After all everybody, that is, everybody who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. That is why writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live really. The second one is romantic, is is separate from themselves, it is not real but it is really there.
Gertrude Stein: Paris France
Oh, Paris in the 20s! When Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald were around! What a life this must have been, sitting in the cafés, writing, drinking, writing, talking. Around 90 years later – or one month ago – Jen and I were in Paris and followed literary traces: We visited the cafés where authors used to meet and write. Café du Dôme, the meeting point of Henry Miller and Anais Nin. Café de Flore where Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Simone de Bauvoir liked to sit. Or Le Select, one of Samuel Beckett’s places. The cafés all felt a bit glamorous, not as shabby and comfortable as we had imagined. Time has passed, of course.
And still: there were not only tourists with maps of Paris on the tables, there were also older men talking to each other enthusiastically but also serious, and you could see the skill of story telling in their eyes while they were smoking their cigarre. Are they old enough? Could they have known – ?
Following the tourist route to Notre Dame, we took a turn right across the Seine just before and stood in front of another big literature place. In 1919, Sylvia Beach founded the great English bookshop Shakespeare & Company in Paris. She had travelled to London with a suitcase to buy books, and she did not only give a membership card to James Joyce, she also first published his Ulysses. A great woman, a great literature place. Unfortunately, it was packed. Not only with books but with people. We slowly walked around and – again – tried to imagine what it must have been like here, at the beginning of the last century, when authors came in to borrow books and to talk, when this was the meeting place of fantastic writers.
And while we were following literary traces, we wondered: what’s the Paris of today? Is there still a city where you can sit down with only one cup of coffee for hours and keep on writing, without the waitress distracting you? What is the city of today where writing is highly esteemed?
Paris war ein langer, wunderschöner Spaziergang. Wir liefen breite Straßen entlang, die Sonntags still und leise waren, und picknickten im entspannten Trubel von Sacre Coeur und vor dem Eiffelturm. Wir schlenderten entlang der Seine und von Café zu Café, hielten an, um Kleinigkeiten zu fotografieren, tranken Kaffee in Hinterhöfen, schauten hoch zu den Balkons und stellten uns vor, wie es wohl wäre, in Montmartre oder Saint-Germain zu leben.
Doch sobald es möglich wäre – bin ich soeben nicht frei wie ein Vogel? – sind wir weniger idealistisch. Paris ist zu teuer, um hier mal eben den Sommer zu verbringen und die Schreibmuse herbeizurufen. Ein Cappuccino kostet 5 Euro. Das muss in den literarischen 20ern wohl anders gewesen sein.
Für ein Wochenende wohnten wir hier jedoch, in unserem eigenen Airbnb-Apartment. Und abends, bevor wir in die Bars ums Eck gingen, saßen wir im großen Fenster, aßen Couscous und nachts wachte eine Katze über unseren Schlaf. Ein perfektes beste-Freundinnen-Wochenende.
Paris was a beautiful long walk. We walked along the streets that were quiet on Sundays, and had a picknick in the hustle of Sacre Coeur and in front of the Eiffel tower. We strolled along the Seine and from Café to Café, stopped to take photos of little things, we had some coffee in a backstreet, looking up to the balconies and imagined what it would be like to live in Montmartre or Saint-Germain.
However, as soon it is possible – I am free as a bird right now, right? – we are less idealistic. Paris is too expensive to spend the summer here to write. A cappuccino costs 5 euros. It must have been different in the literary 20s.
For a weekend we lived here though, in our own Airbnb apartment. And in the evening, before we went to the bars around the corner, we sat in the big window, ate couscous and at night the cat watched our sleep. A perfect best-friends weekend.