Where Hemingway became Hemingway

“Hemingway’s France: Images of the Lost Generation” by Winston Conrad

Once upon a time, not long after World War 1 ended, several Americans lingered and stayed on in Europe. Among them, many chose Paris as their new base because of the laissez-faire attitude of the society towards art, politics and sexuality, which was the perfect environment for creativity.

It is in the flourishing cultural scenery, the 50,000 restaurants across the city, the quality of the food. It is also the cheap exchange rate in relative to US Dollar, and perhaps most crucially, it is in the availability of alcohol while Prohibition was still ongoing back in the US.

It is no wonder that the unofficial title of cultural capital of Europe moved from Vienna to Paris, and that so many talented artists and writers reside there during the 1920s, from Pablo Picasso, to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and of course the main focus of the book, Ernest Hemingway.

This is a short book about that time Hemingway lived in Paris. It tells the tale of the growth that he experienced in the vibrant city, his daily habits, the influences that shaped him, the books he read, and the cafes where he spent his time writing on.

And of course it also tells the drama that he brings into the expat social circle, a group of people filled with jealousy and wounded pride as well as comradery, which was so dramatic that it would later became the inspiration for his novel “Sun Also Rises.”

Yes, it is fitting that Hemingway’s larger-than-life character was shaped and molded in this kind of environment, a place full with extravagances. And that the experiences that he gets from this era in Paris will forever be imprinted in his behaviour until old age. Or As the author Winston Conrad remarks, it is where Hemingway became Hemingway.