein Hemingway focuses on a group of expatriates in Paris and on a trip to Spain. The chapter analyzes the portrayals of disillusionment in the novel: an insular American community in Paris; the loss of values experienced by the postwar generation; the American legislation of morals; capitalism, and a search for values not based on commerce. This section concludes with a look at the images Hemingway provides as a contrast to the American lifestyle. Chapter five moves on to examine The Great Gatsby, which concerns a wealthy community on Long Island, New York. Fitzgerald’s expressions of disillusionment in the novel are primarily based on money: the destructive effects of wealth and materialism; the corruption and moral disorder in America; as well as the enshrinement of commerce as a new religion. Finally, the chapter examines Fitzgerald’s portrayal of the American Dream as corrupted by materialism. From Europe to America, the two novels examined in this thesis utilize different settings to express the same theme: the authors’ disillusionment with the lifestyle of their homeland, America.

2. The Expatriate Artist Community in France

2.1 The “Lost Generation” of American Expatriates

There have always been varied motives for self-exile, just as many different Americans have gone abroad. Yet Ishbel Ross, in his study of Americans who have left their homeland, notes that “the artists and writers have most consistently fed the expatriate flame,”[2] leaving behind the limitations of American culture, and seeking an atmosphere of tradition. This “flame” reached its peak with the Americans who went to Europe after World War I, an artistic mass migration which was the largest ever made from the New World.[3] According to A Handbook to Literature, “expatriate” is a term “applied to those who leave their native lands and reside elsewhere,” further stating that this move is usually voluntary.[4] Moreover, an expatriate is a person who has withdrawn from residence in or allegiance to his or her native land, who has become disillusioned with that country and seeks a more welcoming environment.

Whereas historically the expatriates had been isolated individuals, the number of gifted writers and artists who settled in Paris during the 1920s created a group effect. Ross states that it was authors such as “Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald” who “shook up the literary world, as both writers and personalities.”[5] The Americans who went to France after the war became members of what Gertrude Stein described as the “Lost Generation.” The term originated from an incident in the summer of 1925, when Stein’s car was being repaired in a French garage. The garage owner lamented that workers aged between twenty-two and thirty did not learn fast and he was unable to teach them. He said to Stein, “C’est une génération perdue.”[6] Stein later repeated the remark in conversation with Ernest Hemingway, extending it to include the moral chaos of the then-current generation of expatriates whom Stein felt had no respect for anything.

The generation was “lost” in the sense that its inherited values were no longer relevant in the postwar world. Many of the young people had been in the war and had received at least psychic, if not also physical wounds. Members of the generation felt lost in an America which was increasingly devoted to materialism and the cult of the dollar, as opposed to the development of culture and the arts. The United States seemed provincial, emotionally barren, and politically repressive to the writers who were “lost” in that they felt a spiritual alienation from their homeland. Hemingway would later use Stein’s remark as the epigraph to The Sun Also Rises, a novel which has been credited with giving a “literary expression” to “the general atmosphere of postwar disillusionment.”[7]

There can be little doubt that World War I had a major impact on the new literary generation which was emerging in America at that time. Many young writers then in college enlisted in one of the ambulance corps attached to a foreign army, those being the organizations which promised to carry them abroad with the least delay. Young and idealistic, proportionately very few of them waited to be drafted, and for many their first real experience of life was on the European battlefields. The staggering number of deaths began to erode the idealistic sentiments of the participants; the soldiers grew to distrust authority as personified by those who had planned and ordered the attacks.[8] Moreover, this lack of trust was mirrored in the American population. President Woodrow Wilson ran for his second term with the campaign slogan, “He kept us out of the war.”[9] However, America entered the war only a few months after Wilson’s re-election in 1916. As a result, the prevailing sentiment was one of disillusionment, that the nation had been misled. This, in turn, was reflected in literature. As Mark Schorer has pointed out, disillusionment with the American system is the distinguishing characteristic of postwar American writing.[10]

After the war ended, the young intellectuals who had been abroad faced a return home which was disenchanting and disorienting due to the rising commercialism and intolerance of postwar America. During the early 1900s American culture was becoming urban instead of rural, with the flow of population towards urban areas being greater than that to the West. Whole cities were thrust rapidly from a quiet provincialism into the midst of the machine era. Consequently, they were without those cultural traditions and institutions which a more slowly developing community accumulates. The focus on commerce and materialism hindered the creation of a community with roots, while urban life, and the rapidity of social change had an averse effect on individuality. The middle class existence was becoming secure, unexciting, and bland.

The 1920s were the age when a production ethic, that of saving in order to accumulate capital for new enterprises, gave way to a consumption ethic which was needed to provide markets for the new commodities being produced. People were being exhorted to spend, spend, spend, and to believe that they could achieve success in their lives merely by seizing upon the opportunities to make money that society was offering. America was entering a period of unprecedented economic prosperity known as the Boom, the Roaring Twenties, or what F. Scott Fitzgerald named the Jazz Age. Fitzgerald, who began as the spokesman for that age and became its symbol, said of the 1920s:

America was going on the greatest, gaudiest spree in history and there was going to be plenty to tell about it. […] All the stories that came into my head had a touch of disaster in them – the lovely young creatures in my novels went to ruin, the diamond mountains of my short stories blew up […].[11]

Indeed, many authors did go on to “tell about it,” expressing their distaste for and rejection of the commercial ethic which America had embraced. Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is, in part, a biting portrayal of the American obsession with money, as is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. A sense of alienation from the overtly capitalistic nation that America had become was a contributing factor in the mass exodus of writers and artists.

In the United States publishing, like finance and the theater, was becoming centralized, and regional traditions were dying out as areas were transformed into a great unified market for new products. Writers complained that the whole of American culture was becoming false, and that hypocrisy had come to pervade the entire system, with businessmen talking about service when they meant profits. The same social mechanism that fed and clothed the body was neglecting the emotions, closing off the paths toward creativeness and self-expression. John Aldridge notes that, to the young writers, it seemed “life in America was tawdry, cheap, colorless, and given over to the exclusive worship of wealth and machinery […];” that to do one’s “best work in such a society was impossible.”[12] The puritan-industrial culture of America was hostile to the literary artist, therefore many began searching for a new home.

Several intellectuals went to Greenwich Village in New York City, which was then the center of alternative culture in America. However, it was no longer the “Bohemian”[13] refuge it had once been. By 1920 the word itself had become fashionable. People gave bohemian parties, patronized bohemian antique shops and bookstores, and with new businesses opening to take advantage of this trend Greenwich Village began to seem like an imitation of itself. In a very diluted version the Village existence was becoming the lifestyle of the American middle class. As a result, the writers and artists began to look further afield, searching for a place where they would be free to choose their own lifestyles, and express their own opinions. Undoubtedly, the sociological factors were to some extent influential in driving the intellectuals into exile. An article in the Paris Tribune stated:

[…] many an American who feels outraged at living under a government which treats its subjects like a set of naughty children, who shall be told what to drink, to read, to wear, and to see at the theatre, prefers to go into exile.[14]

The political climate in the United States was changing and the 1920s saw the rise of a regressive new Puritanism, of which Prohibition[15] was only one sign. U. S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, in an effort to stop what he perceived to be a communist menace, authorized raids on labor headquarters and private homes. On a single night in January 1920, Palmer’s men arrested some four thousand people in thirty-three different cities.[16] Censorship was increasing, with the United States Post Office and the New York Port Authority having license to intercept mail and destroy material they considered to be salacious or dangerous. James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses was a case in point, with four hundred copies of the book being burned in America during the last weeks of 1922. Afterwards the book had to be smuggled into the country, and was not officially allowed in until 1933.[17] Various Societies for the Suppression of Vice also assumed the role of censor, and it seemed the United States had no interest in fostering the creative spirit. The future expatriates found America “politically naive, puritanically restrictive, and culturally deprived.”[18]

The unrest among young American intellectuals was expressed in a 1921 symposium on Civilization in the United States,[19] edited by Harold Stearns. Stearns, a literary journalist and critic, assembled thirty writers, each of whom contributed an essay on various aspects of modern American life. The topics covered included education, politics, the law, advertising, as well as intellectual life, and the various arts. With few exceptions these thirty contributors were dissatisfied with American life; the overwhelming material values enforced by a standardized and machine-made civilization, and the repressions that go with it. The general consensus was that if a young artist was to preserve his talent he must leave the country, preferably going to Europe where creative life was still possible. Reinforcing that conclusion, Stearns sailed for France soon after delivering the completed book to the publisher. His embarkation date was deliberately chosen: the Fourth of July. Whether because of his example or not, hundreds of young men and women followed him up what Malcolm Cowley called “the longest gangplank in the world.”[20]

2.2 Paris as the Center of the Expatriate Community

Paris has, of course, the tradition of guarding the exile.[21]

Disillusioned with the political climate in America, as well as with the wide-spread provincialism and small-mindedness, aspiring writers and artists chose to relocate themselves to Europe, with the majority settling in France. Thus began “[o]ne of the most extraordinary phases in the history of American literary expatriation […] the mass migration of American writers to Paris in the 1920s […].”[22]

There were many factors which contributed to the young intellectuals’ choice of Paris as a new home. For one thing Paris was truly cosmopolitan and carried the reputation not only of tolerating artistic independence but of actually encouraging it. As Gertrude Stein said, “It was not what France gave you but what it did not take away from you that was important.”[23] Leaving its artists alone, Paris nonetheless provided them the accoutrements necessary to art: excellent printers and presses, galleries and bookshops, social companions and intellectuals, patrons and buyers, as well as an unusually accessible and sympathetic press. One of the main advantages of Paris was the freedom and independence it offered to the American expatriates. The very fact that they were foreigners contributed to their sense of liberation, placing them outside of the community expectations and restraints which did exist: “They were not French, they were not part of this society, they were not affected by French mores and prejudices […]. They were separate.”[24]

Paris was also affordable. In 1924 steamship companies created an inexpensive mode of travel, called ‘Tourist Third,’ and introduced cheap transatlantic fares, putting Europe within the financial ‘reach’ of students and artists. Due to the devaluation of European currencies, American dollars often bought a fantastic rate of exchange. In 1920 it took twelve francs to purchase one dollar; in 1925 it took twice that number.[25] Hotel rooms were available at the very cheapest prices, and a complete dinner, including wine, could be had for as little as fifty cents. Consequently, it was possible for Americans to live well with a small amount of money.

Economics also made possible the birth of various small literary magazines and independent presses, giving new writers a chance to be heard. Indeed, since 1912 some eighty percent of America’s most important poets, novelists, and critics were first published in avant-garde little magazines. Titles such as Contact, Broom, Transition and This Quarter could be printed much less expensively in Paris. These and other independent periodicals served primarily as nurturers of art and secondarily as forums for the evaluation of this modern art. Furthermore, as the readership was select the magazines were relatively free from censorship and thus able to print more ‘artistic’ and experimental work.

The number of expatriates grew larger each year. At the end of 1921 six thousand Americans called Paris home, and by September 1924 the city’s permanent American population was thirty thousand and rising.[26] Geographically and socially they were divided in two separate communities. In the aftermath of the war reconstruction operations brought many officials to Paris, with statesmen, economists, bankers, and businessmen all settling in the French capital. These wealthy Americans gathered on the right bank of the Seine, and landmarks of their Paris included the Arc de Triomphe,
the nightclubs near the Place Blanche, and the great hotels, especially the Ritz on the Place Vendôme. For some years F. Scott Fitzgerald was to serve as ambassador of literature to that Paris of the rich. In the summer of 1925 he had a literary luncheon each week with Ernest Hemingway, discussing the mechanics of writing, but his function also involved making the rounds of the nightclubs and drinking at the Ritz bar.

The Left Bank was the site of the other expatriate community, that of the writers and artists. Just beyond the Latin Quarter,[27] in the Sixth arrondissement, Montparnasse was already established as the domicile of Parisian artists, and attracted the creative expatriates. For members of the American literary colony life centered around three cafés at the corner of the Boulevard du Montparnasse and the Boulevard du Raspail: the Dôme, the Rotonde, and the Select. Cowley describes these cafés as “great public landmarks,” naming the Dôme in particular as “the place.”[28] It was where one could gossip, borrow money, repay debts, and keep abreast of local news. The Dôme was the first destination of young writers in Paris, hoping to meet friends who had preceded them. It became so well-known as a literary gathering place that the editors of little magazines went there in search of contributors, and American publishers came to ask about young authors. Thus the café was like a market that dealt in literary futures.

In the early 1920s the atmosphere in expatriate Paris was hard-working and productive. However, it changed considerably as the decade wore on, especially after Hemingway’s portrayal of “Lost Generation” life in Paris in The Sun Also Rises (1926). One expatriate, Samuel Putnam, describes the book as a “literary post-mortem,” and notes that it marked “the point of cleavage between the earlier and later batch of ‘exiles’, by embalming in a work of fiction […] the spirit that animated those who came in 1921 or shortly after.”[29] Whereas several of the first expatriates had been in the war, those who arrived in the late twenties were, frequently, of a still younger unscarred generation. Although the earlier exiles had been driven abroad by a hatred of American dullness and Puritanism, primarily they had travelled in search of something – freedom, knowledge, an older culture. Their successors felt the same things, but felt them a little less strongly. Instead of being drawn ahead they were getting away from something. They had no great disillusionment to drown, and often were not genuine writers and artists. For this later batch of expatriates Paris was merely an inexpensive and exciting place to live.

The constant influx of expatriates resulted in Montparnasse becoming more and more Americanized as businesses began to cater to this new clientele. The cafés, including the Rotonde and the Dôme, were redecorated, installed cocktail bars, and even changed their menus in an effort to compete for the new arrivals’ money. Montparnasse came to have a distinct air of showmanship about it, taking on what Putnam describes as “the appearance of a Bohemia made to order […].”[30] It was the rule rather than the exception that Americans living in Paris remained isolated from the lives of the French, tending to associate almost exclusively with other Americans. Although several of the expatriates were fluent in French, the majority had difficulty reading the language and spoke it very poorly.[31]

Within this largely separate community in Paris the changing motivations of the new arrivals were being felt. There was still a good deal of serious writing being done, but the habits of many of the exiles during the twenties were restless and uneven. Once in Europe they could move with freedom while their funds held out, and this they did. Although the rate of exchange was favourable in Paris, elsewhere in Europe it was often spectacular, with prices that changed from country to country, virtually from hour to hour. Consequently, there sprang into being a new race of tourists, “parasites of the exchange,”[32] who wandered through Europe in search of the lowest prices, sooner or later returning to the Left Bank.

For many Americans in the 1920s it was cheap and chic to become a temporary expatriate, and residence in Paris became an ‘in’ thing. Prior to the twenties a majority of Americans were still committed to puritan views on sexual morality, and the idea that life is a serious business. The difference after World War I was that hedonism spread to the traditionally conservative middle classes. As a result, an expatriate life was seen as a chance to celebrate without concern for the future. People talked about the intolerance and stupidity at home in America, but it seemed that what they really wanted was the freedom to be irresponsible. There were numerous parties and drunken escapades. One of the expatriates, Robert McAlmon, was to sum up that time: “Those were the days of passion, love and intoxication.”[33]

Despite the hedonistic life style of many American exiles, Paris, especially at the beginning of the 1920s, was the international capital of literature, art, and music. Writing about the prospect of expatriation, Cowley said, “Indeed, to young writers like ourselves, a long sojourn in France was almost a pilgrimage to Holy Land.”[34] Gertrude Stein had settled there in 1902, and her house later became an important port-of-call for recently arrived expatriates. Ezra Pound, after leaving the United States for London in 1908, moved to Paris some years later. Several of the culture heroes of American writers were also in Paris: James Joyce, Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Valéry, and André Gide, to name a few. So it was that “almost everyone worshipped by the postwar generation”[35] could be found in the French capital.

Gertrude Stein, one of the early American exiles, came to Paris in 1903 to take up residence with her brother Leo in the combined studio and pavilion at 27 Rue de Fleurus. The two were interested in art and began to study and buy paintings, soon amassing a collection of works by such artists as Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, Gaugin, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Leo was the original collector, but after he and his sister began to quarrel about the relative merits of Cubism it was Gertrude who went on to earn a reputation as an expert on modern art. Visiting tourists and artists of all nations flocked to the Stein studio to study new pictures, and it soon meant réclame to have Gertrude Stein buy and display one’s work. Saturday evenings were instituted as a weekly salon for visitors, when anyone might call, inspect the canvases, and be received by Stein. The artists themselves became a great attraction at these gatherings, with Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse among those who regularly put in an appearance. It would be several years, however, before Stein achieved her international reputation as the mothering director of a group of American writers in Paris, and as an author in her own right.

Throughout her first decade in France Stein devoted considerable energy and thought to her writing, developing the style which would bring her both fame and notoriety. Repetition of phrases, suggestive allusions, and the absence of punctuation were trademarks of her work. Stein’s first published book, Three Lives (1909), attracted considerable praise in America, and a collection of her experimental word-portraits, Tender Buttons (1914), excited several young writers and furthered her reputation as literary experimentalist. The editors of many of the vanguard literary magazines asked Stein for contributions to launch their publications, and her poetry and prose appeared in such titles as the Little Review, Broom, This Quarter, Close Up, and Transition.[36] Her relationships with the editors were often short-lived, partly because the magazines were transient, folding after a few months or a season, but also because she was extremely jealous of her reputation and took offence when an editor seemed to devote too much attention to such rivals as Ezra Pound or James Joyce. By 1914 Stein had become a fixture of Parisian life, a necessary port of call for visitors from England and the United States. Leo moved out of the Rue de Fleurus salon, and, together with her lifetime companion and lover Alice B. Toklas, Stein continued to receive visitors. Ernest Earnest notes, “Whatever their reasons for coming to Paris most literary expatriates sought an introduction to Gertrude Stein.”[37]

Two of the more noted visitors were Sherwood Anderson and Ernest Hemingway. Anderson, who had made his name with Winesburg, Ohio (1919), and Poor White (1920), had been excited by his discovery of Stein’s prose, and had come to Paris in part to seek an audience with her. He was taken to the salon by Sylvia Beach, owner of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, to whom he had expressed his admiration of Stein’s talent. Stein was delighted by the homage of Anderson, the first successful writer to say she had influenced him,[38] and the two became good friends. Indeed, Anderson was one of the few members of the literary community with whom Stein maintained a friendly relationship. Included in this select group were the expatriate author and publisher Robert McAlmon, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, for whose writing Stein always had a great respect. In The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Stein wrote: “Fitzgerald will be read when many of his well known contemporaries are forgotten.”[39]

Ernest Hemingway, whom Anderson provided with a letter of introduction, was also a favorite guest for a time, spending many hours discussing art, literature, and the craft of writing. He and Stein drifted apart after a few years but even late in life Hemingway acknowledged the impact of Stein’s writing method. In A Movable Feast, written shortly before his death in 1961, he noted Stein had “discovered many truths about rhythms and the uses of words in repetition that were valid and valuable and she talked well about them.”[40]

Ezra Pound was another of the early expatriates, having left America in 1908. He had arrived in London with a small book of privately printed poems and from that minor beginning he soon acquired a considerable reputation. That reputation was achieved largely through Pound’s vivid appearance and brashly self-confident public manner, but it was enhanced by his work for little magazines such as Poetry and the Dial (both in Chicago), the Little Review (New York) and the Egoist (London). Pound functioned as foreign correspondent, editor, drama or music critic, or talent scout. By 1920 he had tired of London and moved to Paris, where he quickly became one of the most colorful figures on the Left Bank. Pound was well-known for his Bohemian appearance – velvet jacket, beret, painter’s smock – and for his ability to find promising authors. He was one of the first in Paris to recognize the talents of Ernest Hemingway, who described him as “the man I liked and trusted the most as a critic […].”[41] Pound’s earlier literary discoveries included the poet Hilda Doolittle, James Joyce, and T. S. Eliot. He was responsible for the publication of Eliot’s The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock which appeared in the Chicago-based magazine Poetry in 1914. Pound also edited Eliot’s masterpiece The Waste Land, reducing the original draft by at least a third.[42]

Pound spent only four years in Paris but he was at the center of literary activity during his time there. For himself he continued writing poetry, as well as experimenting with sculpting and composing, but much of his time was devoted to his efforts on behalf of other writers. He acted as an unpaid agent, read and criticized poetry, and cajoled editors into publishing work by new authors. His exemplary gesture of generosity toward others was his Bel Esprit scheme, designed to provide worthy authors with an annual income to finance their becoming full-time writers. Pound’s first target was T. S. Eliot. Together with Nancy Barney, a wealthy expatriate who had a famous literary salon on the Left Bank, Pound set about collecting subscriptions. Uninformed of the project and not wanting to leave his job, Eliot refused the money and the scheme fell apart, but the spirit of generosity which had motivated it remained. Malcolm Cowley, who knew Pound in Paris, notes, “He had fought to win recognition for the work of other writers at a time when much of his own work was going unpublished, and he had obtained financial support for others that he could as easily have had for himself.”[43]

Sylvia Beach was another significant member of the expatriate community, achieving international renown with her publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922. Beach arrived in Paris 1916, intending to pursue a career in journalism. A year later she decided to open a bookstore in either New York City or London, specializing in French literature, but soon discovered there was no market for such a business. Beach’s partner, Adrienne Monnier, herself the owner of a French bookstore, convinced her to establish a shop on the Left Bank, near Monnier’s. Opening for business in 1919, Shakespeare and Company was the first combination English-language bookshop and lending library in Paris. Most of the early customers were French, and it was not until several months later that the expatriates began to discover the shop. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were the first Americans to visit the premises on the Rue de l’Odéon, and they began to spread the news of the store during the Saturday evening salons at their home. Beach was encouraged to appear at the salons, and she brought several American writers to meet Stein since they were often too nervous to approach her directly.

It was the release of Joyce’s famed masterwork in 1922 that focused the attention of the expatriates on Shakespeare and Company. Beach became friends with Joyce soon after his arrival in Paris in 1920, and he told her of his difficulties in getting Ulysses published. Early the following year Beach took on the job, little realizing what an enormous task it would be. Several typists refused to work on sections of the book, and Robert McAlmon recalls how at one point “the husband of the English typist […] destroyed some forty pages of the original script of Ulysses, because it was obscene.”[44] McAlmon later completed the work himself. Making sense of the many alterations to the text was also a difficult task. Beach had agreed to allow Joyce unlimited access to proofs for corrections and he took full advantage of the opportunity, writing a third of Ulysses on page proofs. Despite the added work and expense, Beach stood by her decision. Janet Flanner notes:

That Ulysses became the sort of book it is is largely due to her [Beach], for it was she […] who decided to allow Joyce an indefinite right to correct his proofs. It was in the exercise of this right that the peculiarities of Joyce’s prose reached their novel flowering.[45]

To create the book itself, Beach engaged the services of the Master Printer Darantière who was not deterred by the reputation of the book.[46] On February 2, 1922, after an exhausting amount of work, the first copy of Ulysses was placed on the display in the window of Shakespeare and Company. One resident of Paris cheered that it was “like the flag of freedom on the Left Bank.”[47]

Beach’s contribution to expatriate life was immeasurable. Not only did she carry, and thus promote the expatriates’ books and little reviews, but Shakespeare and Company also became a social center of the exiles’ world. From 1919 until 1941 her bookshop was a literary mecca, a meeting place, post office, money exchange, and a reading room for the famous and soon-to-be famous of the avant-garde. Beach herself was later described by Eugene Jolas as “probably the best known woman in Paris.”[48]

3. Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald in France

3.1 Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, like so many others of his generation, had his youthful illusions destroyed in World War I. A growing feeling of displacement and alienation led him to leave the United States; he joined the stream of expatriates traveling to France. In Europe Hemingway experienced a sense of escape from the pressure for conformity, which was “possibly the most oppressive feature of American life.”[49] Nothing in Hemingway’s life, before or after, would match the importance of the years that were centered in Paris. He was twenty-two years old when he arrived in France, December 1921, carrying a sheaf of stories aimed at the popular market in America. Hemingway’s exposure to such literary mentors as Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound in Paris enabled him to hone and refine his early attempts at writing. He began to develop his own style, and the techniques for which he would later become famous. It was there that Hemingway formulated his renowned ‘iceberg theory’, based on the idea of deliberate omission:


[1] Gertrude Stein, Paris, France (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1970), p. 11.

[2] Ishbel Ross, The Expatriates (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1970), p. 5.

[3] It was not only the writers who were going to Paris, but also composers, such as George Gershwin and Virgil Thomson; the pioneering photographer Man Ray; and painters, for example, Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. See: John Bainbridge, Another Way of Living. A Gallery of Americans Who Chose to Live in Europe (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1969), p. 7.

[4] C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon, A Handbook to Literature. 6th ed. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 186.

[5] Ross, The Expatriates, p. 234.

[6] Cited in: Kenneth S. Lynn, Hemingway (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), p. 333.

[7] Samuel Putnam, Paris Was Our Mistress: Memoirs of a Lost & Found Generation (New York: Viking Press, 1947), p. 69.

[8] See: Malcolm Cowley, A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation (New York: Viking Press, 1973), pp. 4-12. An expatriate author, Cowley was himself an ambulance driver for France during the conflict. He explains that the incredibly high death toll began to change the moral atmosphere of the war (p. 5) because the incessant battles in which so many soldiers died had not had decisive outcomes but had instead “subsided in exhaustion” (p. 4).

[9] Cited in Dalton Gross and Maryjean Gross, Understanding ‘The Great Gatsby’: A Student Case Book to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998), p. 7.

[10] See: Mark Schorer, Sinclair Lewis: An American Life (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961), p. 246.

[11] F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up, With Other Uncollected Pieces, Note-Books and Unpublished Letters,
ed. Edmund Wilson (New York: New Directions, 1964), p. 87.

[12] John W. Aldridge, After the Lost Generation: A Critical Study of the Writers of Two Wars (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951), p. 12.

[13] The use of the term “Bohemian” to describe an unconventional lifestyle stems from Henri Mürger’s book Scènes de la vie de Bohème, a romanticized portrayal of the lives of artists and writers in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Published in the 1840s it became a bestseller and was later sentimentalized in Puccini’s opera
La Bohème. The popularity of the bohemian image also owes much to George du Maurier’s runaway success, Trilby (1894), also set in the Latin Quarter. See: Humphrey Carpenter, Geniuses Together: American Writers in Paris in the 1920s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1987), pp. 10-14.

[14] Alex Small, “Thirst for Booze and for Liberty Sends Americans Abroad,” Paris Tribune, 20 Sept. 1929; here reprinted in Hugh Ford, The Left Bank Revisited: Selections From the Paris Tribune; 1917-1934 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1972), p. 51.

[15] The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified by Congress 16 January, 1919, stated that
“the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.” See: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA),
“The Constitution: Amendments 11-27” (http://www.nara.gov/exhall/charters/constitution/amendments.
html, 20 Dec. 2000). The National Prohibition Act, or Volstead Act, enacted into law in October 1919, provided stringent enforcement guidelines. See: NARA, “untitled” (http://media.narna.gov/media/images/
19/28/19-2762a.jpg, 20 Dec. 2000).

[16] Arlen J. Hansen, Introduction, Expatriate Paris: A Cultural and Literary Guide to Paris of the 1920s (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1990), p. xxiii.

[17] Charles M. Oliver, Ernest Hemingway A to Z: The Essential Reference to the Life and Work (New York: Facts On File, 1999), p. 201.

[18] Shari Benstock, Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940 (London: Virago Press, 1987), p. 99.

[19] Harold E. Stearns, Civilization in the United States: An Inquiry by 30 Americans (New York: Harcourt, 1922)

[20] Malcolm Cowley, Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920’s (New York: Viking Press, 1951), p. 79.

[21] From Ludwig Lewisohn, used as the epigraph in Arlen J. Hansen’s Expatriate Paris: A Cultural and Literary Guide to Paris of the 1920s.

[22] Malcolm Bradbury, The Expatriate Tradition in American Literature. BAAS Pamphlets in American Studies. 9 (Durnham: University of Durnham Press, 1982), p. 31.

[23] Ford, The Left Bank Revisited: Selections from the ‘ Paris Tribune’; 1917–1934; here quoted in Benstock, Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940, p. 13.

[24] Ibid., p. 78.

[25] Lynn, Hemingway, p. 149.

[26] Michael S. Reynolds, Hemingway: The Paris Years (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), p. 236.

[27] Located on the Left Bank, opposite Notre Dame, this area housed the university in medieval times.
The Quarter took its name from the fact that the students used Latin to communicate. The area was also known for its Bohemian lifestyle. See: Carpenter, Geniuses Together: American Writers in Paris in the 1920s,
p. 10.

[28] Cowley, A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation, pp. 56-58.

[29] Putnam, Paris Was Our Mistress: Memoirs of a Lost & Found Generation, p. 69.

[30] Ibid., p. 67.

[31] Noel Riley Fitch, Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1983), p. 101.

[32] Cowley, Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920’s, p. 82.

[33] Robert McAlmon and Kay Boyle, Being Geniuses Together: 1920-1930 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1968), p. 143.

[34] Cowley, Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s, p. 102.

[35] Cowley, A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation, pp. 53-54.

[36] Karen Lane Rood, ed., American Writers in Paris, 1920-1939, Foreword by Malcolm Cowley (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1980), p. 368.

[37] Ernest Earnest, Expatriates and Patriots: American Artists, Scholars, and Writers in Europe (Durham: Duke University Press, 1968), p. 252.

[38] Carpenter, Geniuses Together: American Writers in Paris in the 1920s, p. 42.

[39] Gertrude Stein, An Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), p. 218.

[40] Ernest Hemingway, A Movable Feast (London: Arrow Books, 1994), p. 16. A memoir of Hemingway’s early years in Paris (1921-26), it is a semi-fictional autobiography which contains scathing portrayals of many of his former friends and acquaintances. In the preface Hemingway wrote: “If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always a chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been regarded as fact.” The book was published posthumously in 1964.

[41] Ibid., p.118.

[42] Reynolds, Hemingway: The Paris Years, pp. 28-29.

[43] Cowley, Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920’s, p. 120.

[44] McAlmon and Boyle, Being Geniuses Together: 1920-1930, p. 130.

[45] Janet Flanner, Foreword, in Hugh Ford, Published in Paris: American and British Writers, Printers, and Publishers in Paris, 1920-1939, (London: Garnstone Press, 1975), p. xii.

[46] See: Fitch, Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties, p. 80.
Ulysses been banned in America in December 1920, having been judged obscene. In addition the book was very long, and the French typesetters (who set the book by hand) were unfamiliar with standard English, much less Joyce’s complex wordplay.

[47] Cited in: Lynn, Hemingway, p. 156.

[48] See: Fitch, Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties, p. 41.
Eugene Jolas was a literary critic for the Paris Tribune from 1924 until 1926, at which time he and his wife founded Transition, a well respected little magazine.

[49] Harold T. McCarthy, The Expatriate Perspective: American Novelists and the Idea of America (Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1974), p. 147.

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Expatriate American Authors in Paris - Disillusionment with the American Lifestyle as Reflected in Selected Works of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald
University of Paderborn
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ISBN (Book)
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M.A. THESIS in American Literature
Expatriate, American, Authors, Paris, Disillusionment, American, Lifestyle, Reflected, Selected, Works, Ernest, Hemingway, Scott, Fitzgerald
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Michael Grawe (Author), 2001, Expatriate American Authors in Paris - Disillusionment with the American Lifestyle as Reflected in Selected Works of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/42048


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