Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Closerie des Lilas

Closerie des Lilas
The Closerie des Lilas was the nearest good café  when we lived in the flat over the sawmill at 113 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, and it was one of the best cafes in Paris. I t was warm inside in the winter, and in the spring and fall it was very fine outside with the tables under the shade of the trees on the side wherethe statue of Marshal Ney was, and the square, regular tables under the big awnings along the boulevard. Two of the waiters were our good friends. 

People from the Dome and the Rotonde never came to the Lilas. In those days many people went to the cafes at the corner of the Boulevard Montparnasse and the Boulevard Raspail to be seen publicly and in a way such places anticipated the columnists as the daily substitutes for immortality.

The Closerie des Lilas had once been a cafe where poets met more or less regularly and the last principal poet had been Paul Fort whom I had never read. But the only poet I ever saw there was Blaise Cendrars, with his broken boxer's face and his pinned-up empty sleeve, rolling a cigarette with his one good hand. He was a good companion until he drank too much and, at that time, when he was lying, he was moreinteresting than many men telling a story truly. But he was the only poet who came to the Lilas then and I only saw him there once. Most of the clients were elderly bearded men in well-worn clothes who came with their wives or their mistresses and wore or did not wear thin red Legion of Honour ribbons in their lapels. We thought of them all hopefully as scientists o r savants and they sat almost as long over an aperitif as the men in shabbier clothes who sat with their wives or mistresses over a cafe creme and wore the purple ribbon of the Palms of the Academy, which had nothing to do with the French Academy, and meant, we thought, that they were professors or instructors.

These people made it a comfortable cafe since they were all interested in each other and in their drinks or coffees, or infusions, and in the papers and periodicals which were fastened to rods, and no one was on exhibition.

*The Closerie des Lilas still exists on the same address, 171 Bld du Montparnasse in Paris.

Earnest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

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