Hemingway's Paris: Cafe Les Deux Magots

Hemingway’s Paris: Cafe Les Deux Magots

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Sitting outside, under the awning, beneath the orange glow of a heat lamp. It is 7 pm. Boulevard St. Germain is a tyranny of lane changers and horn honkers. The sidewalk is full of people heading wherever. This is my homage to stereotype. I am at Cafe Les Deux Magots, one of the places where Ernest Hemingway drank.

(Editor’s note: “One of the places where Ernest Hemingway drank” is not a very limiting description. But it is one of the places referred to in “A Moveable Feast,” the memoir of his youth in Paris. (Here is one passage, about having a drink with James Joyce:

(“One day, years later, I met Joyce who was walking along the Boulevard St.-Germain after having been to a matinee alone. He liked to listen to the actors, although he could not see them. He asked me to have a drink with him and we went to the Deux-Magots and ordered dry sherry although you will always read that he drank only Swiss white wine.”

(End of editor’s note.)

If you are a journalist who always thought you had a novel in you, Hemingway is your beacon, however false. If you are in Paris, it is not hard to spend an afternoon traipsing around on the Left Bank from Hemingway place to Hemingway place — where he lived, where he wrote, where he visited Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, where he drank. Les Deux Magots is one of those places — drank and ate and wrote in a notebook, in some sort of rotation; eat, drink, write; drink, write, drink; et cetera.

So I am sitting in a place where Hemingway likely sat — exactly sat, and I mean it — and I am writing these words in a notebook. A guy is sitting two little tables away from me, hand editing a pile of typewritten pages, with cross-outs and notes in the margin. He is drinking white wine. I am drinking Ch. Roquette, a Languedoc, a red. It’s good.

The waiter has a good, solid pour, which I imagine Hemingway would view with approval. Of course, it is impossible to know what he would think of the note on the receipt, which invites me to visit another Cafe Les Deux Magots franchise that apparently does a fine business in Tokyo.

It has begun raining. I order another. Drink, drink, write.

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