What once drew writers to Paris like sailors to the siren’s song? Emerson, Twain, Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Irving, to name a few, have all found inspiration living here at one time or another, the most prolific years being those between the world wars. Then was an expanding time of progressive thinking to match the changing technology of the world- mass transportation, instant communication, the automobile, jazz mixing with cabaret. Economics made for affordable living and inexpensive printing in city of lights. Artists of all disciplines – painters, writers, musicians, dancers, photographers – inspired one another and progressed their art, borrowing from each and transforming ideas. This was a time of discovery, reflection, uncertainty, and undeniable creativity… until World War II ended the migration of Americans to Paris.We live in a new era, though Paris still offers much of what it once did. Writers can still find inspiration here among the bistros, boulevards, bridges and monuments. The very aesthetics of the city becomes the muse. But there is more to writing in Paris than being inspired by the architecture. There is something about the very environment sitting in a cafe watching the endless stream of humanity pass in pursuit of countless destinations. Men. Women. Children. People of all ages, races, beliefs, moving in concert to the rhythm of the city that is its pulse.
In this cafe the air is filled with conversation and language becomes irrelevant as one needs not always understand words to know their meaning as human emotions are shared the world over and are expressed in familiar tones through laughter and tears, surprise and disbelief.
Beyond open windows the wind whispers secrets through the trees and over cultivated gardens filled with summer flowers. Here comes the rain to add its own voice to the symphony followed by the gentle hum of the warming sun. Here countless sensations spawn a lifetime of ideas for those who seek. The writer only has to take in what is offered, set pen to paper without hesitation or reservation, and allow the words to drip like paint onto canvas.
This is Paris for this writer. I come to this same cafe every morning to write. Words come easily for the countless distractions I know at home are irrelevant here. Here in this cafe there is only a cafe au lait, some bread with jam, my story and the city beyond.
Will writers one day return to Paris to rediscover what so many writers before them once knew? I like to think we already we have.