“Hemingway?” she said dubiously.
“I thought it would be good for Paris.”
She rolled her eyes and went back to her book.”
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot, Picador, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York 2011.
Does anybody still read Hemingway? Not as required reading but as a guide to life? Or as a guide to…Paris? When Mitchell, a protagonist of Jeffrey Eugenides’ cult book The Marriage Plot, takes A Moveable Feast out of his backpack, Claire, a young French feminist is surprised. Her puzzlement and subsequent mockery embarrasses Mitchell. The girl’s reaction reminds him that nowadays many regard Hemingway as a misogynist, a homophobe and an assassin of animals.
And yet, thanks to Eugenides, we read a small excerpt from Hemingway together with the protagonist, before he is dispirited to read further. And this fragment, ending with “You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil” leaves us wanting more.
Do you read Hemingway? No? Then read…Eugenides. You may find one more key to understanding Hemingway’s writings – the unusually real and overwhelming portrait of bipolar disorder which Leonard, one of the main protagonists of The Marriage Plot, suffers – as did Hemingway himself.
Eugenides, a Pulitzer prize winner*, gives a brilliant observation of Paris through an American’s eyes. Here you can find the Luxembourg Garden, vine de table, the Place Pigalle and “all the hotels are full”. Unfortunately, the part of the plot that takes place in this city is only a small fraction of this extensive and exquisite novel. What a pity!
Maybe because it’s so short Mitchell unjustly states: “Paris was a museum displaying exactly itself.”
And yet Paris is something more for us. Paris belongs to us.
Photo credits: Ipek Oralalp, dizzytea.blogspot.com
*Jeffrey Eugenides received the Pulitzer Prize for Middlesex in 2003