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Americans and Paris

June 2nd, 2015
Judith · Staff Recommendations

“Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris.” This quote is attributed to Thomas Gold Appleton of Boston who spent many years in 19th Century Paris.

Americans and the French have had a love (and sometimes hate) relationship from the time of the American Revolution. Indeed without France’s help, the United States might have remained part of the British Empire. The first Americans who developed a love affair for all things French were Benjamin Franklin and especially Thomas Jefferson who was quoted as saying: “A man has two countries; his own and then France.”

During the 19th Century and especially during the 1920’s many Americans spent years in Paris studying Arts and Sciences. Among the many books that described the lives of Americans in France during the 19th Century and the 20th Century and also the 21st Century are the following:

The Greater Journey; Americans in Paris from 1830 to 1900 by David McCulloughThe enthralling story of adventurous American artists; doctors; writers and others who set off in the 19th century for Paris where they would be able to improve their professions.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest HemingwayPerhaps the best description of this book is taken from a letter Hemingway wrote to a friend in 1950: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

The Paris Wife by Paula McLainNovelist Paula McLain captures the love affair between Ernest Hemingway and first wife Hadley while they were living in Paris in the 1920’s.

Mission to Paris by Alan FurstA novel about an informal spy service being run out of the American Embassy in Paris in the late 1930’s right before the start of the Second World War.

Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris by Edmund WhiteIn Paris, White found a peace he had never known and he fell in love with the city and its cultural history.

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth BardIn Paris for a weekend, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman and never went home again.

Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, a Lost Generation Love Story by Amanda VailGerald and Sara Murphy were among the first Americans to live in Paris and Southern France in the early 1920’s. This is an excellent account of the lives of the Lost Generation in the 1920’s.

Paris Was Yesterday: 1925-1939 by Janet FlannerJanet Flanner was also known as “Genet.” For many years she wrote “The Letter from Paris” for the New Yorker Magazine.

I’ll Always Have Paris: A Memoir by Art BuchwaldThe renowned humorist describes his life in the dazzling Paris of the late 1940’s and 1950’s.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest HemingwayThe classic novel about the Lost Generation of American and British in the Paris of the 1920’s.

There have also been several movies about Americans in Paris such as:

An American in ParisA delightful musical with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. The music is by George Gershwin and it includes his celebrated “An American in Paris.”

Jefferson in ParisWhile in Paris in the late 1780’s, Jefferson falls in love with two beautiful women and he also falls in love with many aspects of French life.

Midnight in ParisWoody Allen’s homage to Paris.

In spite of the many differences and disagreements, Americans and French may have from time to time, Paris is a city that many Americans will want to visit and indeed if possible, live there for several months or years while they imbibe the beauty of French Culture.

Judith L. Clark

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