With Pascin at the Dome

In A Moveable Feast Hemingway wrote a chapter about his meeting with the painter Pascin. It is called “With Pascin at the Dome”. The Dome of course being one of the cafés of Montparnasse. Pascin was a well-known figure in the art scene of Montparnasse in the time Hemingway lived in Paris and frequented the cafés of Montparnasse. People called Pascin The Prince of Montparnasse and he was regarded as a living symbol of the artistic community associated with the neighborhood.

Jules Pascin

Pascin was a Bulgarian national who fled his homeland during or just before WW-1 to avoid being drafted into the army. His real name was Julius Mordecai Pincas and He was best known for his paintings that mostly portrayed women in casual poses, mostly nudes. He used to wear a bowler hat. Hemingway also noted that Pascin loved women and that he loved to drink. There were always people around Pascin.

Painting by Pascin

According to Pascin’s biographer, Georges Charensol:

“Scarcely had he chosen his table at the Dome or the Sélect than he would be surrounded by five or six friends; at nine o’clock, when we got up to dinner, we would be 20 in all, and later in the evening, when we decided to go up to Montmartre to Charlotte Gardelle’s or the Princess Marfa’s—where Pascin loved to take the place of the drummer in the jazz band—he had to provide for 10 taxis.”

The chapter Hemingway wrote about meeting Pascin at the Dome recounts a night in 1923. They have a drink and are kept company by two of Pascin’s models who are also sisters. The sisters and Pascin go out for dinner at a restaurant later and Hemingway goes home to his wife which he calls his “légitime” which means something like his wife or lawful partner.

The Dome cafe

Pascin did hang himself in 1930. Hemingway says this about him:
“I liked to remember him as he was that night at the Dome. They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure.”

Hemingway in Paris – Song of Innocence and Experience

Hemingway’s life in Paris constituted only five years of his existence, between 1921 and 1925, yet it would become for him an indelible landscape, synonymous with happiness but also with destruction and disillusionment. He arrived in Paris with his wife Hadley on December 20, 1921. A year earlier he had been dragging his boredom and malaise between Oak Park, Chicago and Canada, where he had begun to write for the Toronto Star. Several short stories also date from this time: “The Mercenaries” set in Sicily, which he visited during the war (WW 1), “The Current” and also “Crossroads: An Anthology.” The magazines to which he sent the pieces all rejected them. Hemingway began to doubt himself and started thinking about traveling to Europe.

Hemingway - 1920's
Hemingway – 1920’s

The American writer Sherwood Anderson explained to the aspiring young writer that the best way to learn the craft of writing was to go to Paris. In addition, he pointed out that because of the favorable exchange rate, an American could live better in Paris than at home. Anderson also introduced Hemingway to people like Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and Ezra Pound. Getting to know them and embracing the Parisian elite of the arts and their fascination with modernism, would greatly widen his views.
By the end of November 1921 everything was prepared: Hemingway would be the Paris correspondent of the Toronto Star, and at the same time learn the craft while learning from some of the already more established writers and artists.

The Dome cafe - Paris 1920's
The Dome cafe – Paris 1920’s

“Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris as in Paris I could write about Michigan,” wrote Hemingway in A moveable Feast. And indeed, it was only in Cuba that he would write about the French capital, but it was in Paris that an essential phase in his writing career occurred.

The above text is for a great part from “Hemingway – A life in picture”, B. Vejdovsky with M. Hemingway