‘I Overtipped Him. That Made Him Happy’ – The Sun Also Rises

Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald
Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald met in 1925

“How does one eat inside?” I asked the waiter. Inside the café was a restaurant.

“Well. Very well. One eats very well.”


The last time we visited our motley crue of the ‘Lost Generation’ in Paris we amused ourselves reading (as one follower – Stacey described) ‘snappy and engaging’ dialogue between protagonist Jake Barnes and Robert Cohn discussing Lady Brett Ashley. The book The Sun Also Rises is basically Hemingway’s account of the week’s experiences he shared with his friends on vacation watching the running of the bulls in Spain. Today we fast forward to the days after the fiesta where life has returned to normal for Jake Barnes as he is reunited with France. The following excerpt offers an intriguing glimpse into his reflections on what it is like to be back in France after the tumultuous week that was in Spain. It once again illustrates his powerful use of short declarative sentences and terse prose, illuminated by his amusing dry wit which courses through lots of his writing.

At a newspaper kiosque I bought a copy of the New York Herald and sat in a café to read it. It felt strange to be in France again. There was a safe, suburban feeling. I wished I had gone up to Paris with Bill, except that Paris would have meant more fiesta-ing. I was through with fiestas for a while. It would be quiet in San Sebastian. The season does not open there until August. I could get a good hotel room and read and swim. There was a fine beach there. There were wonderful trees along the promenade above the beach, and there were many children sent down with their nurses before the season opened. In the evening there would be band concerts under the trees across from the Café Marinas. I could sit in the Marinas and listen.

“How does one eat inside?” I asked the waiter. Inside the café was a restaurant.

“Well. Very well. One eats very well.”


I went in and ate dinner. It was a big meal for France but it seemed very carefully apportioned after Spain. I drank a bottle of wine for company. It was a Château Margaux. It was pleasant to be drinking slowly and to be tasting the wine and to be drinking alone. A bottle of wine was good company. Afterward I had coffee. The waiter recommended a Basque liqueur called Izzarra. He brought in the bottle and poured a liqueur-glass full. He said Izzarra was made of the flowers of the Pyrenees. The veritable flowers of the Pyrenees. It looked like hair-oil and smelled like Italian strega. I told him to take the flowers of the Pyrenees away and bring me a vieux marc. The marc was good. I had a second marc after the coffee.

The waiter seemed a little offended about the flowers of the Pyrenees, so I overtipped him. That made him happy. It felt comfortable to be in a country where it is so simple to make people happy. You can never tell whether a Spanish waiter will thank you. Everything is on such a clear financial basis in France. It is the simplest country to live in. No one makes things complicated by becoming your friend for any obscure reason. If you want people to like you you have only to spend a little money. I spent a little money and the waiter liked me. He appreciated my valuable qualities. He would be glad to see me back. I would dine there again some time and he would be glad to see me, and would want me at his table. It would be a sincere liking because it would have a sound basis. I was back in France.

Next morning I tipped every one a little too much at the hotel to make more friends, and left on the morning train for San Sebastian. At the station I did not tip the porter more than I should because I did not think I would ever see him again. I only wanted a few good French friends in Bayonne to make me welcome in case I should come back there again. I knew that if they remembered me their friendship would be loyal.

At Irun we had to change trains and show passports. I hated to leave France. Life was so simple in France. I felt I was a fool to be going back into Spain. In Spain you could not tell about anything. I felt like a fool to be going back into it, but I stood in line with my passport, opened my bags for the customs, bought a ticket, went through a gate, climbed onto the train, and after forty minutes and eight tunnels I was at San Sebastian.

Even on a hot day San Sebastian has a certain early-morning quality. The trees seem as though their leaves were never quite dry. The streets feel as though they had just been sprinkled. It is always cool and shady on certain streets on the hottest day. I went to a hotel in the town where I had stopped before, and they gave me a room with a balcony that opened out above the roofs of the town. There was a green mountainside beyond the roofs.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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7 comments on “‘I Overtipped Him. That Made Him Happy’ – The Sun Also Rises
  1. Nadine says:

    Loved that book.

  2. selizabryangmailcom says:

    I WISH my 20s had been crazy! Then I wouldn’t be half as bitter as I am now, lol…..

    I think we had to read this in school. I went through a “Hemingway is overrated phase” for a long time. Then I began to really admire, like you said, the short, declarative sentences (thanks for the shout-out above, btw) that arrive directly at a point instead of going all around it every which way–something I know for a fact I could and should employ a lot more in my own writing.

    His eating in the Spanish cafe and the talk of types of alcohol reminds me of my friend saying when she visited Italy (has nothing to do with Spain; just sparked a memory) and ordered dinner at a cafe and DIDN’T order any wine to go with it, she thought the waiter was going to have a heart attack. I always laugh at that. Man, that’s dedication!

    • It appears we approach this from opposite ends of the spectrum. I went too crazy in my 20s and I’m paying the price in some respects. So don’t get too melancholy you didn’t go too crazy.

      I agree regarding your comments about Hemingway’s unique style. We can all cut more words out and employ a more direct and engaging prose.

      I liked reading that story about your friend. The one regret I do have is not enjoying more wine when dining out. I must make amends.

      I hope this message finds you well Stacey.

      • selizabryangmailcom says:

        Haha, your comment about your 20s reminds me of Ant-Man, either I or II, not sure which, but Stan Lee did his usual cameo, and in his scene as he goes to get into his car, it’s hit with a shrink ray and disappears from sight. He stands there for a beat staring at the empty space then says, “The ’60s were great, but now I’m paying for it.”

        Sorry for being redundant if you know all about that scene already. But lol, exact same sentiment!

        Anyway, I’m doing well and hope you are too. Monday comes too soon, but… c’est la vie!

      • I haven’t seen that movie, but I can understand why you remembered the line. Haha

        We have a holiday here in Colombia tomorrow. Because of Catholicism, Colombia is blessed with a a mountain of Monday holidays (long weekends). Religious observances.

        I’m glad you are well. I just got back with the kids from holidays in jungle territory (great water parks and scenery). Colombia really should be a world tourist mecca because of its biodiversity and spectacular sightseeing, but for the political virus that is ‘Socialism’ many regions have for decades been paralyzed by the menace of armed rebel groups much like what is portrayed in the Colombian movie ‘Monos’ which we discussed.

        Rest well Stacey. Recharge those batteries girl! hehe

  3. selizabryangmailcom says:

    God, it’s a week later and just seeing this now!
    Holidays in jungle territory sounds fun. It SHOULD be a tourist mecca, sounds like.
    Batteries recharged and….now time to recharge again.
    Fun never ends……..! Bleh. 🙂

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