This is a small book and I read it in two sittings on Christmas eve.
Much like Hemingway’s other work, there is a lot more in the book than what’s on the page. It is filled with nuggets from a master of the craft of writing. I took from the book the dedication and discipline to writing that Hemingway felt.
The book was published by his family after he had shot himself. His son helped edit it. A lot of the things in the book are perhaps real and that adds a heaviness sometimes to the narrative. It’s sad and it’s joyful but it’s Paris and he liked it there.
I read some Hemingway when I first went to Paris many years ago. You read Hemingway and then you went to the bookshop Shakespeare and Co. You hoped you would run into other writers and you would all became really good friends who discussed literature. Then you wrote about your day in a little notebook while you sat in a café by yourself drinking café au lait .
You hadn’t met any writers, just some young American students volunteering in the shop. You had wanted to buy a book but you had decided 20 Euros was better spent on several café au laits. You are a little melancholic now and you aren’t even sure you can ever call yourself a real writer. Certainly you don’t fancy drinking as much whiskey as Hemingway.
But then you walk along the Seine, you lose yourself in the cobbled streets, you hear little children whispering to each other in French, you look at sculptures of Rodin in the garden, you hear some jazz in a jardin, you hold your breath as you walk past all the dog poo and you are filled with such a joy at just being in Paris. You want very much to express what’s inside you and that is a sufficient characteristic, you think, of a writer.