Americans were drawn to Paris in the Roaring Twenties by the favorable exchange rate, with as many as 200,000 English-speaking expatriates living there….Many American writers were disenchanted with the US, where they found less artistic freedom than in Europe. (For example, Hemingway was in Paris during the period when Ulysses, written by his friend James Joyce, was banned and burned in New York.)
Hemingway scholar Wagner-Martin writes that Hemingway wanted the book to be about morality, which he emphasized by changing the working title from Fiesta to The Sun Also Rises. Wagner-Martin argues that the book can be read either as a novel about bored expatriates or as a morality tale about a protagonist who searches for integrity in an immoral world – Wikipedia
Today is our final encounter with Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The last time we visited this book we looked at our protagonist’s reflections on what it was like to be back in France after the week of fiestas and watching the running of bulls in Spain. This week we look once again at the aftermath of the fiesta. As Jake is about to return to Paris, he receives a telegram from Lady Brett Ashley asking for help; she had run off to Madrid to join her young bullfighter lover Romero. Jake finally meets up with the disheveled Brett at her hotel.
She looked away. I thought she was looking for another cigarette. Then I saw she was crying. I could feel her crying. Shaking and crying. She wouldn’t look up. I put my arms around her.
“Don’t let’s ever talk about it. Please don’t let’s ever talk about it.”
“I’m going back to Mike.” I could feel her crying as I held her close. “He’s so damned nice and he’s so awful. He’s my sort of thing.”
She would not look up. I stroked her hair. I could feel her shaking.
“I won’t be one of those bitches,” she said. “But, oh, Jake, please let’s never talk about it.”
We left the Hotel Montana. The woman who ran the hotel would not let me pay the bill. The bill had been paid.
“Oh, well. Let it go,” Brett said. “It doesn’t matter now.”
We rode in a taxi down to the Palace Hotel, left the bags, arranged for berths on the Sud Express for the night, and went into the bar of the hotel for a cocktail. We sat on high stools at the bar while the barman shook the Martinis in a large nickelled shaker.
“It’s funny what a wonderful gentility you get in the bar of a big hotel,” I said.
“Barmen and jockeys are the only people who are polite any more.”
“No matter how vulgar a hotel is, the bar is always nice.”
“Bartenders have always been fine.”
“You know,” Brett said, “it’s quite true. He is only nineteen. Isn’t it amazing?”
We touched the two glasses as they stood side by side on the bar. They were coldly beaded. Outside the curtained window was the summer heat of Madrid.
“I like an olive in a Martini,” I said to the barman.
“Right you are, sir. There you are.”
“I should have asked, you know.”
The barman went far enough up the bar so that he would not hear our conversation. Brett had sipped from the Martini as it stood, on the wood. Then she picked it up. Her hand was steady enough to lift it after that first sip.
“It’s good. Isn’t it a nice bar?”
“They’re all nice bars.”
“You know I didn’t believe it at first. He was born in 1905. I was in school in Paris, then. Think of that.”
“Anything you want me to think about it?”
“Don’t be an ass. Would you buy a lady a drink?”
“We’ll have two more Martinis.”
“As they were before, sir?”
“They were very good.” Brett smiled at him.
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“Well, bung-o,” Brett said.
“You know,” Brett said, “he’d only been with two women before. He never cared about anything but bull-fighting.”
“He’s got plenty of time.”
“I don’t know. He thinks it was me. Not the show in general.”
“Well, it was you.”
“Yes. It was me.”
“I thought you weren’t going to ever talk about it.”
“How can I help it?”
“You’ll lose it if you talk about it.”
“I just talk around it. You know I feel rather damned good, Jake.”
“You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.”
“It’s sort of what we have instead of God.”
“Some people have God,” I said. “Quite a lot.”
“He never worked very well with me.”
“Should we have another Martini?”
The barman shook up two more Martinis and poured them out into fresh glasses.
“Where will we have lunch?” I asked Brett. The bar was cool. You could feel the heat outside through the window.
“Here?” asked Brett.