Something that helped me to get through The Sun Also Rises this time around (my third attempt…) was to read it as a travel book. In the years since my second attempt at the novel, I’ve had the good fortune to travel to Paris several times. Those trips really helped me to visualize and enjoy the beginning of the book (which, in my opinion, is the most difficult part) much more. While I can’t bring students to France merely for the sake of enjoying a single work of literature (#teachergoals…), I can replicate here in this blog post what I did the entire time I was reading the book: pull out my phone to look up images of the places Hemingway name-dropped.
In other words, I used my smart phone to…you know…make myself smarter.
Hemingway is famous for following his early mentor Ezra Pound’s diktat eschewing adjectives. He describes scenes with action mostly, but does do an awful lot of name-dropping of places. I can’t imagine he expected his audience back home in the States to know what the places he named looked like. His intention was probably to say “This glamourous place with this sexy foreign name exists, and I’ve been there, and aren’t you just so jealous?” He might not have been quite that arrogant, but it is true that his writings for the Toronto Star and the writings of other American expats in Paris did much to contribute to Paris’s (and France’s…and Spain’s…) romantic allure, which thereby led to increased tourism that over-saturated the city with Americans and Brits, and caused the original expat community to shudder and look for the next great hipster beehive.
Anyway, I digress (was that last sentence a wee too judgy?). My point is this: We don’t need a ticket on the QEII and a million dollars and two months of time to follow in his footsteps the way his original audience would have; all we need is Google.
So this post will try to illustrate as much of the book as possible in order to help students develop a mental picture of the setting. Page numbers refer to the First Scribner trade paperback edition, 2003. All photos, unless they are mine, were pulled from the internet, so if one belongs to you and you would prefer that I remove it, just let me know and I will.
PARIS (Book One)
We had dined at l’Avenue’s and afterward went to Café de Versailles. (14)
I’m sick of Paris, and I’m sick of the Quarter. (19)
(NB: “The Quarter” refers to the neighborhood of Montparnasse that was the hub of the American expat scene in the 1920s, not to the Latin Quarter (as I mistakenly thought)
This is a view from the Montparnasse Tower that was not there during Hemingway’s day. Too bad for him.
Then I sorted out the carbons, stamped on a by-line, put the stuff in a couple of big manila envelopes and rang for a boy to take them to the Gare St. Lazare. (20)
Gare St. Lazare. (Gare is French for train station. Paris has quite a few.)
We went out to the Café Napolitain to have an apéritif and watch the evening crowd on the Boulevard. (21)
We turned off the Avenue up the Rue des Pyramides, through the traffic of the Rue de Rivoli, and through a dark gate into the Tuileries. (23)
The Joan of Arc statue where the Rue des Pyramides meets the Rue de Rivoli
The ferris wheel in the Tuileries, which is the giant park in front of the Louvre Museum that runs along the River Seine.
Your humble blogger in front of the Louvre Pyramid.
The dancing club was a bal musette in the Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève. Five nights a week the working people of the Pantheon quarter danced there. (27)
A bal musette (i.e., A dance club)
The taxi went up the hill, passed the lighted square, then on into the dark, still climbing, then levelled out onto a dark street behind St. Etienne du Mont, went smoothly down the asphalt, passed the trees and the standing bus at the Place de la Contrescarpe, the turned onto the cobbles of the Rue Mouffetard. (33)
The Church of St. Etienne du Mont
Panorama of the Place de la Contrescarpe
We were sitting now like two strangers. On the right was the Parc Montsouris. (35)
“Café Select,” I told the driver. “Boulevard Montparnasse.” (35)
I went out onto the sidewalk and walked down toward the Boulevard St. Michel, passed the tables of the Rotonde, still crowded, looked across the street at the Dome, its tables running out to the edge of the pavement. Some one waved at me from a table, I did not see who it was and went on. I wanted to get home. The Boulevard Montparnasse was deserted. Lavigne’s was closed tight, and they were stacking the tables outside the Closerie des Lilas. I passed Ney’s statue standing among the new-leaved chestnut trees in the arc-light. (37)
La Closerie des Lilas (Hemingway used this particular cafe as his office. Waiters in France will never make you get up and leave.)
Le Dome, a major cafe in the American expat scene. Hemingway hated it; too gossipy.
La Rotonde, another major expat cafe.
Ney’s Statue in Montparnasse near Closerie des Lilas. Marshal Ney was a military commander during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.
The horse-chestnut trees in the Luxembourg gardens were in bloom. (43)
Le Jardin du Luxembourg
From the Madeleine I walked along the Boulevard des Capucines to the Opéra, and up to my office. (43)
The Madeleine is a church that is built to resemble a Greek temple. It’s incredible.
I took this photo inside the Madeleine, August 2015
The famed Paris Opera House
Inside the Opera
As a Drama teacher I’d be remiss not to point out that the Paris Opera is where The Phantom of the Opera takes place.
At five o’clock I was in the Hotel Crillon waiting for Brett. (48)
The Hotel de Crillon. Not too shabby!
Inside the hotel, where Jake was supposed to meet Brett.
It was three days ago that Harvey had won two hundred francs from me shaking poker dice in the New York Bar. (49)
Finally we went up to Montmartre. Inside Zelli’s it was crowded, smoky, and noisy. (69)
My grandmother, Mary, in front of the iconic Sacre Coeur church atop Montmartre. Montmartre is a hillside neighborhood famous for attracting artists an bohemians the generation before Hemingway.
And there you have it: The Sun Also Rises, Book One.
As a bonus, and unrelated to the book, here are a few shots of my students in Paris (April 2015) as well as videos of myself in France (July 2014 & August 2015; video credits to Gabino).
Pigeons at Notre Dame