All About Ernest Hemingway’s Life in Paris
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in 1899 onto American soil in Illinois.
Those even vaguely familiar with the author (cum journalist) will know that Hemingway was never one to be defined by his place of birth. He was a citizen of the planet, and spent the better part of his life exploring faraway lands; sometimes alone and sometimes with company.
From Africa through the Caribbean, Hemingway was always thinking of the next, and the next, and the next place to take his wandering soul.
Eventually, our friend Ernest finds himself headed for Europe. Having spent time in several other Schengen zones around the continent — none seemed to have the effect over the writer the way his beloved Paris did.
In the grander scale of Hemingway’s life his years in Paris were but a flash on a movie screen. In total the writer called the city of light home for just over six years; compared to the 22 years he would spend living in Cuba this seems entirely short and sweet.
If we look to the work Hemingway did while in Paris, however, we might summate his years there as anything but sweet; bitter-sweet perhaps, a paradox of love and hate fueled by the presence of a number of other Parisian expats with whom the writer spent his time.
Hemingway puts it bluntly and is famously quoted on the line:
“If you are 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.”
Hemingway’s Home Life in Paris
Ernest Hemingway arrived at the moveable feast back in 1921. He was accompanied by his first wife, Hadley. The couple were newlyweds and eagerly entered on this Parisian adventure together.
Their now famous first apartment can still be found over on 74 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine in the 5th arrondissement. It was a shabby place with no running water and less functional amenities than the couple were used to… but it was home.
Today the 5th arrondissement of Paris is a busting place to be in terms of city life! It is located on the Left Bank, exactly opposite Le Marais. A free guided walking tour can take you right past Ernest and Hadley’s old dwelling, situated right between the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg and Paris’ Botanical Gardens.
Since the 5th was where many artists could afford to live back in the day, the district is still drenched in remnants of art and bookstores — the creative flair is still alive! In fact while walking the 5th you’ll also be able to view the writers first studio space, located juts a block away from his first home.
Two years into Paris, Hadley fell pregnant with their first child and the decision was made to go to Canada. However this was short lived, and by 1924 the couple plus their newborn were back in old Paree.
Hemingway’s Personal Life in Paris
It wasn’t long before this writer found familiarity with others just like himself around the Parisian districts. Known today as the “Lost Generation”, Hemingway became well acquainted with the likes of James Joyce, Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein to name a few.
The collective of artists spent their days in collaboration; inspiring and creating works by day and frequenting the Paris jazz scene by night.
By the time 1927 rolled around Hemingway was deep in the Parisian artists scene; a space so removed from the reality of life that was sometimes hard to pull oneself out of.
Hemingway began to pursue an affair with a fashion reporter named Pauline Pfeiffer. It wasn’t long before Hadley found out and asked for a divorce almost immediately.
Hemingway married Pauline Pfeiffer just a few months after his divorce with Hadley became official. The two left Paris soon after and flocked to Florida, in search of a new life to build together. Hemingway left Paris behind for good.
Hemingway’s Social Life in Paris
Before 1927 and the scandal with his wife and mistress, Hemingway’s life consisted solely of writing on and about the Parisian streets by day; and enjoying the endless flow of champagne and cigarettes on the same streets by night.
In some of his works, he suggests enjoyment over spending some day time in the Jardin du Luxembourg with his wife and child — just a short walk from the couple’s first apartment.
Hemingway and the rest of the “lost creatives” had their go to venues when the sun began to descend on Paris. History has it that they would spend hours drinking and chatting at Les Deux Magots or Café de Flore, two popular spots in the adjacent 6th arrondissement. Both of which are still in operation today (Read more about Discover walking tours)!
Hemingway enjoyed the flair of the bohemian culture very much, so nightly excursions tended to stay in the 4th, 5th and 6th districts where artists ruled the streets.
Montparnasse, just south of the writers home, was another area where Hemingway frequented a place called the Dingo Bar. It is said that this is where he first met Mister F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Hemingway’s Creative Life in Paris
To put it plainly, Paris pulled out some of the most important literary works of the 20th century from Ernest Hemingway.
His early years in Paris, before Hadley’s pregnancy and their brief exit from the city, were spent making a name for himself as a reporter.
After returning to Paris in 1924 he began focusing on his fictional works. In Our Time was completed in 1925, with his first true novel, The Sun Also Rises, seeing completion in 1926. Just before leaving Paris for good, Hemingway published his latest piece, Men Without Women.
It wasn’t until just under 40 years later that the writer sat down to reflect on his years in Paris and the true ways in which it shaped him as a writer. A Moveable Feast was published in 1964 and is a beautiful account for the artists life in Paris during the roaring 20s. It reads:
“…this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor, and very happy.”