Following In The Steps Of Paris' Lost Generation

Photo of Molli McConnell
20 October 2016

Although the First World War was life-shattering on many levels, in other ways it manifested a burst of creativity in the literature and art world, especially in Europe and – more specifically – in Paris. Because of this color and creativity returning to Europe more rapidly than in American cities such as New York and Chicago, many American writers and artists migrated to Paris.

Ernest Hemingway with friends in Paris, 1925 | © WikiCommons

Enter the Lost Generation. The term was introduced by writer and art collector Gertrude Stein to her fellow writer Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway went as far as to use Stein’s use of the phrase in an epigraph of his book about a group of Expats in Europe in the 1920s, The Sun Also Rises.

Stein felt that it was a generation lost in the sense that its inherited values had no place and were no longer relevant in the postwar world. The term can have many meanings, but in the literary and art world, it specifically refers to the group of American writers and artists who emigrated to Paris in the midst of America’s “back to normal” campaign. To many of these creatives, the bohemian lifestyle advertised in Paris became much more appealing than the broken life of Americans after the war. The names most often associated with this movement are Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot, John Dos Passos, and Ezra Pound, among others. Luckily, a few savvy entrepreneurs saw the need for printing presses and publishing houses to support these writers, and people like Sylvia Beach opened businesses like Shakespeare & Company in Paris as well. It is thanks to these publishing houses that people like Pound and other authors like James Joyce were permitted to publish some of their most controversial works while residing in Paris. For those of us lucky enough to vacation in, or luckier still, to live in Paris, you’ll be happy to known many of the favorite haunts of the Lost Generation still exist. Below, you will find our comprehensive list of some of the favorite hang-outs of Fitzgerald, Stein, Hemingway et al.

Jardin du Luxembourg | © Pixabay

Jardin de Luxembourg

The Luxembourg Gardens are located in the 5th arrondissement in Paris. Hemingway was known to hang out here with his wife and child in nice weather, and he mentions them in A Moveable Feast: ‘If I walked down by different streets to the Jardin du Luxembourg in the afternoon I could walk through the gardens and then go to the Musée du Luxembourg where the great paintings were that have now mostly been transferred to the Louvre and the Jeu de Paume. I went there nearly every day for the Cézannes and to see the Manets and the Monets and the other Impressionists that I had first come to know about in the Art Institute at Chicago.’ The gardens have changed very little since the 1920s, so head here to follow in the footsteps of one of the Lost Generation’s greatest authors.

La Closerie des Lilas, 1909 | © WikiCommons

Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore and La Closerie des Lilas

These three cafés seem to be synonymous with Paris, the Lost Generation, the 1920s, and the café culture of time. Almost all of the writers mentioned such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, and Pound could be found quite often at one of these locales.

Les Deux Magots | © WikiCommons

Artists such as Picasso and Man Ray (also included in the Lost Generation) could also be found here, working, discussing, drinking, or more likely, doing a combination of the three. Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore are located almost right next door to one another in the famously chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés quartier of Paris. Up the rue des Rennes, you will find La Closerie des Lilas. It is said that Hemingway first read Fitzgerald’s manuscript for The Great Gatsby at La Closerie. Today, the cafés are almost identical to how they were in the 1920s, so they are ideal to visit for fans of the Lost Generation.

Interior of Harry's New York Bar | © WikiCommons

Harry’s New York Bar

Over the years, Harry’s has been frequented by many famous American expats, including members of the Lost Generation. The bar is located just steps from the famous Opéra Garnier, and for the most part has remained unchanged since the days of the Lost Generation. Other than being a meeting place for Stein, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald, the bar claims to have invented the Bloody Mary.

Hemingway and his Lost Generation friends | © WikiCommons

Dingo Bar

The Dingo American Bar and Restaurant is more commonly known simply as, The Dingo. Known as the place where Hemingway first met Fitzgerald, this café and bar was popular with the Lost Generation because it was one of the few bars at the time that was open all night. The bar is located in the Montparnasse quartier of Paris, which was a stomping ground for all members of the artistic and creative community in Paris at the time. Today, the name of the bar has changed, but not much else has. Now called the L’Auberge de Venise, fans of the Lost Generation can come relax here and pretend they are having a drink with Fitzgerald or Hemingway.

Luckily, most places in Paris are not in the habit of changing, so it is easy to follow in the footsteps of those who once called Paris home. Those who grouped together as the Lost Generation flocked to Paris in search of an escape, and many of them found it. As Hemingway famously states in his novel A Moveable Feast, “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.”

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