The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter Analysis

Henri Murger

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Latin Quarter

*Latin Quarter. District of Paris on the south bank of the Seine River surrounding the University of Paris’s Sorbonne College. Predominantly populated by students and artists, the Latin Quarter is the primary setting of the novel, which unfolds during the closing years of France’s July Monarchy and the advent of its Second Republic. At a time when middle-class values are officially prized and honored, the young intellectuals of the novel resist and drop out of the “official world” to lead an impecunious existence among the lower classes. They think nothing of welshing on their debts and are consequently frequently ejected from their apartments. Almost as a matter of pride, the young poet Rodolphe sometimes sleeps in a box at the Odéon Theater and sometimes outdoors, once even in the branches of a tree on the Avenue St. Cloud. Despite their irregular living arrangements, the young friends stay in constant touch, having favorite places in which to engage each other in endless talk, primarily about what is wrong with society and about their relationships with women.

Café Momus

Café Momus. Quintessential Paris bistro where the members of the Bohemian Club are known as the “Four Musketeers.” It is located at the Carrefour de Buci in Paris’s Saint-Germain-des-Près area, a center of Left Bank activities. There the four friends meet alone in a room large enough to hold forty customers, but because these fellows are so obnoxious, they drive everybody else away. Rodolphe monopolizes the house newspapers and bullies the café’s owner into subscribing to The Beaver, a unknown journal that he edits himself. Colline plays backgammon from morning until midnight. Marcel paints, moving all of his equipment into the café: easel, oils, brushes, male and female models. Alexander Schaunard uses the café as a place to advertise music lessons. If all this were not enough, these intruders even brew their own coffee...

(The entire section is 811 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Baldick, Robert. The First Bohemian: The Life of Henry Murger. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1961. Definitive biography of Murger with an introduction giving background on the period and an extensive (although mostly French) bibliography. Offers biographical information about Murger and his literary career and discusses Murger’s style and the basis of characters and situations in his book.

Josephs, Herbert. “Murger’s Parisian Scenes and Puccini’s La Bohème.” In La Bohème, by Henry Murger, translated by Elizabeth Ward Hughes. Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith Books, 1988. Addresses specific aspects of Murger’s writing, as well as the transformation of the book into a libretto for Puccini’s opera.

Lewis, D. B. Wyndham. Introduction to La Bohème, by Henry Murger, translated by Elizabeth Ward Hughes. Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith Books, 1988. The introduction to the first translation, which discusses the history of the book, aspects of Murger’s style, and the value of his writing.

Moss, Arthur, and Evalyn Marvel. The Legend of the Latin Quarter: Henry Murger and the Birth of Bohemia. New York: Beechhurst Press, 1946. Gives an excellent overview and background information to The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter.

Seigel, Jerrold. Bohemian Paris: Culture, Politics, and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life, 1830-1930. New York: Viking, 1986. Discusses the history of the concept of bohemian lifestyle in Paris; includes background and specific discussion of Murger’s writing and his influence; credits Murger with having defined bohemia in his writing.