The Cafés Of Literature #3 - La Closerie des Lilas

 

Paris has for quite a long time a flowery literary reputation, rich of the fame of the Rive Gauche and of its famous districts such as saint Germain-des-Près and Montparnasse. With this column, we take you on the side of these cafés which welcomed the biggest writers of our language. For this last article on literary cafés, we present you today La Closerie des Lilas.

Photo courtesy of La Closery des Lilas

Photo courtesy of La Closery des Lilas

This café, just like The Rotonde, participated to the artistic fame of Montparnasse in the beginning of the XXth century. It was livened up by writers and by artists, among whom the "Inflexibles" : a group of painters who were the first to settle down in the XIXth century before being known under the name of Impressionists.

A few decades later, the poets Paul Verlaine, Guillaume Apollinaire and Alfred Jarry settled in this café to exchange views during the "Tuesdays of the Closerie". Comfortably sitted on his bench while sipping his favorite drink, a mixture of absinthe and vinegar, Alfred Jarry, the author of Ubu the King, was known for his peculiar technique of seduction. He would shoot a mirror with his gun before turning towards the young lady of his choosing and say: "Madam, now that ice is broken, we may speak".

Photo courtesy of La Closery des Lilas

Photo courtesy of La Closery des Lilas


The playwrighter Paul Fort regularly played chess there with someone who would soon become one of the greatest revolutionaries of the XXth century, Lenin. Escaping the Prohibition in the United States, the writer Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, and Henry Miller were also acquainted with this place, and it was at this terrace that Fitzgerald would have read the first manuscript of The Great Gatsby to Hemingway.

Paul Fort at La Closerie des Lilas

Paul Fort at La Closerie des Lilas

Now that you have fully lived the experience of the Parisian cafés in the 1920's, we will soon take you on the tracks of the Impressionists and their Parisian inspiration.

A new column will come, and colors and palette will succeed to Belles-Lettres.