American Writers in Paris
American Writers in Paris
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, American writers, musicians, and artists have chosen to reside in Paris, France, for a variety of economic and artistic reasons. Beginning with Gertrude Stein in the first decade of the century and reaching its apex during the era between the two World Wars, American writers expatriated to Paris seeking to take advantage of the city's inexpensive cost of living, as well as European openness to less socially restrictive lifestyles and more experimental literature.
Active duty in World War I introduced Paris to many American writers, musicians, and artists, including Ernest Hemingway and e. e. cummings, who returned to France after the war. The following two decades found such writers as Archibald MacLeish, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Carlos Williams, John Dos Passos, Hart Crane, Sinclair Lewis, and Henry Miller living in Paris. Artists, musicians, and writers from other countries also helped make Paris a cultural Mecca. Such writers as Ford Madox Ford, Wyndham Lewis, H. D., D. H. Lawrence, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce; visual artists Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Salvador Dali, and Luis Bueñuel; and music composers George Antheil and Virgil Thompson relocated to Paris during this period, influencing and helping to advance such literary movements as modernism, Vorticism, surrealism, and Dadaism. Writings from this period were printed in the many periodicals and published by the many book companies that flourished. The relatively inexpensive cost of printing in France resulted in the inception and success of such influential magazines as The Little Review, transition, Broom, and Secession, and such book publishers as Contact, Black Sun, Plain Editions, and Three Mountains.
The receptive environment of Paris prompted many women and African-Americans to relocate there, with many finding avenues for their talents and lifestyles that America at that time would not permit. Women began successful publishing operations such as Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Company, an enterprise begun as a sideline to Beach's bookstore located on the Left Bank of Paris's Seine River. Shakespeare and Company changed literary history by publishing the first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses. Woman writers included Stein, Katherine Anne Porter, Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy, Anaïs Nin, and Kay Boyle. Some of these women found that they were able to explore aspects of their sexuality—including lesbianism and bisexuality—in Paris, which American propriety of the 1920s and 1930s would not sanction. African Americans traveled to France to enjoy the freedoms that black soldiers experienced in Paris during World War I. Such writers included Jean Toomer and Claude McKay. Other African American writers who later moved to Paris included Richard Wright and James Baldwin.
Many of the American writers residing in Paris returned to the United States during the 1930s. The advent of World War II temporarily ended the migration of American writers to Paris. When the war ended, Wright and Baldwin relocated there, as well as novelists Peter Mathiesson and James Jones. The legacy of American writers living in Paris, however, follows no distinct literary pattern. Most of the writers concerned themselves with American themes and settings in their work written in Paris while adhering to no common style or outlook. But the work of this period is noted for its more graphic depiction of violence, sexuality, and profane language, which resulted in much of this work being banned in the United States for many years.
Dark Laughter (novel) 1925
Nightwood (novel) 1936
Year before Last (novel) 1932
Exile's Return (memoir) 1934
Think Back on Us. … A Contemporary Chronicle of the 1930s (memoir) 1967
The Bridge (poetry) 1930
Crosses of Gold: A Book of Verse (poetry) 1925
Poems for Harry Crosby (poetry) 1931
Sonnets for Caresse (poetry) 1925
Chariot of the Sun (poetry) 1928
Shadows of the Sun (poetry) 1928
Transit of Venus (poetry) 1928
Collected Poems (poetry) 1931
e. e. cummings
The Enormous Room (novel) 1922
John Dos Passos
Three Soldiers (novel) 1922
1919 (novel) 1932
The Best Times (memoir) 1966
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tender Is the Night (novel) 1934
Three Stories and Ten Poems (short stories and poetry) 1923
In Our Time (novel) 1924
The Sun Also Rises (novel) 1926
The Torrents of Spring (novel) 1926
A Moveable Feast (memoir) 1964
Dodsworth (novel) 1929
Lunar Baedecker (poetry) 1923
New Found Land: Fourteen Poems (poetry) 1930
A Hasty Bunch (short stories) 1922
Post-Adolescence (short stories) 1923
Distinguished Air: Grim Fairy Tales (short stories) 1925
The Portrait of a Generation (poetry) 1926
North America: Continent of Conjecture (poetry) 1929
Indefinite Huntress, and Other Stories (short stories) 1932
A Long Way from Home (autobiography) 1937
Selected Poems (poetry) 1953
Tropic of Cancer (novel) 1934
Black Spring (novel) 1936
Tropic of Capricorn (novel) 1938
Henry Miller's Letters to Anaïs Nin (letters) 1965
D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study (criticism) 1932
House of Incest (novel) 1936
The Diary of Anaïs Nin: 1931-1934 (diary) 1966
The Diary of Anaïs Nin: 1934-1939 (diary) 1967
The Last Time I Saw Paris (nonfiction) 1942
A Draft of XVI Cantos (poetry) 1925
A Draft of XXX Cantos (poetry) 1930
Imaginary Letters (prose) 1930
Before I Forget (nonfiction) 1937
We Were Interrupted (nonfiction) 1947
The Left Bank (drama) 1931
The Making of Americans (novel) 1905
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (memoir) 1933
Paris France (essay) 1940
Alice B. Toklas
What Is Remembered (memoir) 1963
Staying on Alone: Letters of Alice B. Toklas (letters) 1974
William Carlos Williams
The Great American Novel (novel) 1923
Spring and All (poetry and prose) 1923
A Son at the Front (novel) 1923
The Gods Arrive (novel) 1932
Of Time and the River (novel) 1936
The Web and the Rock (novel) 1939
Criticism: Overviews And General Studies
transition (essay date 1928)
SOURCE: “Why Do Americans Live in Europe?” in transition, No. 14, Fall, 1928, pp. 97-119.
[In the following essay, various expatriate American artists from Gertrude Stein to Harry Crosby explain their artistic and economic reasons for relocating and working in Paris.]
transition has asked a number of Americans living in Europe to write brief stories of themselves—their autobiographies of the mind, self-examinations, confessions, conceived from the stand-point of deracination.
The following questions were asked:
1.—Why do you prefer to live outside America?
2.—How do you envisage the spiritual future of America in the face of a dying Europe and in the face of a Russia that is adopting the American economic vision?
3.—What is your feeling about the revolutionary spirit of your age, as expressed, for instance, in such movements as communism, surrealism, anarchism?
4.—What particular vision do you have of yourself in relation to twentieth century reality?
The United States is just now the oldest country in the world, there always is an oldest country and she is it, it is she who is the mother of the twentieth century civilisation. She began to feel herself as it just after the Civil War. And so it is a country the right age to have been born in and the wrong age to live in.
She is the mother of modern civilization and one wants to have been born in the country that has attained and live in the countries that are attaining or going to be attaining. This is perfectly natural if you only look at facts as they are. America is now early Victorian very early Victorian, she is a rich and well nourished home but not a place to work. Your parent's home is never a place to work it is a nice place to be brought up in. Later on there will be place enough to get away from home in the United States, it is beginning, then there will be creators who live at home. A country this the oldest and therefore the most important country in the world quite naturally produces the creators, and so naturally it is I an American who was and is thinking in writing was born in America and lives in Paris. This has been and probably will be the history of the world. That it is always going to be like that makes the monotony and variety of life that and that we are after all all of us ourselves.
When Albrecht Dürer was asked by letter why he remained so long in Venice he replied “Because here I am considered a gentleman; at home a loafer”. The accumulation of the combined thought waves of millions apathetic or hostile towards any form of creative graphic or plastic expression showing the slightest originality, naturally affects the mental life of a creative artist living in such an atmosphere.
In America there are no facilities for the enjoyment of leisure or apparatuses for reflection.
Considerable time must be wasted in self justification both verbally and introspectively and many questions settled which are otherwheres taken for granted.
The spiritual future of America appears too remote to allow of predictions of any value at the present moment.
My feeling about the revolutionary spirit of my age is pessimistic in the extreme.
I feel that a painter occupies a place of real unimportance in an age such as ours. So unimportant is the whole field of visual aesthetics that it is left as unworthy of the attention of any first rate minds as a refuge for morons, unbalanced neurotics, and dull nonentities.
In response to your questionnaire: In general you assume much to be true that is yet in the controversial stage; yet to be proved by history. We, deracinated ones, if we are deracinated, may not all have come to Europe impelled by some motive of the heart and mind. I came, intending to return, or to travel much. I felt in America that Europe was finished, decayed, war- and time-worn out. There it seemed that in Europe the sense of futility would be too enveloping. However there is the rot of ripe fruit, and there is the blight and decay of green fruit.
1. I prefer Europe, if you mean France, to America because there is less interference with private life here. There is interference, but to a foreigner, there is a fanciful freedom and grace of life not obtainable elsewhere. From various Frenchmen I gather that these statements do not apply to French citizens in a strong sense. It may be well to live in foreign countries; and to be definitely “deracinated.” In that case the deficiencies of the land which accidentally gave us birth need disturb us no more than the legal, social, and human, infringments on our ‘rights’ bother us elsewhere. If by Europe you mean England, Italy, or Germany, I think America an exciting, stimulating, imaginative, country with the fresh imagination of youth and ignorance.
2. Is Europe dying, and is Russia adopting the American economic vision? Russia is a big and raw and primitive country with a mixture of many races. Before the war was the world accepting the German state-controlled standard of life? It's a quick judgment to make on Russia. And if Europe is dying, her various countries seem obstinately to cling to their convictions and rights. There seems not to be the breath of fatalism, shattered morale, or acquiescence, that goes with approaching death. By the few hundred years time that Europe is dead what may not have happened in America?
As to America's spiritual future, that is too involved a question to discuss, as religion, sentimentality, idealism, are so generally confused with an understanding of the word spiritual. Sensually Americans appear sentimental rather than aware, and childishly incapable of facing facts that France has faced for generations. England in this aspect may be decayed, as English people are aware, but ‘decorous’ to an extent that is unhealthy, publicly, whatever they are privately. As far as America's or Europe's future then, I visualize it as for the individual who does not look to a mass movement which lets him flow in its current on to victory. Possibly writers and artists in America will stop scolding about the state of society in their own country, once enough have become deracinated so that it is realized that all countries have their defects. Then art may ensue.
3. I don't feel that my age has a revolutionary spirit, artistically, or politically. The Declaration of Independence, a real revolution, took place sometime back. Impressionism, futurism, cubism, and abstract art -isms, were all pre-war concepts, and there does not appear on the horizon any new originative forces. Beneath the coerced acceptance of the machine age I sense fear and caution, reaction, and sentimentality which is worse than decay. Communism is the natural, temporary outcome of the democratic concept, and reaction against it may at any time force an aristocrat-political theory, and that won't be new or revolutionary. Surrealism may be like Dada, nothing. At least the works of various surrealists are unlike enough to furnish no clue, and Isadore Ducasse and Rimbaud preceded surrealism, utilized metaphysics, abstractions, darkness and madness and death, with perhaps greater force intellectually and emotionally, leaving aside the hysteria and commotion. Anarchism is temperamental and our generation did not invent the temperament. On the other hand our generation seems cowed and ready to conform, to submit or to run away. What it is they are conforming none of them, that is, us, know; not even the sixty-year-old peace conference gatherers.
4. My vision of myself in relation to 20th century reality is one of remaining myself, or hoping to. If that is impossible, what bad luck. By the time Menckens, Pounds, Enemies, and Surrealists give their messages on what is wrong and what should be done, transition comes along with a questionnaire. In any case, answers are contradictory, chaotic, and ineffectual with the wail of lost souls seeking a platform or expressing personal bias and frustration. I wouldn't dare mount one of the platforms in a rocky sea. Bad as it may be I'll do my own swimming. As to cosmic relationship, is there no God and isn't war hell, and there is the peace pact. May you, however, have answers from beings with more interpretive zeal.
My principal reason for living abroad is that I prefer to live, insofar as such a thing is possible, with the maximum of pleasure and the minimum of friction. The struggle for existence in America, into which I early plunged, reached such an intensity that it finally became intolerable, hence I fled. Call it an evasion or what you will, but I, for one, can see little reason for remaining in a land where the people are dominated by a single and basic idea—that of making a living. This is the fundamental motive underlying all American life, despite the country's vaunted wealth, which, it seems at least, should make living comparatively easy there.
To me America represents an older, more neurasthenic, more dropsical, country than Europe. With no traditions or customs to overcome, America rapidly assimilated the tremendous industrial innovations of the past fifty years—the culmination of all the past centuries—while Europe today is only entering into the gradual process of adopting them. Probably a few years hence, all the combined forces that drove me out of my country will be just as prevalent here as they now are there. Already many farms surrounding Paris are being deserted by French peasants who are being lured to the city by the glamour of industrialism.
What America needs is a gospel of laziness. How can a country develop either spiritually or artistically until it has learned how to live and has evolved the art of social amenities? What can be expected of a people who know so little about the fine art of eating and drinking, who know nothing of the subtle and leisurely fashion of diverting themselves, and who have not mastered the art of relaxation and rest? Art can never flourish in such an environment. Not until America knows how to loaf, not until it has drawn that finer distinction between leisure and mere idleness, can much be expected from it. Meanwhile, until Europe has started going on that wild, hectic, jazz pace from which I fled, and has forgotten all about its once beautiful and leisurely art of existing—and such changes are now obviously manifesting themselves—I intend to make my home here. Perhaps by that time, the pendulum in my own country will have started to swing in the opposite direction. There must be some limit, surely.
Russia interests me but little. I think that in time it will become a sort of fat, complaisant, second-rate United States. It is rapidly adopting the American economic vision because the revolution cleared a way for it. When the country becomes properly Americanized, say in fifty years, it will be producing hordes and hordes of Russian Harold Bell Wrights and Edgar Guests, while the one-time Dostoievskys will have become mere classical legends, like Shakespeare in England today. I do not expect to live long enough to see anything but trash come out of the metamorphosis. The country will become industrialized, radioized, movieized, and standardized, the huge population of illiterate peasants will be taught how to read advertisements, newspapers, and bibles, the country will develop a huge belly, and the Russian populace will placidly settle down to the preoccupation of money grubbing.
I expect to see nothing more than novel experiments come out of the present age—or out of the next several generations—which above all is a time of change, transition, and experimentation. I admit my inability to find any great revolutionary spirit, except materially, being expressed today. These are the days of new values and inventions, of trials and tests. The world is undergoing many radical material changes, which are affecting its entire spiritual life, I grant, but which are throwing it more and more increasingly into chaos, bewilderment, and confusion.
Anarchism and communism are nothing more than what the tenets and theories of Christianity would have been, had the latter ever been put into practice—the fundamental teachings of Christ, if brought into actual play—but they have no more place in the world today than Christianity has, and will suffer the same fate, I fear. The little group of surrealists—fighting, groping, experimenting—are expressing the chaos of their age, which is a difficult and wholly transitory task. And their works are as temporal as the passing seasons.
As for myself, I would have much preferred to have been born before the introduction of the machine; in a slower, more leisurely, more graceful, and less cluttered age. Full, well-rounded, blossomed-out individuals are hard to find in this day of specialization, when practically everybody is preoccupied with the mere business of making a living and is directing the bulk of his energy in that direction. Somehow, it is difficult for me to adjust myself to the tempo of all this speed, noise, confusion and jazz. I am of this age but not one of it. That is why I left America.
When I received your letter addressed to exiles, I was astonished to think that I was probably an exile, but it is undoubtedly true. The time flies to advantage in Europe, whereas much of it is wasted in America explaining battles that have been won years ago. My Polish origin means that I love the ground upon which I was born, New Jersey, with a love that it is difficult to explain, or understand.
Nevertheless musically it is absolutely impossible to live in America. I am a musician, a composer, and this type of artist needs vast organizations such as opera companies and symphony orchestras to write for to produce his works. It is not as simple or as inexpensive as printing a book, for example.
A young composer has absolutely no future in America, because, even if he attains the very peak of eminence, he cannot hope to make a livelihood, whereas in Europe he stands a chance of making anywhere from a decent three livelihood (after the early years of struggle) to even the accumulation of a fortune. This is because of the hundred first class operas in Europe which give performances every night in the season, a liberal amount of them being fairly modern. But America has only two first class operas, and it is seldom indeed that they give a really modern opera.
Moreover a young man casts his lot with that which is ascending, not descending. Europe is upon the ascent. Since the war forty new operas have appeared in Germany alone, while in the United States no new first class opera companies have appeared. Moreover instead of the three symphony orchestras that New York City had seven years ago, it now only has one. Contrast this with the four symphony orchestras that Paris boasts. Consider also the lavishness with which vast sums of money are thrown to old virtuosi; the absolute refusal to spend a penny upon any composer who can be called a composer, or who is even remotely recognized in other countries.
I have every hope that this condition in America will change, but I do not see how they can build two hundred operas overnight, or train the public to hear them, and as this will take some little time, I prefer to stay in Europe in the meantime, and learn how to write operas by actually hearing my own symphonies and operas for existing organizations. I trust that this will be no spot on my so far stainless Americanism for the New-York: 1928 group, but simply a very practical economic standpoint.
I think that answers your first, second, and fourth question. As to number three … I am emphatically for what I have seen of the surrealistic painters and writers. Eternal revolution, and eternal change … some day I may even turn traitor to these … but that day has not yet come, and those who again turn to say that youthful Paris is wrong, will again live to see the day when they will rue their words. The old fools never learn.
Writing for an audience it is necessary to decide whether or not explanations are necessary. They are not necessary. Neither human, intellectual, metaphysical or scientific. Explanations murder like a knife the perception. Explanations are the lie making it possible to accept the truth. If I, let us say, am seeking to live an absolute revolt against superiorities which even the most restless abuse but do not question, a dissection of my peculiar honor is beside the point. Explanations are invented as the apology for the action; invariably a collection of words as important as a lace handkerchief in a slaughter-house.
Any froth that blew around the Winged Victory, Greek contemporaneous froth explaining, cannot put a head on the woman today. It was an act and not an explanation which removed the head, and to that the blood responds, permitting no outraging of it, while the explanation says no more than this: my own senses, experiences, appetites, my contemporaries have confused me let me explain myself.
For this I have turned Indian, in an attempt to catch the sound of my own kind. But the hoofs galloped in another direction. For this I turned American to understand, but there were no Americans speaking for themselves. As a class they speak for a situation. Beginning with the composite figure of the American intellectual expressed for the moment in Mr. Matthew Josephson, and ending with the Unknown Soldier, each citizen functions with pride in the American conspiracy against the individual.
Do you object to a white bath every morning before breakfast? No, I like a white bath every morning before breakfast. But I say that it is a white bath every morning before breakfast and it is nothing more than one way of getting clean water into a receptacle without spilling a drop. Thanks to the efficacy of plumbing. But get into it with a literature in your head and get out of it clean to write the literature. To me there is in America no conviction which questions the value of inventions that protect the flesh from everything except the importance of being cared for.
The mechanics of America have afforded its intellectuals the opportunity to find words for what somebody else did. They preach, but they do not predict, for it has already historically taken place. They invent a lyrical explanation for form, and form has none whatsoever mystic-outline following necessarily the structure of action and not of evasion.
(I do not speak here of those artists who have subjected invention and hence given it another value. Steiglitz, Antheil, Sheeler, Man Ray, would, as individuals, have brought importance to any matter.)
In France this identical leeching upon a situation exists in the Surrealistes. They, too, depend upon bewilderment and ignorance in the minds of their audience for their success. They are livelier than the American Composites and they have an honor for they leech upon a situation created by other artists—possibly the Académie Française—but at least by men who make use of the same medium. The Americans, with a bastardly recognition for a thing stronger and better-equipped for life than themselves, are explaining a situation which has forgotten them. The American artist is no product of America's zeal, but he is one of those who has chosen to get outside it. Some of them leave the background and accept simpler conditions: Ezra Pound of the first. And the question is still to be answered: to what can one return?
Americans I would permit to serve me, to conduct me rapidly and competently wherever I was going, but not for one moment to impose their achievements upon what is going on in my heart and in my soul. I am too proud and too young to need the grandeur of physical America which one accepts only at the price of one's own dignity. I am making a voyage into poverty because I am too proud to find nourishment in a situation that is more successful than myself.
Cling, gentlemen, to the skyscraper by toe-finger-eyelash, but do not come to Europe. Here nothing is done for you. You must write your own literature, you must walk up and down stairs, and you must drink like gentlemen.
A. LINCOLN GILLESPIE JR.
I. (a) because in Europe I find MeaningScurry in their Organise-Self-Divert—hours loll here all simmer-rife-Expect-lush-stat, GET is less-necessary.
(b) because of the absence of Tight-blank faces here. (European Maturity seems of the in-touch-with-YouthPulse ripe sort)
(c) Liquor-Gamme abroad somewhat breatheier.
(d) abroad, as if transplanted to an ideating DreamStanceIndef, the me-expatriate remenvisages America-the-Spectacle, initsensing its cosmintegrality, critifocaspecting its Univeering probably for a first time. (local Econs are so intrude-mussuppy.)
II. the Spiritual Future of America is not to evolve till a present diabetes is admit > removed, t'wit: America's total lack of parent-sagacity to exprimply an especially-while-correcting-them goodwill toward, and to cull an early admiration from the children.
(The EffectLoss into Personality is enormous!!—contrast the majority of French Parents' Methattitude.)
THEN—the American Spirit will commence-sing as naive-direct-elimgoalpursue-clearly as its present FolkMelod—“PopularSong”, frequently as blare-OutréFruct- freely as its dynaSaxophoneyc. Neo-Polite-ObserveRigors will scourge off-away the become-cloyuseless of our present SklafManners—survive-a tiff with Russian Defeatin-divid-become-CollectiMass output, our EconGrandees will have also residonned the surrealise raiment of skilledlaborer-integrality—the SportSense will have been furthalloted into a StreetPass-Calistheno (i. e. Fair, groove-compulsed into an inevitaBanter-Fair—we are a GoodWill-Collective—will assume social sensitude, a BodyClap-Razz-Courtly deft-joice-skew-Apply-akin (somehow) to the finesse of France's Golden Period.
The Busybody-GoodWill will have insidAmericanized Europe (thru Dawesian EcoHighPressures, “Galette”-addvice, constant-rub-away of Europeans' giving in to the squarepeg-insists of Fringlish-voice-stressing1 travellers and resiDents, spillover-manifest of America's Nth degree-PRODUCE-Molochism, etc.) Semitised Russia will certainly psychYap doubly,its individuentsremainingscorn-evadedDefeatists, speaking their present flapdoodleNonDigninholdLiable'd rush-out-heedless-O-Self!-stuff. (Russia's soon-enormous CollectiOutput will yet lag indef-behind America's shrewd-ingeniuity'd Get-Rich-Quick-Fellers!'d individ-catalysing Produce-Outvent.)
III. Communism, Surrealism, Anarchism—degrees of LyriProtestism—since Lyrism is based in Individualism the BureauLyrism of C. is an obvious paradox.—A. 's hysterLyr will always ultimately grudge-pendule-reactionate, stay the destroy-(to-begin-over)-hand (tho subjectively A. 's applicable into a Recherche for the expression of the Consciousness betwixbeyond the Abstremities of Thought. S., a French (psychanal-filtfree) Try has obviously essayed to continue “correctness”, has but barely enlarged the GamutPossible of the Hithertooze-“Inadmissible”—enlargers Braque, Ernst, Michonze, obviously their Self; the rest, GoodManner'd Dada?—S. lacked gutsweat adherents collect-able to trek the toothsome of the Psych-RunningDown (In?) DreamStateProffClimbs-into-Reality which André Breton skim-the-FreudSoup-touchly impicts. Possibly S. failed to posit a NeoAgony-ProCreate.
IV. My work veer-expresses my relation to 20thCentury Reality, a relation I feel-think to be fillfuller than any hitherto CritiCommunicLiable, i. e., mine, the necessity of lending consciousative LOGICATING to the AromeClashBuild-innerising FORMTrends of Music's Melod-SyntheBuildAlong, the gradaccrue of which (both delib and acciByProd) may-will tot-add sub-et-Supra integerCollects for furthing the Context's Imputationise; at the same time possibuilding, in English—sole language evophonically free enuf to do so,—SensationForms rhapsintrest Composenuf to aesthConcomitate these neo-gather-imputes of Thought, i. e., the MarryMomeIntentsity matings of hovexpect Indeation & Vehicle-BecomePunct. My Article (transition 12) delineates the techBuild of this.
To see the ever-living spirit of man in terms of machinery, or “God in Electric Lights,” is often revolting to the man who revolves within the mechanism. He is liable to hate or love his surroundings per se or attempt an escape by a week-end in Arcady. On this basis American “revolutionary” art generally divides into reactionaries who have no contact with their environment, and those who either love or hate it for its surface qualities. The two latter would correspond to the “skin you love (or hate) to touch” school of art.
When the method is the transcendental use of the Machine or Einstein Age, not to glorify it, but to sublimate eternal values through and above immediate environment, the American artist, and this would include possibly a dozen or two men and women, is liable not to please many of his fellow countrymen who want their civilization praised with hymns to the machines as such, and want hymns to their gods in terms of apple blossoms.
From a position that can absorb his viewpoint, the European may see objectively and with perspective the values on which the American artist builds. Sympathizing with the use of environment for a purpose other than its immediate sublimation or detestation, he sometimes gives the young American artist his first appreciation. In this case the American usually chooses from three alternatives: he can follow illustrious precedent and become a foreign citizen, or live abroad as an exile, pursuing his own ideas and leaving his brothers in America to theirs, or—no matter where he lives nor how difficult the fight compared to the struggle to develop a European audience—he can attempt to make an audience for himself in his native country.
The American artist is...
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Joseph H. McMahon (essay date 1964)
SOURCE: “City for Expatriates,” in Yale French Studies, Vol. 32, 1964, pp. 144-158.
[In the following excerpt, McMahon enumerates the reasons that individuals from different geographical locations of the United States removed themselves to Paris.]
Poor Strether had at this very moment to recognize the truth that wherever one paused in Paris the imagination reacted before one could stop it. This perpetual reaction put a price, if one would, on pauses; but it piled up consequences till there was scarce room to pick one's steps among them.
—Henry James, The Ambassadors
Of Paris and the...
(The entire section is 7176 words.)
Ernest Earnest (essay date 1968)
SOURCE: “After they've Seen Paree: The Expatriates of the 1920s,” in Expatriates and Patriots: American Artists, Scholars, and Writers in Europe, Duke University Press, 1968, pp. 251-275.
[In the following excerpt, Earnest credits such literary journals as The Little Review and The Dial, as well as the publication of The Education of Henry Adams, with the decision of American writers and artists to emigrate to Europe following World War I.]
Nothing before or since has equaled the mass expatriation of Americans of the 1920s. It has almost the quality of the instinctive migration of the lemmings. As Malcolm Cowley says, “… the younger and...
(The entire section is 10125 words.)
Harold T. McCarthy (essay date 1974)
SOURCE: “Henry Miller's Democratic Vistas,” in The Expatriate Perspective, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1974, pp. 156-172.
[In the following excerpt, McCarthy examines the reasons Henry Miller left New York City for Paris in the early 1930s, and discusses Miller's depiction of the city as the antithesis of American racial segregation.]
When Henry Miller settled down in Paris in 1930, it was with no mere sense of being an expatriate. He believed that he had died and been reborn. From this time he dated his birth as a creative artist and the beginning of the “auto-hero,” “Henry Miller,” whose past and present being he was...
(The entire section is 6948 words.)
Pierre L. Ullman (essay date 1984)
SOURCE: “Eugene Paul Ullman and the Paris Expatriates,” in Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter, 1984, pp. 99-118.
[In the following excerpt, Ullman—the son of painter Eugene Paul Ullman—uses his father's unpublished memoirs to present the multi-cultural milieu of Paris during the 1920s.]
It has been noted in some instances that the family of a deceased artist will manifest hostility to his memory, treating it and his work with scorn. In such cases we can intuit the artist's absorbing devotion to his art, to the detriment of those for whose welfare he is responsible. In other instances, an artist's children give...
(The entire section is 8637 words.)
Gorham Munson (essay date 1985)
SOURCE: “A Comedy of Exiles,” in The Awakening Twenties, Louisiana State University Press, 1985, pp. 157-188.
[In the following essay, Munson, the former editor of the magazine Secession, recalls the writers and editors living in Paris and presents an overview of American critical reaction to the works being published during the 1920s.]
The “lost generation” of expatriates permanent and pro tem has been preserved for posterity in Hemingway's first and best novel, The Sun Also Rises. In it one encounters the emotional casualties of World War I, the playboys and young writers of the postwar period, the dabblers in the arts and the cafe sots that...
(The entire section is 13551 words.)
Shari Benstock (essay date 1986)
SOURCE: “Women of the Left Bank,” in Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940, University of Texas Press, 1986, pp. 3-36.
[In the following essay, Benstock examines American female modernist writers living in Paris, believing that many of them were ignored unfairly by such American editors as Ezra Pound, whom she perceives as predisposed to give short shrift to women writers.]
Bryher (Winifred Ellerman)
(The entire section is 16992 words.)
Jean Méral (essay date 1989)
SOURCE: “The Great Migration: Parisian Aspects,” in Paris in American Literature, The University of North Carolina Press, 1989, pp. 136-163
[In the following essay, Méral examines several works inspired by expatriate life in Paris during the 1920s.]
THE RECONSTRUCTION OF PARIS
The Paris of the 1920s makes a relatively rapid entry into literature, with roughly two-thirds of the relevant works being written during the decade itself. There is no very clear break with the preceding period. Some writers disappear from the scene. Dorothy Canfield returns to America, like her heroine Matey Fort, while Dos Passos drops out of Montparnasse life to...
(The entire section is 13429 words.)
Michael Fabre (essay date 1991)
SOURCE: “And Others Too,” in From Harlem to Paris, University of Illinois Press, 1991, pp. 129-144.
[In the following essay, Fabre discusses African-American writers living in Paris, including Jean Toomer, Claude McKay, and Walter White.]
The 1920s and 1930s were indeed the heyday of American visitors in France, both black and white. These included not only the wealthy set but also a small number of race leaders on partly official, partly pleasure, trips; a good number of artists and even more musicians; and most of the luminaries of the New Negro movement, starting with Alain Locke. Langston Hughes came even before he was an established writer, while Claude McKay...
(The entire section is 7260 words.)
J. Gerald Kennedy (essay date 1993)
SOURCE: “Modernism as Exile: Fitzgerald, Barnes, and the Unreal City,” in Imagining Paris, Yale University Press, 1993, pp. 185-242.
[In the following essay, Kennedy contrasts the depictions of French and American life in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night and Djuna Barnes's Nightwood.]
Gertrude Stein remarked that modernist writers and artists of her time had converged on the capital of France because “Paris was where the twentieth century was.” The city not only incorporated within its diverse cultural life the most distinctive projects and features of modernism, but (as her claim implies) it had also become a geographical sign of the...
(The entire section is 23800 words.)
Virgil Thomson (essay date 1994)
SOURCE: “Paris between the Wars,” in The Paris Review, Vol. 36, No. 130, Spring, 1994, pp. 283-303.
[In the following essay, edited by Thomas Dilworth, the Pulitzer-Prize winning composer reminisces about his relationships with Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and other figures he met in the literary and artistic circles of Paris.]
Virgil Thomson visited Paris in 1921 and lived there from October 1925 to August 1940. It was during his long stay in Paris that he became an important American composer. He is considered the first serious modern composer to set English to music without distorting its natural rhythms and inflections. In the 1930s Thomson helped to found...
(The entire section is 7334 words.)
Donald Pizer (essay date 1996)
SOURCE: “The Moment Remembered and Imagined: Autobiography,” in American Expatriate Writing and the Paris Moment, Louisiana State University Press, 1996, pp. 7-72.
[In the following essay, Pizer relies on the autobiographical writings of Ernest Hemingway (A Movable Feast),Gertrude Stein (The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas), and Anaïs Nin (The Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1931-1934) to explore three American writers' perspectives of life in Paris during a time of cultural ferment.]
A MOVEABLE FEAST
The first impression left by Ernest Hemingway's memoir of his Paris...
(The entire section is 27380 words.)
Baily, William G. Americans in Paris, 1900-1930: A Selected, Annotated Bibliography. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989, 162 p.
Includes annotations for articles and essays from newspapers, magazines, and books, as well as annotations on painters and musicians.
Boyle, Kay, and Robert McAlmon. Being Geniuses Together: A Binocular View of Paris in the '20s. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1968, 392 p.
Reprints McAlmon's memoirs of Paris during the period when he controlled Contact Publishing, with additional chapters written by Boyle.
(The entire section is 473 words.)