Glimpses of the Lost Generation on the Left Bank excerpted from Expatriate Paris: A Literary and Cultural Guide to Paris of the 1920s

The Invalides and The Eiffel


Pont de la Concorde: On the river below the Chamber of Deputies floated a restored barge made into a restaurant.

Stravinsky’s ballet Les Noces premiered on 13 June 1923, along with his Pulcinella, and to celebrate the occasion Geraldand Sara Murphy hosted a grand dinner on the barge the following Sunday, the 17th. Some forty artists, musicians, and patrons gathered for the event. Picasso was there, as were Serge Diaghilev, whose Russian Ballet Company had staged the ballet; composer Darius Milhaud; artist and writer Jean Cocteau; Tristan Tzara; poet Blaise Cendrars; and Scofield Thayer, editor of The Dial.

Stravinsky arrived early to make sure his seating was satisfactory. It was —he was placed on the right hand of Princess de Polignac, who had commissioned the ballet. The dinner lasted all night. Instead of flowers, Sara Murphy piled small toys along the various placesettings, and Picasso, for one, amused himself with the tiny cars and animals all evening. A program of musical compositions alternated with the dinner courses.

Jean Coaeau, who’d come dressed as a ship captain, wandered among the crowd whispering, “On coule” (“We’re sinking”). At one point, some guests removed the enormous wreath commemorating the occasion, and Stravinsky, running the length of the room, dived through it. Exemplary, even for the Murphys who seldom did anything gauche, this dinner was the talk of Paris for years.

Boulevard St. Germain

#151: Brasserie Lipp.

Across from the Cafe de Flore and the Deux Magots, Lipp’s had a comparatively small patio and large interior, which minimized its use by cafe-sitters, but increased its appeal to serious diners. Moreover, Lipp’s served late-evening meals, so “by midnight,” according to one patron, “[Lipp’s] would be full of Left Bank Americans.” In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway describes Lipp’s splendid beer, potato salad, and cervelas—“a sausage like a heavy, wide frankfurter split in two and covered with a special mustard sauce.”

#170: Café aux Deux Magots.

The Deux Magots has long been popular with Americans. When philosopher George Santayana visited Paris before World War I he frequented the Deux Magots with his friend, philosophy Professor Charles Augustus Strong.

In the late twenties Janet Flanner learned that Ernest Hemingway’s father, like her own, was a suicide—“a piece of personal duplicate history that he and I discovered one day at a quiet back table in the Deux Magots café, which he always favored for serious talk, such as his reading aloud in a rumbling whisper the first poetry he had written after the war.”

At the Deux Magots in January, 1929, Eugene Jolas introduced Hart Crane to Harry Crosby, the latter to commit suicide within the year and Crane three years later.

The Deux Magots was also popular with the Surrealists, who —according to Janet Flanner—“had their own club table facing the door of the Deux Magots, from which vantage point a seated Surrealist could conveniently insult any newcomer.”